I think I had an interview at that time at Bechtel. (It was someplace with more security than I'm accustomed to.) I know I thought a lot about how most of the employers who might want my talents were doing things I didn't approve of. Code-breaking sounded fascinating, but back then code-breaking meant working for the government (or so I thought), and I was no happier then than I am now about my government's warring tendencies.
I ended up doing some computer programming for a very small company. It was business reports - not very exciting, but nothing terrible, either. After a bit more than a year, the company folded, and I headed toward teaching.
I haven't had to think about this issue much in the 30 years since then. I've seen much broader uses of math, and coding-breaking has come to be identified more with information security than with espionage. But of course the war-makers are still big employers of mathematicians, and that was made clear to me this morning by a post that looked really fun at first.
Liz, at STEM-ology, posted It's a Math World, After All, about a cool new 'ride' at Disney World called Sum of All Thrills, that lets kids (and adults?) design their own ride, and then "experience it on a giant robotic arm simulator." (It reminded me of the turtle geometry I was just reading about in Mindstorms.) I loved it!
But then I followed her link to the original Yahoo article, and saw this:
"Sum of All Thrills" sponsor Raytheon has nothing to offer the average consumer. But the high-tech defense and homeland security contractor does have jobs for those passionate about engineering...
I wasn't planning on going to Disney World any time soon, but Disneyland was the high point of a big trip my family took when I was 12, and I might be willing to take my son some day. This is a reminder to me of how much corporate propaganda is built into places like that. My comment on Liz's blog ended with "That's a show-stopper for me. War-mongers get way too much access to our children, and I have a problem with that..."
Have any of you struggled with math's less wholesome uses?