Correct forecasting of technical systems' evolution is contingent on predicting new physical effects and phenomena

Y. B. Karasik,
Thoughts Guiding Systems Corp.,
Ottawa, Canada.
e-mail:karasik@sympatico.ca

When keyboards came into existence, forecasts were made about future human-computer interaction (HCI):

  1. data will be entered into computers not by typing but by writing on special devices which would be able to recognize the handwritings;
  2. computers will be able to recognize human speech and data would be entered by voice;
  3. Computers will be able to read human thoughts: whatever a human says to himself will go into a computer via a "brain reading device".
All these forecasts were compliant with TRIZ principles, especially with the concept of IFR, although people that put them forward were unaware of TRIZ. Nevertheless, a few decades passed and none of these forecasts materialized. Computers still cannot reliably recognize handwritings and voice commands, not to mention mind reading. It is not that the forecasts were completely incorrect but they simply turned out to be about a too distant future, if this future will ever come. In this respect they were failed forecasts: what seemed to be within a reach turned out to be not. Instead many other advances in HCI have been made:
  1. Soft keyboards appeared;
  2. Data started to be entered by poking fingers into screens;
  3. etc.
No technological forecasts foresaw it, despite replacing a physical keyboard by a soft one was also in accord with IFR and other TRIZ principles. The reason is that system and all its subsystems "tend" to ideality concurrently. It is hard to predict which outpaces the others and when. Suppose that methods of reliable speech recognition are discovered before methods of producing screens that enable entering information by their touching. Then we would not need soft keyboards and all these touch-screens and they would have never appeared. Everything depends on timing of discovery of methods (or physical effects) of making objects more ideal. If methods of making a component more ideal are discovered before methods (physical effects) of making its sub-component more ideal, then some states of sub-components evolution may simply not materialize. These subcomponents may simply disappear. This makes predicting evolution of technical systems very difficult.

Although TRIZ envisions a number of possible intermediate states on the way to IFR, these states are not mandatory. Their materialization depends on two factors:

  1. existence of a physical effect to implement a particular state for a particular type of objects;
  2. absence of an effect that allows elimination of a system that includes this object (because as soon as this effect is discovered, all its subsystems and components are eliminated too and their evolution towards IFR gets cut short);
It is difficult to foresee which subsystems will go through the intermediate states and which will not. All components of a system evolve to IFR concurrently, and, as a result, cut evolution of the others short in an unpredictable way. When a component disappears, all its sub-components disappear too, regardless of whether they had time to go through all intermediate states or not.

Thus, to correctly forecast evolution of a technical system one has to:

  1. forecast for which intermediate states and for which types of objects physical effects will be discovered to implement these states for these objects;
  2. forecast the sequence of such discoveries for various types of objects, especially for components and subsystems that include them;
Can one forecast all discoveries and their sequence ? Who could forecast that a physical effect would be discovered that allowed creation of touch screens ?

Sometimes existence of a physical effect can be predicted. Sometimes it is possible to imagine some physical effect without knowing whether it really exists or not and then embark on its searching. But it is hard to imagine all plausible physical effects, predict their discovery and the timing of these discoveries. However without the ability to predict discoveries of physical effects forecasting of technical systems' evolution can never be made comprehensive and accurate and will always miss important innovations.