My path to TRIZ

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

In final year at high school I came to the idea of building all body of knowledge from such constructs as distinctiveness, commonality, order, repetition, etc. The role of axioms was to be played by relations between these constructs. For example, distinctiveness implies commonality and vice versa. (Objects are always distinct in something which both of them have in common.) Etc.

My first objective was to build the notions of logics and sets from these constructs, which would guarantee building the entire body of mathematics from them. In search for how to accomplish this task I started skimming through the books on the foundation of mathematics in the Baku Main Public Library. It was already after I entered university. Once in the catalogue of such books I came across a title which caused my heart to beat faster. It was "Genesis of elementary logical structures" by Jean Piaget and Barbel Inhelder. The title seemed to hit the nail on the head. I ordered the book and started reading it.

To my surprise it was not on foundation of mathematics at all but on how children develop the elementary mathematical and logical concepts by recognizing commonality in distinct objects and by serializing (ordering) them according to the common features they perceive in them. Apparently the book was placed in the catalogue of the titles on the foundation of mathematics by mistake. But this was a fateful mistake.

I immersed myself into reading. Piaget and Inhelder described how children come to the basic mathematical ideas via contradictions resolution in the course of serializing objects. They claimed that building series is an inherent human instinct by the virtue of which children cognize the world. Building series encounters contradictions overcoming of which results in forming basic mathematical and logical concepts.

I shared the findings with my friend Genady Filkovsky and we started working together. Eventually we wrote a paper and submitted it to "Issues in Philosophy" (Voprosi Filosofii).

About that time I first met Altshuller and his wife in Filkovskys' apartment. I heard of him from Filkovsky before, back in high school. Genady portrayed Altshuller as a founder of some problem solving method, which could solve any problem except those that require a scientific discovery. I disbelieved that such a method could exist and we had heated debates on this. Eventually, when I once said that Altshuller seemed to found the Philosopher's Stone, Genady replied as if I insulted a saint: "Shut up, Karasik, before I said something unpleasant to you !". This caused me to lose interest in St. Altshuller which was not to be ridiculed for he suffered a lot on his quest to ameliorate the humanity for long time. But by the time I first met him at Filkovskys' apartment all this was long forgotten and I was looking at him with interest. Unexpectedly he unceremoniously injected himself between me and Genady completely ignoring my presence, and said: "So, let's go processing films", and they retired to another room leaving me alone.

Some time later I met Altshuller's wife on a bus. "I heard you and Filkovsky wrote a paper", - she said, - "Come to see Genrich". I came and this time Altshuller appeared a completely different man: polite, intend, interested. He inquired what the paper was about. I explained. The name of Piaget caused unease in him. I did not know yet that Altshuller disliked all psychologists having believed that all their theories are rubbish. It was apparent that he never read Piaget. Our debates ensued. I started frequenting his apartment

From our conversations I grasped the basics of TRIZ. Altshuller's idea that problem solving goes through contradictions resolution resonated with what I read with Piaget. I quickly concluded that what Piaget described was in fact contradictions resolution: children come to the first mathematical concepts via facing contradictions while serializing objects and overcoming them. I felt it was important to study Altshuller's theory of contradictions to fulfill my plan. So when in Fall of 1973 Azerbaijan Institute for Inventive Creativity (AzOIIT) started accepting students, I applied.

To be admitted the applicant had to pass an interview with the selection committee. When I came I was asked why I wanted to study at the Institute. I started talking about the foundation of mathematics, Piaget, and how kids serialize objects. "I think he does not fit," - Khotimlyansky said. Gorin seconded. A debate amongst the committee members ensued. Alsthuller was sitting silent all the time. "But we have to reject somebody !" - Khotimlyansky screamed, - "What a prestige the Institute will have if we admit everyone, even those who obviously do not fit". At this point Altshuller broke his silence and said: "I know this guy. We admit him".