17.580 Herbert Simon on common ground

From: Humanist Discussion Group (by way of Willard McCarty willard.mccarty@kcl.ac.uk)
Date: Thu Jan 29 2004 - 03:41:46 EST

               Humanist Discussion Group, Vol. 17, No. 580.
       Centre for Computing in the Humanities, King's College London
                     Submit to: humanist@princeton.edu

         Date: Thu, 29 Jan 2004 08:33:16 +0000
         From: Willard McCarty <willard.mccarty@kcl.ac.uk>
         Subject: common ground

I quote the concluding paragraphs from "The Science of Design", in Herbert
A Simon, The Sciences of the Artificial, 3rd edn (MIT Press, 2001), pp. 137f:

>Those of us who have lived close to the development of the modern computer
>through gestation and infancy have been drawn from a wide variety of
>professional fields…. We have noticed the growing communication among
>intellectual disciplines that takes place around the computer. We have
>welcomed it, because it has brought us into contact with new worlds of
>knowledge -- has helped us combat our own multiple-cultures isolation.
>This breakdown of old disciplinary boundaries has been much commented
>upon, and its connection with computers and the information sciences often
>But surely the computer, as a piece of hardware, or even as a piece of
>programmed software, has nothing to do directly with the matter. I have
>already suggested a different explanation. The ability to communicate
>across fields -- the common ground -- comes from the fact that all who use
>computers in complex ways are using computers to design or to participate
>in the process of design. Consequently we as designers, or as designers of
>design processes, have had to be explicit as never before about what is
>involved in creating a design and what takes place while the creation is
>going on.
>The real subjects of the new intellectual free trade among the many
>cultures are our own thought processes, our processes of judging,
>deciding, choosing, and creating. We are importing and exporting from one
>intellectual discipline to another ideas about how a serially organized
>information-processing system like a human being -- or a computer, or a
>complex of men and women and computers in organized cooperation --solves
>problems and achieves goals in outer environments of great complexity.
>The proper study of mankind has been said to be man. But I have argued
>that people -- or at least their intellective component -- may be
>relatively simple, that most of the complexity of their behavior may be
>drawn from their environment, from their search for good designs. If I
>have made my case, then we can conclude that, in large part, the proper
>study of mankind is the science of design, not only as the professional
>component of a technical education but as a core discipline for every
>liberally educated person.



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

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