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Comprehensive Anticipatory Design Science; An Introduction

- Patrick G. Salsbury <salsbury@sculptors.com> 01-02-00
more at www.bfi.org

Critical Path: Essential Study for Anyone living in the Present TimeComprehensive Anticipatory Design Science, or "Design Science" for short, is a wide-ranging field of study, which focuses on the process of how to go about solving problems.
It was pioneered in the early Twentieth Century by R. Buckminster Fuller, and has now expanded to include several generations of architects, planners, engineers, and designers.


It is Comprehensive because
it seeks to find an underlying problem or issue, and solve for that general case, rather than for only one specific instance of a problem. For example, one of my primary interests is in understanding the causes of, and designing solutions for, the problems of homelessness on a global scale; Not simply why one person is homeless on the street in my town, or in yours, but why we have more than 400 million homeless people all around the world.

It is Anticipatory because

the Design Scientist seeks to understand not just the problem at hand, but how this problem, or similar ones, may manifest themselves over time. Also, to try and foresee what problems a proposed "solution" might bring up, and to plan accordingly.


The Design Scientist incorporates statistical data, demographics and population studies, economic data, and current events, to try and forecast trends and figure out where we're heading, collectively, so we can minimize surprises when we get there.

Design itself is the creative aspect of problem solving. It is the process of analyzing your problem, studying other areas that may have supporting technologies to help you, selecting appropriate resources and tools, coming up with the part, system, drawing, idea or whatever is needed to address the issue at hand, and then implementing the solution. Very often, this process must be repeated through numerous iterations, refining and correcting as you go along.


The Science aspect is also crucial.

Design Science is not quite like other fields of design, such as interior, graphic, clothing, or artistic design. Nor is it exactly like industrial, computer, or mechanical design. Rather, it incorporates elements of all of these fields, and many others. It draws upon artistic elements, as well as scientific and engineering elements. Employing the Scientific Method to measure, observe, and refine solutions allows one to arrive at solutions that work not just once, but over and over, and in a variety of situations.

An example can probably help to illustrate the general-systems approach that Design Scientists often employ.
Take the issue of having a clean and reliable supply of drinking water. Everyone needs it, and people in developed countries often take it for granted, but in most of the world, there are no taps, and where there are, the water that comes out often isn't trustworthy. In many countries, people will sometimes walk for miles and wait for hours, every day, in order to get water for themselves and their families. In fact, current estimates are that approximately one billion people on this planet do not have safe supplies of drinking water. This, coupled with poor sanitation, contributes to approximately eighty percent of the world's sickness. (see note 1) So, if we could take care of the water problem, we'd also manage to eradicate about 4/5 of the cases of sickness, worldwide. Not a bad side-effect. A Design Science approach might look at political, economic, and engineering factors (as well as various others), trying to draw upon the strengths of each, while also trying to minimize the drawbacks and weak points. It's up to the Design Scientist to try and determine the most efficient and elegant solution, given the location and scope of the project, available resources, funding, etc. By taking an open-ended approach, he or she may come up with half a dozen or more workable solutions, none of which look like the traditionally accepted models, and which are perhaps less expensive, quicker-to-implement, and more stable than the conventional ideas.

The Design Scientist thus aims to study as many different fields, and become as well-versed in them, as possible.
Then he or she may draw upon those various resources to integrate and synthesize, and arrive at new solutions to some very old (and some as-yet-unseen) problems. In closing, I feel that the overall generalist philosophy of the Design Scientist is well summed-up by a quote from Robert A. Heinlein's character, Lazarus Long:

"A human being should be able to change a diaper, plan an invasion, butcher a hog, conn a ship, design a building, write a sonnet, balance accounts, build a wall, set a bone, comfort the dying, take orders, give orders, cooperate, act alone, solve equations, analyze a new problem, pitch manure, program a computer, cook a tasty meal, fight efficiently, die gallantly. Specialization is for insects."
-----
Footnote: (1) UN Development Program, as quoted in "Naked Body", Summer 1998. Printed
by The Body Shop

With these few direct questions, Buckminster Fuller defines Design-Science:
"What are the resources?
What are the tasks necessary to make 100% of humanity a success?
How can we ever do so without ever advantaging one human at the expense of another?
How may we render all the world and all its treasures enjoyable available to all men without having one interfering with or trespassing upon the other?

How may we reform the environment so that the integrity of all society is not violated by the free initiatives of the individual nor the integrity of the individual violated by the developing welfaring advantage and happiness of the many?"

- Buckminster Fuller - NASA Speech 1966


Fuller Dymaxion Map: The only non-distorted projection map - notice how the poles aren't all stretched out?

 
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