Dualism of the Concept of Ideal Machine and Confusions Stemming From It

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

The article "Instruments for Designing Consummate Systems" published this month in TRIZ-journal is peculiar in several respects. Firstly, it portrays Altshuller as an idiot who believed that creativity is the most significant human need, and Zlotin as a genius who discovered that what people need most is not creativity itself but its products: good food, nice homes, comfortable cars, exciting entertainment, reliable medicine, etc.

Secondly, it hails as a milestone "the first course on patterns of technological evolution (developed by Boris Zlotin in 1975 and delivered in St. Petersburg’s Evening TRIZ University)" and completely ignores Altshuller's groundbreaking work on Laws and Patterns of Technical Systems Evolution published in the same 1975. What did Zlotin want to say ? That Altshuller borrowed from him ?

Thirdly, the authors present Altshuller's idea that problem is a disease of technical system and that evolution of technical systems has to be directed to avoid these deceases as their own.

Fourthly, there are indeed systems that "enjoyed enormous success over an unusually long" time span. They are shield and sword, cart, needle, nut and bolt, crank, wedge, etc. Why the authors picked DC-3 which was in service for just about 10 years and then retired as a passenger airplane, remains unclear. Even Boeing-747 is already in service almost 3 times longer than DC-3. As for Ford Model-T, the authors tout the failure as a success. Ford lost market share to GM precisely because Ford stuck to Model-T for too long. He was not visionary enough. He assumed that if in XIX century the same model of horse powered cars was manufactured for decades then the same would be true in XX century for self-propelled cars. That was GM which realized his mistake and started changing models often and grabbed market share from Ford.

Fifthly and the lastly, the paper demonstrates that its authors do not understand the dual nature of the notion of Ideal Machine. They, as most TRIZniks, confuse Ideal Machine as a tool of problem solving with Ideal Machine as the ultimate goal of technical systems evolution.

Altshuller first conceived the concept of Ideal Machine as a heuristic means of problem solving, as IFR, which inventor has to aspire to achieve if he or she wants to arrive at a good invention. It is, of course, obtaining the required result at no cost. That is why the Ideal Machine is a weightless machine, which occupies no space, etc.

After that Altshuller conjectured that all machines evolve towards the Ideal Machine. It is already a scientific hypothesis which has nothing to do with the Ideal Machine as a heuristic tool. What Zlotin (and many others) say amounts to the following: machines do not evolve towards the Ideal Machine; hence the Ideal Machine as a tool of problem solving is bad.

They are right that the ideal pen, which is no pen, is bad for pens manufacturers because they would have nothing to sell. So what ? There were many inventions in the history of mankind that wiped out the entire branches of industry. Were Zlotin a real inventor aspiring to create a killer invention and capitalize on it, he would not branded ideal pen as a bad solution. But since he makes living by consulting the existing industries, he is, of course, not interested in losing clients by proposing an invention that would drive them out of business.

Altshuller was developing tools for rebels that advance mankind. And Zlotin is developing tools for lackeys of the current masters.