To the Royal Academy of Engineering for a mini-conference on the Philosophy of Engineering Design.
Well, apart from the great, good and grey nodding sagely at society's lack of wisdom in taking more notice of engineers, it was a nice little exploration into the essence of design. Creativity came up a lot, but since this is engineering and not art or science, so did usefulness.
What's the use of a philosophy of design? Well, for me, it's as a step ladder off the flatland of business as usual, where we waste energy by using yesterday's processes against today's problems. The activity of philosophy is hard work, but real life should be easy by comparison. Philosophical, or let's just call them abstract, investigations into the nature of engineering processes should tell us why they are working and allow us to guess (it will only be a guess) what the better processes, for tomorrow's problems might look like.
Maarten Franssen showed us, as his comedy slot, the 16th century musket drill (take your fuse...). Taylorism in the military. Not for the first time I bet, it reminded my of Chinese martial arts forms. And Nelson had a gun drill too. The point of this training is to allow the actual work to go more quickly, without thought. The modern military strategist uses drills too, to close the OODA loop and to tailor processes rapidly.