The Principle of Maximum Action in Engineering

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

In mechanics bodies always travel along the path of least action. But in engineering dreams always come true along the path of greatest action. Specifically they come true when technology becomes minimally ripen for it. And the cost of achieving a dream at the first technologically available opportunity is always huge. If implementation of a dream had been delayed until technology becomes more advanced, the cost would have been much lower. But such delays never happen. The law of maximum action holds:

New technologies are always tested against the possibility of achieving goals which were previously technologically unachievable. If they make a goal achievable the achieving goes ahead regardless the cost. Nobody waits for a technology to mature to achieve the goal at a lower cost.

Just recall the history of aviation, space flights, atomic energy, etc.:

  1. People dreamed of flying for many centuries. But technology was not ripe. It got minimally ripen for this dream to come true just at the turn of XX century. And the just emerged opportunity was momentarily seized.
  2. The dream of building a canal in Central America connecting Atlantic and Pacific oceans was also started several centuries ago, soon after the Spaniards came to America. But technology was not ripe for it. Even when the French started building the canal in the late XIX century the technology was still not there. As a result they failed. It took a couple more decades for technology to advance to the point that construction of Panama Canal became feasible. And the just opened up technological opportunity was immediately seized. But the toll of fulfilling the dream at the earliest possible opportunity was huge, however.
  3. People dreamed of flying to the Moon for centuries too. But technology had barely ripened up for this just after WWII. In spite of the huge cost of fulfilling the dream with this minimally suitable technology, it was nevertheless accomplished.

Why does the huge cost of achieving a dream with the least suitable means not delay it till the means become more suitable and cost goes down ? It is due to the Principle of Maximum Action: achieve the dream at any cost at the first available opportunity.

If people had waited for a few more decades construction of Panama Canal could have cost a fraction of the price paid in the beginning of XX century. Similarly, if the project Appolo had been delayed for a few decades, it would have cost much less. But the Principle of Maximum Action precludes from such delays.

The principle runs against Alsthuller's claim that inventions are always late because made by random trials and errors. He touted TRIZ as a means of making inventions on time by eliminating trials and errors and employing a systematic approach. However, I don't recall any examples of really late inventions in his books. It might be true for insignificant inventions. But the breakthrough inventions, which are the keys to achieving engineering dreams, always appear on time at the earliest possible opportunity without TRIZ. They come into the being due to the Principle of Maximum Action.

At the very least there is a paradox: some (insignificant) inventions might are late but marvels of engineering are always on time (often after unsuccessful attempts made ahead of time).