TWO VIEWS ON THE PRESENT AND FUTURE OF CONTRADICTION MATRIX AND 40 PRINCIPLES

The recent article "40 principles - nowhere !" by G. L. Filkovsky of "Nomura Securities" attracted criticism from Alex Zakharov (formerly with "Invention Machine Corporation" and now with "GEN3 Partners".) Below is the transcript of the argument that took place between them.


Dear Mr. Filkovsky:

The powerful excavator has not cancelled the ordinary shovel, automatic nail gun has not cancelled the ordinary hammer, the super-duper computer graphics/texts editors have not cancelled a pencil and a paper. What I am talking about? Any tools are important, any tools are necessary! Alongside with advanced ARIZs the Table of Contradiction Solution Principles will always coexist.

Is the well-known pedagogical principle «From simplicity to complexity» cancelled? Do you suggest frightening newcomers by multistage ARIZs from the start of training course, or providing them the simple tool, which can be used in 10 minutes after the first acquaintance? I remember clearly the class at TRIZ University and my admiration because the unapproachable contradiction could be solved by means a few simple steps.

Of course, I agree with you in case the Table of Contradiction Solution Principles is presented and used as the only tool, but if it presented as the element of huge TRIZ tools' set - it's OK.

Sincerely,
Alex Zakharov

GEN3 Partners, Inc.
Ten Post Office Square,
9th Floor South
Boston, MA 02109
Phone: (617) 728-7016
Fax: (617) 728-7599
Email: Alexey.Zakharov@GEN3Partners.com


Dear Alex,

I think that the claim "Any tools are important, any tools are necessary!" is wrong. I also think that the pedagogical principle "From simplicity to complexity" is often misleading. Here are a few counter-examples:

  1. We don't use or teach abacus anymore. It has been cancelled. It's not important, neither necessary. It is not a pedagogical tool either.
  2. Mechanical typewriters have been cancelled by word processors and printers.
  3. VCR has cancelled 8mm home projector and camcorder has cancelled 8mm camera.
  4. The Copernicus system has cancelled the Ptolemy's one - the latest is not needed, used, learned or taught (except as a history of science, possibly).
  5. Horseback cavalry has been cancelled from a warfare.
  6. Even the ordinary shovel, although still used for digging graves, has been largely cancelled from construction sites.


In fact, a list of old tools that have disappeared would be much longer than a list of the ones that co-exist with later tools. The Table of Contradiction Solution Principles is a very weak tool if presented and used alone, and it is as useful as a fifth wheel in a wagon if presented and used as a part of TRIZ.

Regards,

Genady.


Dear Mr. Filkovsky,

I am surprised with your phrase that “We don't use or teach abacus anymore.” Please, look into textbooks for primary school students. Or try the website . What do you see? Counting Worksheet with the following tasks: Numbers 1-5: Count and write the number… Numbers 6-9: Count and write the number. And so on. Kids are taught to count fishes, ducks, bears, flowers, etc. Nobody uses word “abacus”, but it’s the strictly abacus principle. Only after the imprinting this principle of operating with material objects into the brains, kids can go far for more abstract concepts.

About “cancelled” shovels. The 0.79 seconds search on GOOGLE provides result (key words - shovel sale -hydraulic -excavator - chopper -power) about 60,000 hits. Even if only 50% are real hand shovels, this amount is huge. All these shovels are intended for graves digging? If so, it's very sad.

The knowledge simplicity of the end of XIX century doesn’t equal to the knowledge simplicity of the end of XX century; it’s another qualitative level. It means that in the phrase "From simplicity to complexity" the simplicity is changing constantly, but the direction remains the same - to complexity. By the way, this complexity becomes more complex too.

Of course a list of old tools that have disappeared would be much longer than a list of the ones that co-exist with later tools. But they are the different lists!

From a moment of time when the civilization made the horse a drawing animal, the horse no more disappears from the history. Only re-distribute from one field of use to another.

“The Copernicus system has cancelled the Ptolemy's one - the latest is not needed, used, learned or taught (except as a history of science, possibly).” It’s not true! For our everyday needs we use Ptolemaeus system - the Sun travels around the Earth. Phrases “Sun is rising” or “Sunset” prove this fact constantly. Only specialists or special organizations (astronomers, NASA, who needs real picture) use the Copernicus system.

