17.063 an engineer's understanding

From: Humanist Discussion Group (by way of Willard McCarty willard.mccarty@kcl.ac.uk)
Date: Sat Jun 07 2003 - 02:42:44 EDT

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                    Humanist Discussion Group, Vol. 17, No. 63.
           Centre for Computing in the Humanities, King's College London
                         Submit to: humanist@princeton.edu

             Date: Sat, 07 Jun 2003 07:13:00 +0100
             From: Willard McCarty <willard.mccarty@kcl.ac.uk>
             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 || willard.mccarty@kcl.ac.uk

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