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How do Models of Reality Relate to their Users?

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Next up in our Engineering and Metaphysics conference lineup is Baylor’s William Jordan. Jordan compares the way that physics models relate to engineering with the way that theological models relate to religious practice. He looks at how innovation works in both theological and physical models, and how engineers and practitioners should treat them. He also looks at the way in which realism affects education in both systems.

I don’t have slides for this, but you can see the slides pretty well on the video.

PS: Hi, Dr Bradley! kairosfocus
JB: This one is a doozie. I once was key designer of an engineering degree programme, and had to deal with defining Eng, Sci and ethics and key issues etc. In the course of this, I found that there was a name for the edu philosophy I had come to over the years with a lot of influence from Richard Skemp on learning Math: Constructivism. (I turned out to be a strong believer in the Mechatronic synthesis, too. And guess what, biological forms are Mechatronic, built on to molecular nanotech with cells as modular base elements.) But, I realised that there was a temptation to incorporate relativism and pomo [actually, ultra-modernity]. The solution was to apply the concept of bounded rationality, the modelling theory view that we construct knowledge-maps which are provisional but tested to a degree depending on individual, institution, community etc, and the concept of provisionality. The map is not the territory but should seek to be as accurate and reliable as possible. I call myself a moderate constructivist, i.e. one who acknowledges objective truth and our duty of care to seek it, err though we will. (Echoes of "be thou perfect . . . " should be obvious.) In that context, we labour with bounded rationality to find our errors as fast as possible and as cheaply as possible, to get to models that are good enough and open to progress, being empirically adequate and reliable. The implied opposition to ideological agendas that lock in a priori systems and lock out serious evaluation of strengths, limitations, weaknesses and challenges will be obvious. When it came to ethics, I accepted the concept of "engineer in society" as a good point of departure for thinking of issues, principles, challenges and responsibilities. As you may know, I use the sustainability principle (moderate form) as a gateway to the link between sound theology and ethics on the one hand and the world of praxis on the other: we should meet current needs more adequately and fairly without compromising the ability of posterity to meet its needs in light of bio-physical, socio-cultural, economic and sci-tech etc contexts, factors and trends. This connects to the golden rule and the categorical imperative, which give a useful framework for discussing responsibilities. In addition, listening to Dr Jordan, I see a highly significant link between design, technology evolution and the design inference concept of config spaces. Namely, he spoke about there being a range of right answers and a range of wrong ones (which is of course much larger). That is he is discussing how engineers seek to first land on the beaches of an island of effective function in the field of possible configs of possible components, which in principle can go all the way back to the 10^57 atoms in our solar system, but in praxis goes to the accessible materials and components that are economically relevant. The asteroid belt is out of reach for a few generations yet, in short. Within islands of function, we see heuristics for progress through adaptation and incremental development. This dual pattern of course brings TRIZ to bear. All of this in turn leads me to my favourite breakout sequence:
engineering and development for sustainability with growth and liberty --> Open source industrial civ 2.0 and the global village construction set idea --> Bussard or similar fusion tech [plus solar hydrogen etc] --> modular developmental transformation --> Solar system colonisation --> Galactic colonisation [sci b/thrus that give hyper-drives very welcome! If not, let's think about converting some gas giant moons into colony ships] . . .
A design view of sci & tech (with a view to responsibilities in society) is NOT a science or development stopper. KF kairosfocus

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