© G.Altov (G.Altshuller), And Suddenly The Inventor Appeared,1984.
Translated and adapted from Russian by L.Shulyak, 1996.
SOMETHING ABOUT THE SYSTEMS
If the ameba could speak, it would say, "My unicellular ancestors lived on the Earth billions of years ago. Now everything consists of single-cell combinations. Take for example, wood, this is a combination of cells. The human being is a combination of cells. It means that the "Cell Era" is continuing! With all due respect to the unicellular speaker, we should object. "Wood and the human being have different characteristics than unicells. The wood and human are systems of cells, so there is no era of cells. There is an era of systems.
Growth of the systems by development and complication is the universal law. In the technical world the development goes from a "Cell" to a "System ". An automobile is a "cell", the automobile industry is the "system". A telephone is a "cell", the telephone industry is the "system".
When a single cell gets into a system, it performs more efficiently, and develops faster. At the same time, the cell depends on the system and cannot exist without it.
Contemporary technology is a technology of the system. Its "cells" are different devices, machines, equipment. They function inside the system. Therefore people are calling the second part of the 20th century "The Century of The Technical Systems".
There is a strict subordination inside a technical system. An electric bulb in a car is subordinated to the electrical system of the car. The car is subordinated to the car industry, which includes millions of cars, roads, gas stations, and repair stations.
Every technical system has a "superior" (supersystem), the system above and "subordinates" (subsystem), the system below. Any change in any system effects both systems. A technical contradiction emerges because somebody forgets it. One part of the system gets an advantage over its "superior" or over its "subordinate". Therefore, it is necessary to consider the interest of not only the system that needs to be improved, but also interests of the subsystems and the supersystem. […]
FOUR PERIODS OF THE SYSTEM
Every new System has to pass a test. A very strict jury checks out the results of the test. This jury is "Life" and "Practice". The jury asks, "What is it? Ah, an engine! Let’s see how it works in the System. Well, it is not bad. We will give it a Mark of "3" (on a scale 1-5). What is this? Ah, is this a transmission from the engine to the working element? Yes? That transmission is very good; we will give it a "5". Where is the control System? Is it only two buttons? What if the conditions of work are changed? What if we had an emergency? We will give to this System a grade of 2".
The rules of the jury are very simple. Only Systems that do not have a Mark of "2" can pass the test. It does not matter what marks the system has as long as it is not "2". The main requirement from the jury is that all Subsystems should work together even if they have lower marks. It may appear strange, but all contemporary Systems at the beginning of their development had low marks. The first steamboat had a very gluttonous steam engine. The transmission from the engine to the paddle-wheels was eating up almost all the energy. The paddle-wheel itself did not work efficiently enough. Even in that form, the System had a big future, because it was a very fortunate combination. Although all parts worked inefficiently, they worked together.
A technical System is similar to an orchestra of musicians. It is as good as the synchronized play of the musicians. Therefore, the inventor’s effort in the beginning should be concentrated on finding the right formula for the System, the best combination of its parts. This is how the First Period in the life of a System starts.
There are four Periods , and every period has its own problems and methods to find solutions.
Let us learn about those stages from the history of the development of the airplane. See above picture.
The First Period - Selection of parts for the System.
The development started about one hundred years ago. The inventors were interested in determining, "What is a flying apparatus? What parts should it consist of? Should it be wings plus engine, or wings without engine? What type of wings should be used - stationary or flexible, like a bird’s wings? What kind of engine - muscles, steam, electrical or gas powered?"
Finally the airplane’s formula was found. The wings are stationary and the engine is internal combustion.
The Second Period - Improvements of the System.
It started with the "correction of bad marks". Inventors were improving different parts of the System. They were looking for better shapes and to optimize their relationship. They were looking for the best materials, sizes and so on. How many wings should an airplane have - triplane, biplane, monoplane? Where the controls should be placed - in the front or in the rear? Where the engine should be placed? What kind of propellers should be designed - to pull or to push? How many gears should an airplane have? At the end of the Second Period, the airplane looked very familiar to us.
The Third Period - Dynamization of the System.
The parts immediately started to lose their own image. The parts that were permanently connected have been changed into parts having flexible connections. People invented retractable landing gear. The wings now could change their profile. The front part of the fuselage could be moved up or down. The test pilots were lifted up by airplane with swiveled powered engines that produce a vertical lift. Sectional airplanes were patented, where part of the fuselage could be removed, loaded and placed back.
The Fourth Period - Self-development of the System.
This has not yet been exposed. We are just beginning to witness a few, very shy steps into the fourth period, rocket-space systems. These spaceships can reorganize themselves during the operation: get rid of rocket boosters; open solar panels while in orbit; deliver other satellites in orbit. Of course these are only the first steps in the development of the Systems that could adapt themselves to a changing environment. Those systems are only a fantasy in people’s minds. But when Jules Verne wrote his stories, they were only fantasy at that time.
Now, let’s review the Four Periods
1. Selection of parts of the System
2. Improvements of those parts
4. Self-development of the systems