Chapter 9. Communication and relationships

One of the earliest engineering stories in Western history is the story of the Tower of Babel, from Genesis, and at its core is a lesson about communication. As the story goes, humanity was happily united in the desert. They soon figured out how to make bricks and mortar. Things were going so well that, for no particular reason, they decided to build a tower high into the sky. Things went along brilliantly until the workers suddenly lost the ability to use the same language (can you say “divine intervention”?), at which point everything literally fell apart. The once-united people were scattered across the world (more divine intervention), and different languages and societies were formed. It’s suggested in the story that had they been able to continue to communicate well with each other, nothing would have been impossible (which is perhaps, as the story also suggests, what motivated the divine intervention).

This biblical story is quite short: barely a page. However, through the centuries, it has captured the attention of many artists and writers who used the story to explore contemporary issues. The vivid images of the tower painted by Brueghel[51] and others gave the story increasing relevance to engineering and project management tasks of their times. The interpretations of the story have shifted from age to age, as have the depictions of what the Tower actually looked like, but the general themes are the same. Some believe the ...

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