“Word processors and printers have canceled mechanical typewriters,” but not the function of system - “to place marks onto surface of carrier.” It’s old appearance of systems disappeared (because of new materials or new principle of action), and not the system themselves. It’s one and the same system under different covers! Its appearance is constantly changing, but the system is stable. Function exists and there are always a lot of co-existing systems - from cheap to expensive, from simple to complex, from stupid to smart, from brand-new to very old; or no function -- no system at all. It’s a general natural principle - all or nothing!

Dear Mr. Filkovsky, it is very interesting and challenging to “fight” with you. Thank you for this possibility. I hope the polemics will help not only us.

Sincerely,

Alex Zakharov


  1. According to Merriam-Webster Dictionary, “Abacus: an instrument for making calculations by sliding counters along rods or grooves”. It is not “counting and writing a number”, and has not much to do with “kids counting fishes, ducks, flowers, etc.” Counting things is not an abacus principle and does not represent using abacus in any way. The fact that Mr. Zakharov does not know this and does not know what abacus is supports the claim that we don’t use or teach abacus anymore.

  2. “All these shovels are intended for graves digging? If so, it's very sad.”

    There are now 6 billions in line. That’s a lot of graves to dig… But seriously: of course not all shovels intended for digging graves, but powerful excavators not intended to cancel ALL shovels either. They did cancel what they were intended to.

  3. “The knowledge simplicity of the end of XIX century doesn’t equal to the knowledge simplicity of the end of XX century; it’s another qualitative level. It means that in the phrase "From simplicity to complexity" the simplicity is changing constantly, but the direction remains the same - to complexity. By the way, this complexity becomes more complex too.”

    No connection to the topic.

  4. “Of course a list of old tools that have disappeared would be much longer than a list of the ones that co-exist with later tools. But they are the different lists!”

    Of course they are two different lists: one is a list of tools that have disappeared, while the other is a list of tools that have not.

  5. “From a moment of time when the civilization made the horse a drawing animal, the horse no more disappears from the history. Only re-distribute from one field of use to another.”

    No connection to the topic.

  6. Very basic search for Ptolemy, or Ptolemaic, System on Internet would bring explanations like this (from http://galileo.rice.edu/sci/theories/ptolemaic_system.html): “Ptolemy presented a complete system of mathematical constructions that accounted successfully for the observed motion of each heavenly body. Ptolemy used three basic constructions, the eccentric, the epicycle, and the equant. An eccentric construction is one in which the Earth is placed outside the center of the geometrical construction. Here, the Earth, E, is displaced slightly from the center, C, of the path of the planet. …”

    Mr. Zakharov’s belief that “Phrases “Sun is rising” or “Sunset” prove [that] we use Ptolemaeus system”, only shows the ignorance of what this system is and once again supports the claim that we don’t use or teach it anymore.

  7. “Word processors and printers have canceled mechanical typewriters, but not the function of system”.

    Well, word processors and printers didn’t cancel the function of the system but canceled mechanical typewriters!

    This is the topic of the discussion: disappearance of tools, not functions. “Function exists and there are always a lot of co-existing systems…” but not ALL systems co-exist ALL the time. Tools appear and disappear and “the 40 principles” belong to the disappearing brand.


Genady Filkovsky.


Regarding the above items:

  1. The radix number system that we widely used is the shade of abacus. When we link number and its place - it’s a shade of abacus. You are specialist in functional analysis, and you ought to see the function and its material implementation.
  2. If “… powerful excavators not intended to cancel ALL shovels either. They did cancel what they were intended to,” it means that powerful excavators and shovels are peacefully coexist and perform one and the same function - to grab some quantity of soil (or another material), and move it.
  3. “From simplicity to complexity” principle is alive! As usual students start from 1 + 2 = 3 and 2 + 1 = 3; or 4 + 6 = 10 and 6 + 4 = 10, and so on. It’s very simple. After 2-3 minutes anyone can write such examples mechanically. At last the general idea, the abstract concept of commutative law (a + b = b + a) appears. It’s without doubts the more complex expression than simple arithmetic addition. It means that we have “From simplicity to complexity” principle materialization. What’s next? In the course of time the expression (a + b = b + a) became the familiar, became simpler. And we can go far, for example, to integral calculus, i.e. to new complexity. It means that we have “From simplicity to complexity” principle materialization again. No connection to the topic?
  4. When the function exists, the old and new tools are coexists. For function performance we don’t use only one tool.
  5. The horse performs the function - to move object (human, cargo, or even itself). It doesn’t matter where it is happened - in cavalry, on construction site or in races. Again, when the function exists, the old and new tools are coexists. For function performance we don’t use only one tool.
  6. The main Ptolemaeus idea that the Earth is in the center, and the Sun goes around. According to http://muse.tau.ac.il/museum/galileo/geocentric.html: “The Ptolemaic model of the planetary system - the geocentric system. Geocentric means that the earth is in the center. In the geocentric system, the earth is statically located at the center and the rest of the planets revolve around it, including the sun, which was also considered a planet.”

