Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Engineers and Cloud Problems

Karl Popper, the famous English science professor, is well known for the idea that problems can be defined into clock problems and cloud problems.  By their training and general outlook, engineers are the masters of solving the clock problem.  The clock problem has clear, predictable resolutions - the clock is orderly and can be understood by taking it apart.  Look at any engineering textbook - clock problems are neat and predictable moving parts and often textbook answers.  You can solve them by studying the example problem,  Clock problems teach engineering analysis - break the problem down into different parts.

The vast majority of problems that engineers face are clock problems.  But this century is shaping up a little differently.  We face a host of difficult cloud problems.  A cloud problem, on the other hand, has less predictable solutions - like a cloud which is amorphous cannot be taken apart or neatly cataloged.  Cloud problems tend to be questions without a single, clear answer.  Cloud problems are indivisible emergent systems.

Engineers are masters of deductive thinking - we look at problems like our infrastructure decay and climate change risk and see clock problems.  This century will belong to those engineers that have the skill sets to properly identify cloud problems in complex situations, grasp the gist and clarify to the public and key stakeholders what is actually happening.  Engineers will need the ability to go from analysis to synthesize - - engineers skilled at absorbing a stream of disparate data (i.e., such as climate change or drought management) and see trends, patterns or generalizations.

Start looking up at the clouds - new talents for a new world.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.