What is the end-game for a system evolving along the S-curve:
transition to a supersystem, to a micro-level, or neither of them ?

Y. B. Karasik,
Thought Guiding Systems Corp.,
Ottawa, Canada.

Altshuller proposed three different views on what happens to a system when it matures and exhausts the possibilities of the further significant (if any) improvement:

  1. The system is at the final stage of its evolution along the S-curve. It's got to be eventually replaced by a new system which just passed the stage of the childhood on the S-curve;
  2. Transition to a supersystem takes place;
  3. Transition to a micro-level takes place.

It is obvious that replacements by a new system, by a supersystem, or by a slab of material capable of doing the same job, are three different things. This begs a question: what does really happen ? Altshuller did not answer this question.

His book "Creativity as an exact science" [1] suggests that a transition to a super-system takes place. Indeed, immediately after the presentation of the theory of the S-curve in the book, Altshuller proceeds with examples. The first one is his own invention of the heat-protective suit for miners' rescuers. It is based on the transition from a system to a super-system. Altshuller builds upon this example to present the concept of such transitions.

After that some examples follow, which indicate the absence of clarity in the concept. For instance, Altshuller writes that evolution of movie theaters hit the impasse and they became the portions of TVs. In other words, he believes that TV is a supersystem for movie theater. The other examples are equally dubious.

After that Altshuller tries to forecast the evolution of automobile. He expresses the belief that it will eventually be replaced by a supersystem.

In short, the entire presentation makes an impression that evolution of a system along the S-curve results in its replacement by a supersystem. There are no examples to the contrary in the book.

After the chapter on "the paths of life" of technical systems, a new chapter on the laws of evolution follows. It again presents the law of transition from a system to a supersystem, but also presents the law of transition from a macro to a micro-level. There is no attempt to relate the latter law to the theory of the S-curve.

Nine years later, in another book, Altshuller wrote [2]: "In the previous works on the Standards, it was assumed that transition from a macro to a micro-level makes sense when the resources of the further development of a system are exhausted. Due to the contemporary views, such a transition is possible at any stage of the system evolution."

This again corroborates the opinion that transition from a macro to a micro-level has nothing to do with the system's end-game at the final stage of its evolution along the S-curve.

Nevertheless, some of the TRIZ-journal authors believe that the objective of the evolution along the S-curve is transition from a macro to a micro-level [3] !

R E F E R E N C E S:

  1. G. S. Altshuller, "Creativity as an exact science", ("The Soviet Radio", Moscow, 1979) (in Russian).
  2. G. S. Altshuller, "The small unembracebale worlds: The Standards for solving inventive problems" ("Karelia", Petrozavodsk, 1988) (in Russian).
  3. Jörg Stelzner, Carlos Palacios, Tobias Swaton, "TRIZ on Rapid Prototyping -A Case Study for Technology Foresight", The July 2003 issue of the TRIZ-journal.