17.071 an engineer's understanding

From: Humanist Discussion Group (by way of Willard McCarty willard.mccarty@kcl.ac.uk)
Date: Mon Jun 09 2003 - 02:18:36 EDT

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                    Humanist Discussion Group, Vol. 17, No. 71.
           Centre for Computing in the Humanities, King's College London
                         Submit to: humanist@princeton.edu

             Date: Mon, 09 Jun 2003 07:07:45 +0100
             From: lachance@origin.chass.utoronto.ca (Francois Lachance)
             Subject: Re: 17.063 an engineer's understanding


    I think that the passage you quote has three terms in play: "system",
    "machine" and "equivalent". Having followed your meditations on models
    (and their purposes), I think I might be able to translate your three
    questions into one: how is it that a model which ostensibly represents a
    pattern of experience (history of a system) comes to be used as an
    instrument to discover novelty (limits of a system)? My transaltion asks
    you if your question is indeed: How is a model to serve a mode of
    exploration? Is there an answer in the practice of question-making and
    testing the adequacy of the equivalency or model. And is not such a
    practice a dialogical enterprise? And if so, the "we" is split between the
    articulators and the non-articulators : some of us formulate models; some
    of us formulate the naive questions. Or read literally "an engineer
    understands _ellipsis_" and interpret modelling as akin to a poesis of
    difference :)

    > Humanist Discussion Group, Vol. 17, No. 63.
    > Centre for Computing in the Humanities, King's College London
    > www.kcl.ac.uk/humanities/cch/humanist/
    > Submit to: humanist@princeton.edu
    > Date: Sat, 07 Jun 2003 07:13:00 +0100
    > From: Willard McCarty <willard.mccarty@kcl.ac.uk>
    > >
    > Armand de Callatay, in "Computer Simulation Methods to Model
    > Macroeconomics", states that, "An engineer understands... a real system
    > when he can design a (virtual) machine that is functionally equivalent to
    > this system" (The Explanatory Power of Models, ed. Robert Franck, Kluwer
    > 2002, p. 105).
    > Three questions: (1) Is this a correct and complete description of what it
    > means to understand something from an engineering perspective? If so, then
    > (2) are we to articulate our complete understanding of a real system, such
    > as a tool, at least in part by simulating it? (3) If the artifacts of
    > engineering comprise an intellectual tradition, as I think Eugene Ferguson
    > has argued in Engineering and the Mind's Eye (MIT, 2001), then would it not
    > follow that within the tradition only a machine is a proper response to a
    > machine -- and not words, however many, however apt? And does this not
    > have strong implications for how we write a history of our technology?
    > Yours,
    > WM
    > Dr Willard McCarty | Senior Lecturer | Centre for Computing in the
    > Humanities | King's College London | Strand | London WC2R 2LS || +44 (0)20
    > 7848-2784 fax: -2980 || willard.mccarty@kcl.ac.uk
    > www.kcl.ac.uk/humanities/cch/wlm/

    <civic.name>Fran&ccedil;ois Lachance</civic.name>
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