Advertisement

Are Failures the Pillars of Success?

  • Priyan DiasEmail author
Chapter
Part of the SpringerBriefs in Applied Sciences and Technology book series (BRIEFSAPPLSCIENCES)

Abstract

Karl Popper argued that the scientific method was cyclic in nature; and that the growth of scientific knowledge took place when we focused on the falsification of theories, as opposed to their verification. We demonstrate here the relevance of these ideas to engineering processes and approaches, which can be seen as cyclic problem solving. The notion of failure plays a vital role, both in the design process and in the wider growth of engineering knowledge. Examples are given of real world failures and their contribution to the growth of knowledge in various aspects of engineering. We also show how some of these concepts are embodied in genetic algorithms, used for both optimization and design; and in reflective practice loops that are advocated for organizational learning.

Keywords

Problem solving Cyclic process Failure Genetic algorithm Reflective practice Design Learning 

Notes

Acknowledgements

Adapted from The Structural Engineer 85(2), 32–37, Engineering as cyclic problem solving—some insights from Karl Popper by W. P. S. Dias, 2007, published by the Institution of Structural Engineers, London.

References

  1. C. Alexander, Notes on the Synthesis of Form (Harvard University Press, Cambridge, 1964)Google Scholar
  2. N. Anwar, Structural Design Review: Bowling and Theater Roof Truss—Central Rama III (ACECOMS, Asian Institute of Technology, Bangkok, 1997)Google Scholar
  3. A.W. Beeby, Partial safety factors for reinforcement. Struct. Eng. 72(20), 341–343 (1994)Google Scholar
  4. D.I. Blockley, The Nature of Structural Design and Safety (Ellis Horwood, Chichester, 1980)Google Scholar
  5. D.I. Blockley, Engineering from reflective practice. Res. Eng. Des. 4, 13–22 (1992)CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. D.I. Blockley, J.R. Henderson, Structural failures and the growth of engineering knowledge. Proc. Inst. Civ. Eng., Part 1 68, 719–728 (1980)Google Scholar
  7. BS 8110: 1997. Structural Use of Concrete (British Standards Institution, London, 1997)Google Scholar
  8. S. Cammelli, Tianjin CTF financial centre: wind, form and structure. Struct. Eng. 96(9), 14–21 (2018)Google Scholar
  9. P. Checkland, J. Scholes, Soft Systems Methodology in Action (Wiley, Chichester, 1990)Google Scholar
  10. S. Conway Morris, Darwin’s compass: how evolution discovers the song of creation (The Boyle Lecture 2005). Sci. Christ. Belief 18(1), 5–22 (2006)Google Scholar
  11. R. Corvi, An Introduction to the Thought of Karl Popper (Routledge, London, 1997)Google Scholar
  12. R.D. Coyne, M.A. Rosenman, A.D. Radford, M. Balachandran, J.S. Gero, Knowledge Based Design Systems (Addison-Wesley, Reading, 1990)Google Scholar
  13. CP 110: 1972. The Structural Use of Concrete (British Standards Institution, London, 1972)Google Scholar
  14. R. Dawkins, The Blind Watchmaker (Longman, London, 1986)Google Scholar
  15. N.J. Delatte, Beyond Failure: Forensic Case Studies for Civil Engineers (ASCE Press, Reston, 2009)Google Scholar
  16. W.P.S. Dias, Structural failures and design philosophy. Struct. Eng. 72(2), 25–29 (1994)Google Scholar
  17. W.P.S. Dias, Reflective practice, artificial intelligence and engineering design: common trends and inter-relationships. Artif. Intell. Eng. Des. Anal. Manuf. (AIEDAM) 16, 261–271 (2002)CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. W.P.S. Dias, Engineering as cyclic problem solving—some insights from Karl Popper. Struct. Eng. 85(2), 32–37 (2007)Google Scholar
  19. P. Dias, The disciplines of engineering and history: some common ground. Sci. Eng. Ethics 20(2), 539–549 (2014)CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. W.P.S. Dias, D.I. Blockley, Discussion on “Galileo’s confirmation of a false hypothesis: a paradigm of logical error in design by Henry Petroski”. Civ. Eng. Syst. 11, 75–77 (1994)CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. W.P.S. Dias, D.I. Blockley, Reflective practice in engineering design. ICE Proc. Civ. Eng. 108(4), 160–168 (1995)Google Scholar
  22. W.P.S. Dias, U.A. Padukka, AI techniques for preliminary design decisions on column spacing and sizing. Paper presented at the 8th international conference on the application of artificial intelligence to civil, structural and environmental engineering, Rome, 30 Aug–2 Sep 2005 (2005)Google Scholar
