The blog comprises of freewriting, basically a dump of thoughts which interfere with my practical thinking, but on the other hand contribute to my perspective on the world and the practical solutions I come up with: a kind of katharsis. This blog is considered to be like a ships log: a private journal but accessible to the public when needed. The importance of this is that just because it is in a public space, doesn't mean that it has intent of attracting and maintaining an audience. We live in industrial society, just try not being in a public space. Given all the marketing advice and hype present on the internet about attracting and building audience: clearly simply being in a public space doesn't automatically attract attention. It is therefore possible for people to find a quiet corner of cyberspace, and remain unnoticed.

On Design

To further illustrate this conflict and contradiction between public and private. Consider that patents are public documents: it is thus a strange way to protect a technology by publicly disclosing everything about that technology. Once a product is released to the market, to the environment, then it is available for study to determine all there is about it. Just because patents are there, and products are there in a public space, doesn't mean people take an interest in any of them.

Rationalising Design

What has always struck me, is that all things released into the market are taken to be the output of a rationalised process towards an end- product. All the characteristics of the end-product can be justified and demonstrated to be what they should be. And yet, the population at large can identify a multitude of deficiencies and defects with end-products. Clearly if all these products are the output of trained professionals, then their training is wrong. As a kid, I simply thought better training was required, and that the population at large needed to be more logical and rational. I no longer think that is the case: rational is the problem. Design is not a rational process, and neither is problem solving. We have this push in our society that we need to get more people interested in the STEM subjects, to solve the problems we face. Not so! Mathematics does not teach nor develop problem solving skills: it teaches solutioneering. This problem maps onto this mathematical model, therefore can evaluate for the unknown, equates to solution technique implemented: not problem solved.

Design as Subjective Judgment

Whether it be someone writing a book or someone designing a new product, the creative, inventive and innovative process is random and chaotic. The validating and justification of the final design is rational, but founded on a subjective personal opinion. Suitability of purpose and fitness-for-function is always relative to the perspective of the individual. So after all the rationalising the product will still be found defective by someone. The problem with the training of engineers, is that they are lead to believe that their calculations demonstrate without doubt that the product is fit-for-function: and therefore we need more engineers to protect the welfare of the community. However, do not need the age of computers to develop the idea that garbage-in produces garbage-out. The input to the calculations starts with a personal opinion and the acceptance of the output is based on a personal opinion or judgment. Sure there are codes of practice and regulations to standardise the acceptance criteria, but those codes are the output of personal judgments.
So whilst we take the technological world to be based on logical and rational decision processes: it is not. The decisions are based on limited information, taken in the face of uncertainty, and have foundation in personal preferences and bias. It cannot be any other way.

Too Rational?

Problems however arise when we start to believe that rational is the only way, and we kill creativity in the process. Mathematics, science, engineering and technology require creativity, but academic programmes cannot produce the creative they can only impart and assess the rational. Edison may have rationally eliminated 1000 ways that a light bulb couldn't be made, but he needed creativity to determine what those 1000 ways would be. There may have been a rational selection process, but the collection from which the selection was made was a matter of personal choice: otherwise the first option tested would have been the right one.

On Education

I've never really been too interested in the training of engineers, architects, accountants, lawyers, doctors or any occupational group or professional. One of the first things I was taught is that humans are the most intelligent and adaptable creatures on earth. My interests are keeping humans intelligent and adaptable, rather than creating niche subspecies. Raising the breadth of everyones education.

On self

Sure I have a degree. Does that mean I always think rationally? No! Do I have crazy ideas? Yes!
I am a confused dreamer, with a mind full of contradictions and conflicts. I cannot eliminate the confusion or the contradictions, the world is a complex place. To make decisions and take practical action, it helps to remain ignorant of certain things. However as ignorance diminishes decisions become increasingly dependent on being explicitly biased. I seldom make decisions on the basis of benefits, I tend to focus on the detriments I am willing to accept. All benefits are accompanied by detriments. All needs to be weighed and balanced. If everyone is in favour of something, I tend to seek, present and support the opposing view, even if I otherwise am in favour. In other situations if I cannot be certain, I don't see why anyone else should be, so I throw in everything that is being ignored.

Blog Purpose ?

It is therefore not the purpose of this blog to present clear and focused ideas: a finished work, a polished solution: everybody else is contending to be doing that. This blog is more along the lines of the 1000 ways it doesn't work. All the background ideas, thoughts and disturbances which ultimately contribute to the design decisions I make.

Tools of Trade

I work better with pencil and paper. With such tools I can easily change between writing, sketching, and mathematics. With a computer I need to change between software applicatons, and it takes a lot more effort to bring together. It stops being freethinking, and starts being controlled by the tools and process. Also I don't use photo's because I am dealing with abstractions and objects not yet brought into existence: for such is the nature of design.
In the past I have tried to type up the things I have hand written, but I only go off in an other direction and end up writing something else. I have tried to scan the things I have drawn and written, but I cannot stand the noise of the scanner, it takes too long, every page needs a filename, and my harddisk was clearly not going to be big enough, and little that could be done with file once got them on computer.
Recently for the business we got a photocopier/scanner with sheet feeder: it can scan multiple pages directly to a single auto-named pdf file, and we also have Bluebeam with which to edit the pdf's, plus harddisk space no longer such a problem. The only problem is somewhere to host the files online, for which Scribd may or may not be suitable. For once again it is not the purpose to present a polished publication, but build a repository of the thoughts and ideas, which warp and mould the mind towards finding design solutions.

On Innovation

Once again, the path towards a design-solution is not rational, only the back track to the origin of the solution is rational. Solutions do not lie set along a path before you, it is necessary to step into the wilderness and forge the path. Following an established path won't find new solutions. Graduates of mechanical engineering, won't do any real engineering, in the main they will simply replicate more of the same. But if they cross discipline boundaries, cross professional boundaries, study some biology, geology, psychology, history, something outside the main, then they are likely to produce something novel and unique. It may not be earth shattering, nor make the news or be in anyway awe inspiring. Its most likely to be extremely simple and only achieve local recognition with local need. In the main it is locally where people need to act and provide solutions. Such solutions should not be limited to so called professionals: they weren't in history, they shouldn't be now. However, no one ever accidently tripped over a solution to a problem, they had to be actively seeking a solution, to recognise the solution when they bumped into it.
This blog is part of my wilderness.

  1. Original
  2. 5/01/2012 00:39:29 : Added subheadings; modified a few sentences.