Design Knowledge Intermediary
The Sciences of the Artificial

By Herbert A Simon
Published by MIT Press (1st Edition 1969, 3th Edition 1996)

Page: 215

Continuing his exploration of the organization of complexity and the science of design, this new edition of Herbert Simon's classic work on artificial intelligence adds a chapter that sorts out the current themes and tools—chaos, adaptive systems, genetic algorithms—for analyzing complexity and complex systems.

There are updates throughout the book as well. These take into account important advances in cognitive psychology and the science of design while confirming and extending the book's basic thesis: that a physical symbol system has the necessary and sufficient means for intelligent action. The chapter "Economic Reality" has also been revised to reflect a change in emphasis in Simon's thinking about the respective roles of organizations and markets in economic systems.

Table of Content

Preface to Third Edition
Preface to Second Edition
1 Understanding the Natural and Artificial Worlds
2 Economic Rationality: Adaptive Artifice
3 The Psychology of Thinking: Embedding Artifice in Nature
4 Remembering and Learning: Memory as Environment for Though
5 The Science of Design: Creating the Artificial
6 Social Planning: Designing the Evolving Artifact
7 Alternative Views of Complexity
8 The Architecture of Complexity: Hierarchic Systems
Name Index
Subject Index

Herbert Simon is Professor of Psychology at Carnegie-Mellon University. He was awarded the Nobel Prize in economics in 1978.


The review below first published in Design Studies Journal in 1982 for 2nd edition

The artificial world
This is a much modified new edition with twice as much printed matter as the original book. New chapters are interpolated to give a kind of multi-layer sandwich. The added chapters deal with economic rationality, remembering and learning, and social planning. Although the initial and final chapters are nominally the same as in the first edition of 1969 the extra chapters reflect consideration of the 'real world' (the author's words).

The preface remains largely the same as before. It is worth re-reading because of its continuing relevance. The thesis of the book, as stated, is that 'certain phenomena are "artificial" in a very specific sense: they are as they are only because of a system's being moulded, by goals or purposes, to the environment in which it lives.., artificial phenomena have an air of "contingency" in their malleability by environment'. '

The contingency of artificial phenomena has always created doubts as to whether they fall properly within the compass of science, Sometimes these doubts are directed at the teleological character of artificial systems and the consequent difficulty of disentangling prescription from description... The genuine problem is to show how empirical propositions can be made at all about systems that, given different circumstances, might be other than they are.'
Although there have been subtle modifications and scholarly corrections to material originally presented in the first edition attention must be directed at the new matter.

Simon simplified his original task by factoring an adaptive system into goals, an inner environment, and an outer environment. He stressed the significance of the inner environment, the use of rationality, and its limits. By concentrating upon the outer environment-- the real world--the 'procedural rationality' of the inner environment, already stretched to its limits and using simple models, is confronted with further dimensions of complexity and uncertainty. The concepts and devices developed by man (by accident or design) to cope with such problems of the outer environment include not only the heuristics already exploited in the inner environment, but also 'satisficing', the use of the market for social coordination as well as various forms of hierarchical organization. These are all ways of coping with the limits on rational calculation.
Remembering, in the sense used specifically by Simon, is concerned with using something like a second environment, in parallel with the world connected with the normal senses. The use of the long-term memory is different from the way in which memory is used in solving puzzle-like problems. Certain kinds of professionals require up to 10 years of application to attain a relevant level of skill, as in medical diagnosis. Various devices are introduced to reduce effort of this kind, whether handbook, procedure, or suitable knowledge engineering by computer.

In social planning attention is given to finding the correct representation of a problem, dealing with inadequacies of data, identifying the client and responding to him, limits on time and attention, and conflict over goals. Simon is a polymath who has made intellectual contributions in most of the areas to which he refers. Much of his research has been strategic in character. A characteristic ploy in exposition is to bring forward a simple model based on recent research or thought and use it to throw light on a relatively large field. With respect to design in any professional sense there seems so much more to do of a practical nature. He writes of the difficulty of treating the real world in economic terms. We, in practice, still have to make adequate links between designing and the market. He proposes a curriculum in design composed of 7 parts, to which, in the new edition, he adds 5 more parts. What design educationist is studying the utility of his scheme?