  23. W.P.S. Dias, A.D.C. Jayanandana, M.C.M. Fonseka, A.A.D.A.J. Perera, Distress in prestressed concrete roof girders at cement plant. ASCE J. Perform. Constr. Facil. 8(1), 6–15 (1994)CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. P. Dias, R. Dissanayake, R. Chandratilake, Lessons learned from tsunami damage in Sri Lanka. ICE Proc. Civ. Eng. 159, 74–81 (2006)Google Scholar
  25. P. Feyerabend, Against Method: Outline of an Anarchistic Theory of Knowledge (New Left Books, London, 1975)Google Scholar
  26. D.E. Goldberg, Genetic Algorithms in Search, Optimisation and Machine Learning (Addison-Wesley, New York, 1989)Google Scholar
  27. J.H. Holland, Adaptation in Natural and Artificial Systems (University of Michigan Press, Ann Arbor, 1975)Google Scholar
  28. I. Hybs, J.S. Gero, An evolutionary process model of design. Des. Stud. 13(3), 273–290 (1992)CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  29. W.M. Jenkins, Structural optimization with the genetic algorithm. Struct. Eng. 69(24), 418–422 (1991)Google Scholar
  30. J. LeMasurier, D.I. Blockley, D. Muir Wood, An observational model for managing risk. ICE Proc. Civ. Eng. 159(6), 35–40 (2006)Google Scholar
  31. M. Levy, M. Salvadori, Why Buildings Fall Down (W.W. Norton & Co., New York, 1992)Google Scholar
  32. P. Lipton, The truth about science (The Medawar Lecture 2004). Philos. Trans. R. Soc. Lond. B 360, 1259–1269 (2005)CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  33. I.A. MacLeod, A strategy for the use of computers in structural engineering. Struct. Eng. 73(21), 366–370 (1995)Google Scholar
  34. B. Magee, Popper (Fontana, London, 1973)Google Scholar
  35. M.A. Notturno, Science and the Open Society: The Future of Karl Popper’s Philosophy (Central European University Press, Budapest, 2000)Google Scholar
  36. H. Petroski, To Engineer Is Human: The Role of Failure in Successful Design (St. Martin’s Press, New York, 1969)Google Scholar
  37. H. Petroski, Galileo’s confirmation of a false hypothesis: a paradigm of logical error in design. Civ. Eng. Syst. 9(3), 251–263 (1992)CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  38. H. Petroski, Design Paradigms: Case Histories of Error and Judgment in Engineering (Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, 1994)CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  39. N.F. Pidgeon, D.I. Blockley, B.A. Turner, Design practice and snow loading—lessons from a roof collapse. Struct. Eng. 64A(3), 67–71 (1986)Google Scholar
  40. K.R. Popper, The Poverty of Historicism, 2nd edn. (Routledge and Kegan Paul, London, 1960)Google Scholar
  41. K.R. Popper, The Logic of Scientific Discovery, 2nd edn. (Hutchison, London, 1968)Google Scholar
  42. K.R. Popper, Objective Knowledge: An Evolutionary Approach (Oxford University Press, Oxford, 1972)Google Scholar
  43. K.R. Popper, in Realism and the Aim of Science: Postscript to the Logic of Scientific Discovery, vol. 1, ed. by W.W. Bartley III (Hutchison, London, 1983)Google Scholar
  44. K.R. Popper, Conjectures and Refutations: The Growth of Scientific Knowledge, 5th edn. (Routledge, London, 1989)Google Scholar
  45. K.R. Popper, All Life is Problem Solving (Routledge, London, 1999)Google Scholar
  46. M.A. Rosenman, An exploration into evolutionary models for non-routine design. Artif. Intell. Eng. 11, 287–293 (1997)CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  47. D.A. Schon, The Reflective Practitioner: How Professionals Think in Action (Temple Smith, London, 1983)Google Scholar
  48. P.M. Senge, The Fifth Discipline: The Art and Practice of the Learning Organization (Century Business, New York, 1992)Google Scholar
  49. P.G. Sibly, A.C. Walker, Structural accidents and their causes. Proc., Inst. Civ. Eng., Part 1 62, 191–208 (1977)Google Scholar
  50. Y. Umeda, H. Takeda, H. Yoshikawa, T. Tomiyama, Function, behaviour and structure, in Applications of Artificial Intelligence in Engineering V, Vol. 1—Design, ed. by J.S. Gero (Computational Mechanics Publications, Southampton, 1990), pp. 177–193Google Scholar
  51. W.G. Vincenti, What Engineers Know and How They Know It: Analytical Studies from Aeronautical History (Johns Hopkins, Baltimore, 1990)Google Scholar
  52. S.B. Willoughby, The Ridgeway footbridge. Struct. Eng. 74(5), 79–83 (1996)Google Scholar

Copyright information

© The Author(s), under exclusive license to Springer Nature Singapore Pte Ltd. 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Civil EngineeringUniversity of MoratuwaMoratuwaSri Lanka

Personalised recommendations