Scientific research and technological advances have gone hand in hand since the invention of the wheel. Without research, we lack the knowledge base to advance the state of technology and without technological advancement we lack the practical basis for further scientific research. In their new book, The Genesis of the Technological Scientific Revolution, Venkatesh Narayanamurthy, a professor of technology and public policy at Harvard University, and Jeffrey Y. Sao, a senior scientist at Sandia National Laboratories, explored the symbiotic relationship between the two concepts and how their interaction could accelerate the 21st century. The scientific discovery of technology.
Quoted from The birth of the technological revolution: a rethink of the nature and nurture of research Published by Venkatesh Narayanamurthy and Jeffrey Y. TSAO, by Harvard University Press. Copyright © 2021 by the President and Fellows of Harvard College. Used by permission. All rights reserved.
Network is Hierarchical: The Nesting of Questions and Answers
Scientific and technical knowledge The way we classify stems, scientific information and interpretations and technical functions and the forms that fill them from the home discussed in the last chapter.
In science, information is at the top of the hierarchy – raw patterns in observed phenomena. These patterns can be thought of as questions: Why does a certain pattern occur? Why does the ball fall when someone drops a ball and falls as fast as it falls? Interpretations of these raw patterns come at a level below the hierarchy and can be thought of as answers to those questions: Galileo’s sixteenth-century observation of the observed distance-versus-time pattern was that the velocity of a falling ball increases linearly over time. But this answer, or explanation, itself becomes another question: why does the velocity of the falling ball increase linearly over time? This question requires a deeper explanation, a deeper answer: Newton’s explanation was that gravity is a force, uniform force causes uniform acceleration and that uniform acceleration causes linear increase. Scientific understanding is always incomplete, of course, so there is always a point where we have no deep explanation. It does not in any way detract from the power of existing explanations: science seeks hypothetical causes but does not emphasize the ultimate causes. The general theory of relativity explains Newton’s law of gravity, although its own origin has not yet been explained.
In technology, at the top of the hierarchy is the human-desired function. These functions represent problems that are solved sequentially by the forms below them. Forms fill out functions, but those forms present new problems that need to be addressed at a deeper level. By shifting from problem-solving nomenclature to equivalent question-and-answer nomenclature, we can say that the iPhone presented a technical question: How do we build an Internet-enabled cellular phone with a software-programmable interactive display? A partial answer comes in the form of a multi-touch capacitive surface, opening up a significant design space for user interaction when multiple fingers are used together. But the opacity of existing multitouch surfaces has become a question in itself: how do we make multitouch surfaces transparent so that the display is visible? Multi-touch transparent surface display provides an answer.
In other words, both science and technology are organized in a sequence of question-and-answer pairs, any question or answer has two “faces”. A face, pointing down the hierarchy, represents a question for an answer just below the hierarchy. The other face, pointing upwards in sequence, represents the answer to a question just above the sequence. We emphasize that it is arbitrary to portray us as “above” answers and “below” questions as answers – this does not imply relative importance or value but is intended to be consistent with general usage. In science, an explanation is deeper and more “fundamental” than what it explains, especially if it generalizes the interpretation of many other facts. Special relativity, in that sense, is deeper than the stability of c because it answers the question of why c is constant; It also answers the question of how much energy is released during nuclear fission and fusion. In technology, forms are deeper and more “fundamental” than the functions they perform, especially if they are adapted to fulfill many other functions. The Multi Touch Transparent Surface Display is more fundamental than the iPhone because it not only helps answer the question of how to make an iPhone, but also how to create a human-interactive display in general. Rubber is more fundamental than a bicycle tire because it not only helps answer the question of how to make bicycle tires, but also how to make other types of tires.
The network provides modular: exploitation and exploration facilities
Closely related scientific questions and answers we can call the scientific domain, which we will refer to as the scientific knowledge module. Interactively technical problems and solutions are organized into engineering components, which we will refer to as technical knowledge modules.
Closely related scientific questions are often answered within a scientific knowledge domain, or scientific knowledge module, drawing on multiple subdomains within a larger domain. A question concerning some electron transport phenomena of a particular semiconductor structure is in the broad domain of semiconductor science, but the answer may require an integrated understanding of both the electron transport physics as well as the subdomains of synthetic structure physics. . Sub-domains of electrons (bulk material, heterosection, nanostructures, coupled nanostructures) in a variety of structures for sub-questions associated with electron transport physics and sub-subdomains of interactions of electrons with phonons in that structure may be required. Understanding the substratum and epitaxy, thin film or sub-subdomains of post-material synthesis may be required for the sub-question associated with the material science of the synthesized structure. In other words, we can think of scientific knowledge domains as a modular taxonomy and its subdomains as submodules and sub-submodules.
Closely related technical problems, similarly, are often solved by core technical components, or technical knowledge modules, perhaps integrating multiple subcomponents nested into larger components. An iPhone is an element that consists of many components and each component is similarly subdivided. We can think of the “problem” of the iPhone as an element that is “solved” by its subcomponents – a perimeter, a display, a printed circuit board, a camera and an input / output port. We can think of the “problem” of a printed circuit board as a sub-component that is “solved” by sub-components that include low-power integrated circuit chips. Conversely, an iPhone is also a component that nested itself in a hierarchy of functions to use. An iPhone can be used as a solution to the problem of “running” a text-messaging app; A text-messaging app can be used to solve the problem of sending a mass text message to a friend group; Mass text messages can be used as a solution to the problem of organizing a group of friends in a protest in Times Square; And demonstrations in Times Square may be part of the solution to the problem of organizing a larger social movement for some human-desired social cause.
One might ask: why is scientific and technical knowledge modular? They are modular because they are complex adaptive systems – systems that are sustainable and adaptable to their environment by complex internal changes – and virtually all complex adaptive systems are modular (Simon, 1962). Complex adaptive systems both exploit their environment and explore their environment to enhance that exploitation. Modularity enables efficiency in both the exploitation of existing knowledge about the environment and the exploration of that environment to create new knowledge.
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