The paradox at the root of System Engineering
System Engineering (SE) is now a generally accepted discipline in the industry. Nevertheless, despite the work achieved, the amount of existing tools and standards, it still hasn’t lived up to the stakes which motivated these developments : keeping “complexity” under control in the design process of a Product which meets the expectations. SE still hasn’t a well-defined standing among other contributing disciplines such as Software Engineering, Physics, Human Sciences … There is no generally accepted proof of its efficiency. The variety of existing approaches relying on “common sense” and the lack of consensus are symptomatic of a much deeper problem.
We consider that these difficulties originate in the common implicit idea of what Science deals with. H Simon has stressed the original paradox underneath System Engineering in its funding book “The Science of the Artificial (1957)” and we can sum up as follows:While science describes what “is”, independently of any human consideration, human inventions are finality-driven… but the resulting material objects conform nevertheless to “natural” laws.
This paradox genetically hampers SE development. How could we come up with a new scientific discipline which deals with human finalities while the scientific ideal is on the opposite to get rid of any human interference to build up objective descriptions?
The Method of Relativized Conceptualization (MRC) and its conceptual development, the Relativized Systemic (RS), together with associated applicative developments (Relativized System Engineering - RSE - , Knowledge Genesis Management - KGM -) overcome this original paradox. But the cost is a fundamental upheaval in our way of considering what “Reality ” and “Objectivity” consist in :
- They consider that any knowledge building process, including the conceptualization of what is this knowledge about, involves human finalities and is relative to the physical situation in which it takes place, as it can be beforehand intersubjectively conceptualized. Intersubjectivity replaces objectivity. Differences with innovative processes which aim at introducing a “new” reality fade away to be just a matter of reference when evaluating.
- They figure out explicitly these finalities and these relativities in the logical and mathematized formalism developed as a methodological framework for the consensual construction of any scientific or technical description, hypothesis, forecast or project.