© G.Altshuller. CREATIVITY AS AN EXACT SCIENCE, 1979
(Gordon and Breach science publishers, 1984.Translated from the Russian by Anthony Williams)
CONTRADICTIONS: ADMINISTRATIVE, TECHNICAL AND PHYSICAL
[…] The inventor’s problem is often confused with problems of technology, engineering or design. Building a normal house, having readymade blueprints and calculations is a technical problem. Making the calculations for a normal bridge, making using of available formulae is a matter for engineers. Designing a comfortable and cheap bus, finding a compromise between ’comfortable’ and ’cheap’ is a designer’s business. In solving these problems one does not have to overcome any contradictions. The problem becomes that of an inventor only in the event that contradictions have to be overcome for its solution.
We do not come across contradictions even when solving problems on the first level. Strictly speaking these are designers’ and not inventors’ problems. In legal terms ’invention’ does not coincide with what we would call the technical or creative understanding of the word. Evidently with time the juridical status of inventions will change somewhat and simple designers’ solutions like that described in Pat. Cert. 317 707 (the introduction of heat insulation) will cease to be considered inventions. To avoid confusion we shall for the time being use the phrase ’inventive problem of the first level’ remembering, however, that genuine inventive problems of the second and higher levels are by definition connected with overcoming contradictions.
In point of fact a contradiction is already present in the origin of inventive problems. Something has to be done, but how to do it is unknown. Such contradictions are customarily called ’administrative’(AC). There is no need to discover administrative contradictions since they lie at the surface of the problem. But the heuristic ’prompting’ force of such contradictions amounts to nil. They do not say in what direction the solution should be sought.
Below the administrative level lie the technical contradictions (TC); if by certain methods one improves one part (or one parameter) of a technical system, it is inadmissible for another part (or another parameter) to deteriorate in the process. Technical contradictions are often indicated in the conditions stipulated in the problem, but just as frequently the original formulation of the TC requires serious correction. On the other hand a correctly formulated TC possesses a definite heuristic value. Admittedly the formulation of the TC does not give any pointer toward the answer in specific terms, but it enables one to throw out at once a multitude of "empty" variants: unsuitable by definition are all those variants in which a gain in one quality is accompanied by a loss in another.
Each TC has specific physical causes. (pages. 27-28) […]
In physical contradictions the conflict of demands is intensified to the maximum. Therefore at first glance the PC seems absurd, inadmissible by definition. What can one do in order that the whole surface of the polisher be one big "hole" and at the same time an entire solid body? But it is in precisely this, carrying the contradictions to the extreme, that the heuristic strength of the PC shows itself. Since one and the same substance cannot be in two different states it only remains to take apart, to disunite the contradictory properties by simple physical transformations. One can, for instance, divide them spatially: let the object consist of two parts, possessing different properties. One can divide the contradictory qualities in time: let the object take it in turns to have first one property then the other. One can utilize transitory states of the substance in which something akin to co-existence of the contradictory properties obtains temporarily. If, for instance, a polisher is made of ice with particles of the abrasive frozen into it, in polishing the ice would melt, ensuring the requisite combination of properties. The polishing surface would remain unbroken and at the same time cold water would pass through it at every point, as it were. (pages30-31)