Humanist Discussion Group, Vol. 17, No. 63.
Centre for Computing in the Humanities, King's College London
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Date: Sat, 07 Jun 2003 07:13:00 +0100
From: Willard McCarty <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Subject: an engineer's understanding?
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?
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 || email@example.com
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