Why Philosophy, Why Now? Flat Worlds, Philosophy & Engineering


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Presentation at 2007 Society for Philosophy & Technology

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Why Philosophy, Why Now? Flat Worlds, Philosophy & Engineering

  1. 1. Why Philosophy? Why Now? Flat Worlds, Philosophy & Engineering David E. Goldberg Industrial & Enterprise Systems Engineering University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign Urbana, Illinois 61801 [email_address]
  2. 2. WPE-2007 & SPT Conf. Theme <ul><li>Last October, philosophers & engineers agreed to hold workshop in Delft (29-31 October 2007), Workshop on Philosophy & Engineering (WPE-2007). </li></ul><ul><li>As engineer, interested in theme of SPT workshop: Technology & Globalization </li></ul><ul><li>Same forces creating pressures for globalization are creating a crisis in engineering. </li></ul><ul><li>Causing strange bedfellows to seek each other out. </li></ul><ul><li>Why intersections of engineering & philosophy interesting now? </li></ul>
  3. 3. Roadmap <ul><li>Engineering and philosophy are strange bedfellows. </li></ul><ul><li>Technoeconomic forces of the zeitgeist. </li></ul><ul><li>A creative age. </li></ul><ul><li>Why engineering needs philosophy. </li></ul><ul><li>3 lessons of ancient & modern philosophy. </li></ul><ul><li>How to bless the marriage (hint: attend WPE-2007, 29-31 October 2007, TUDelft). </li></ul>
  4. 4. Strange Bedfellows <ul><li>Philosophers </li></ul><ul><li>Humanists </li></ul><ul><li>Contemplative </li></ul><ul><li>Articulate </li></ul><ul><li>Abstract </li></ul><ul><li>Ambiguity delicious </li></ul><ul><li>Reflection in itself </li></ul><ul><li>Logical </li></ul><ul><li>Engineers </li></ul><ul><li>Technologists </li></ul><ul><li>Action-oriented </li></ul><ul><li>Linguistically naïve </li></ul><ul><li>Concrete </li></ul><ul><li>Despise ambiguity </li></ul><ul><li>Reflection as instrumental </li></ul><ul><li>Logical </li></ul>Why are such strange bedfellows gathering now?
  5. 5. Friedman, Florida, Pink & All That <ul><li>Technoreconomic forces are encouraging globalization.& shaking things up.. </li></ul><ul><li>Cheap, technical talent hired Shanghai & Bangalore </li></ul><ul><li>The World is Flat, The Rise of the Creative Class, A Whole New Mind. Returns to creativity particularly important.& ordinary technical skill commoditized. </li></ul><ul><li>Techno: transport & communications revolution. </li></ul><ul><li>Econ: X costs, network returns </li></ul>Ronald H. Coase (b. 1910)
  6. 6. Why Engin Needs Phil Now? <ul><li>Engineers do not usually turn to philosophy. Why now? </li></ul><ul><li>Current engineering practice formed in crucible of WW2. </li></ul><ul><li>Bush paradigm under attack. </li></ul><ul><li>Centralized institutions, conformity & specialization dominant. </li></ul><ul><li>Engineers category enhancers not creators. </li></ul><ul><li>Conceptual/Creative age disorienting.. </li></ul>Vannevar Bush (1890-1974)
  7. 7. Response to Crisis of Creative Age <ul><li>Kuhn’s The Structure of Scientific Revolutions: Response to crisis: </li></ul><ul><li>“ I think, particularly in periods of acknowledged crisis that scientists have turned to philosophical analysis as a device for unlocking the riddles of their fields. Some have not generally needed or wanted to be philosophers. Indeed, normal science usually holds creative philosophy at arm’s length, and probably for good reason…But that is not to say that the search for assumptions cannot be an effective way to weaken the grip of a tradition upon the mind and to suggest the basis for a new one.” </li></ul>Thomas S. Kuhn (1922-1996)
  8. 8. Philosophy: Crisis Response Tool <ul><li>Scientists: New physics was disorienting and scientists turned to philosophy for “foundations.” </li></ul><ul><li>Engineers: Today’s technological world as disorienting as Einstein’s world was to scientists. </li></ul><ul><li>Centripetal forces of the Os: </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Bio & nano: Push toward more science: hypertrophy cold war paradigm. </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Info & Socio: Shift toward new human-centered design. </li></ul></ul>
  9. 9. 3 Engin Lessons from Philosophy <ul><li>The imperatives of category creation: </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Dialectic in creative modeling. </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Aristotelian data mining in creative modeling. </li></ul></ul><ul><li>The needs of human-centered design: The construction of engineering reality. </li></ul><ul><li>Engineering faculty, students & practitioners need this stuff now. </li></ul>