    It doesn’t matter, if the Earth is displaced slightly from the geometric center or not. My idea is that for our daily needs we use the Ptolemaic model. It doesn’t matter, if we understand it or not, if this idea is presented to students or not. For our daily needs Ptolemaic model is enough.
  7. Mechanical typewriters are not canceled! See "Ten Technologies That Refuse to Die" by Eric Scigliano. From typewriters to vacuum tubes, these 10 technologies aren’t as obsolete as you might thought (see MIT Technology review, January 31, 2004). Or from another website, TYPEWRITERS: "These original impact printers seem as remote as quills to those nursed on PCs. But they too have confounded expectations: in 2002, Americans bought 434,000 word processors and electronic typewriters. Even manual machines hold their niche: Olympia and Olivetti still make classic machines. Consider the advantages: no viruses to catch, no hard drives or software to get corrupted, no batteries to run down. Typewriters do one thing computers can't - fill out printed forms - and are faster at addressing envelopes and other one-shot jobs that usually don't entail revisions. Affection and habit also sustain old machines. One Seattle typewriter repairman says that it is ageing writers who 'prefer simplicity and don't want to learn computers' who keep him in business. And you needn't worry about your system becoming obsolete if it already is."

    Regarding ""Function exists and there are always a lot of co-existing systems…" but not ALL systems co-exist ALL the time. Tools appear and disappear and "the 40 principles" belong to the disappearing brand ", I’d like to finish this discussion by words of mentioned Eric Scigliano: “In technology, as in biology, we like to imagine evolution proceeding onward and upward. As new species and technologies appear, their primitive ancestors drop by the wayside, right? Not exactly. Mammals, birds, and flowering plants - all relatively recent innovations - might seem to rule the Earth today. But far older designs, from barnacles to crocodiles, are doing just fine in their respective niches, thank you. New species don't always evolve to replace old ones; they also fill vacant niches, which in turn can solidify the standing of older species. And so it is with technology.”


Sincerely,

Alex Zakharov.

P.S. It’s my concluding remarks. Thanks for discussion.


I know very well that "New species don't always evolve to replace old ones..." and I agree that technology and other tools, e.g. methods of problem solving, are similar in this respect. The key part of the statement is the words "don't always". It differs from "always don't". They don't always replace, but sometimes they do. They don't always co-exist either! So, the point is not in what analogy we use, but what is happening to the specific tool in question, "the 40 principles". Is this tool the one which gets replaced, or rather the one that has its niche and stays?

Alex Zacharov's arguments mean that some part, aspect, or function of this old tool would possibly remain throughout the TRIZ evolution. Possible, but I don't talk about parts, aspects, or functions. I talk about this whole old tool as it was in the 70s and argue that IT should not remain. That tool is a history of TRIZ - not a part of it. The same in regards to teaching: some aspects, may be, but not "the list and the matrix" should be taught.

Genady Filkovsky


A concluding remark by the Editor

The discussion eventually boiled down to the following question: should contradiction matrix and 40 principles co-exist with more advanced tools, or not ? Alex Zakharov claimed that it should and always will (in some, albeit shadowy, form). Whereas Genady Filkovsky claimed that it neither should nor will. Moreover this "future" has already began 30 years ago.

In my opinion, the topic of discussion was too narrow. If one considers examples by Zakharov, he may notice that they fall into two categories: 1) systems that co-exist but stop developing; and 2) systems that co-exist and continue developing.

Ptolemy's system, even if it "co-exists", is no longer under further improvement. Whereas shovel is still under further development, despite largely "canceled" by excavators.

That is why, it is more interesting to ask, whether contradiction matrix belongs to the first class or to the second. In other words, are attempts at further "improvement" of contradition matrix are worthwhile or even reasonable ?

This question is of a practical value because some people (such as Boris Zlotin, Darrell Mann, etc.) continue to "improve" the matrix. Is their effort as sane as imroving and extending Ptolemy's system ?

Unfortunately, the discussion did not touch upon these questions. I hope that they will be a topic of further discussions.