  10. 10. Challenge of the Tabula Rasa <ul><li>So you want to be a category creator not a category enhancer. </li></ul><ul><li>How do we design when we don’t know how to talk about what we are designing? </li></ul><ul><li>Let’s start at the human beginnings of conceptual clarity. </li></ul><ul><li>Clearest examples are from philosophy. </li></ul><ul><li>Presocratic  Socrates  Plato  Aristotle. </li></ul><ul><li>Mechanisms of the new thought: </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Socratic dialectic </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Aristotelian data mining </li></ul></ul>
  11. 11. Socrates and Dialectic <ul><li>Socrates was a pain in the neck. </li></ul><ul><li>Walked around Athens asking everyone impossible questions. </li></ul><ul><li>Then proved their answers were wrong, but rarely gave an answer himself. </li></ul><ul><li>Nonetheless, Socrates’s method was useful. </li></ul><ul><li>Conversation trying to probe what things really are (or might be). </li></ul><ul><li>Questions were the right ones. Whitehead’s famous remark. </li></ul>Socrates (470-399 BCE)
  12. 12. Aristotelian Data Mining <ul><li>The Philosopher singlehandedly organized all of human knowledge in ways that are still recognizable. </li></ul><ul><li>Method very modern: </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Empirical search for data. </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Considered attributes, which he named. </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Classified data according to his attributes. </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Consider creative dimensionalization of product spaces: GE498 MTV. </li></ul>Aristotle (384-322 BCE)
  13. 13. Construction of Engineering Reality <ul><li>Engineering products changed. </li></ul><ul><li>Many are institutional facts in Searle’s sense. </li></ul><ul><li>His book, The Construction of Social Reality (Free Press, 1995) , critical to our study. </li></ul><ul><li>Helps us understand social and institutional facts, separate physics from the social. </li></ul><ul><li>Need 3 new elements: </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Collective intentionality: We intend. </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Assignment of function. </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Constitutive rules: X counts as Y in C. </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Postmodern engineering systems design. </li></ul>John R. Searle (b. 1932)
  14. 14. Web Life: Institutionally Complex <ul><li>Counterpart to Searle’s café example. </li></ul><ul><li>Go on Google, search for online book seller, sign in to Amazon.com using account ID, order a book, using a credit card, get recommendations from recommender system & order some of those books, too. </li></ul><ul><li>Get confirmation message via e-mail account, and books delivered by FedEx. </li></ul>
  15. 15. Not What Philosophy is For? <ul><li>Interesting discussion at October meeting. </li></ul><ul><li>Engineers want to use philosophy as tool. </li></ul><ul><li>Philosophers: “Not what philosophy is for!!” </li></ul><ul><li>Hint: Everything is a tool to an engineer. </li></ul><ul><li>Philosophy as asking questions that come naturally to children with methods that come naturally to lawyers. </li></ul><ul><li>Engineers generally not this reflective. </li></ul><ul><li>Need to be now. </li></ul>
  16. 16. Bottom Line <ul><li>Why philosophy for engineering now? </li></ul><ul><li>Flat world forces driving creative imperative. </li></ul><ul><li>Driving engineering thirst for philosophy (and other humanities & social sciences) now. </li></ul><ul><li>Examples from ancient and modern philosophy for engineering education and better engineering </li></ul><ul><li>Help resolve the “creative crisis” of our times. </li></ul><ul><li>Possibly create new discipline of human-centered systems engineering. </li></ul><ul><li>Will close encounters with engineers change philosophers of technology? </li></ul>
  17. 17. WPE-2007: Where Phil & Eng Meet <ul><li>29-31 October 2007 (Monday-Wednesday). </li></ul><ul><li>TUDelft </li></ul><ul><li>http://www-illigal.ge.uiuc.edu/wpe </li></ul><ul><li>Co-chairs: Ibo van de Poel & Dave Goldberg </li></ul><ul><li>Three tracks: </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Philosophy: Carl Mitcham (chair) </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Reflections of practitioners: Billy Koen (chair) </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Ethics: Michael Davis & P. Aarne Vesilind (co-chairs). </li></ul></ul><ul><li>1-2 page extended abstracts due 15 August 2007. </li></ul><ul><li>SPT members welcome to come help shape the future of engineers & engineering. </li></ul>