That Will Never Work – A Grumpy Engineer on Computers Doing Real Design
Roopinder Tara posted on July 20, 2017 |
A demo of the latest design technology again fails to impress our house skeptic
Generative design by Autodesk. Picture from Autodesk website.

Watching a “generative design” program trying to make a bicycle takes patience. The software seems to go all over the place, adding members here, there, removing struts, adding material. The Grumpy Engineer is getting fidgety. Patience is in short supply, as is usual.

He is watching how an iterative algorithm is attempting to create a lightweight bike frame.

“Who the hell wrote this program?,” he thinks. “Certainly not anyone familiar with bicycles.”

“Generative design is the wave of the future. It uses computers to design. You know, finally we have computer aided design,” says the product manager, emphasis on the “design,” doing the demo of a generative design solution.

Software companies all like to refer to their programs as solutions now.

“The program will do thousands of possible solutions, check each one against design constraints to find the optimum solution,” waxes the PM.

But the Grumpy Engineer struggles to be polite. It is a tactic at which he usually fails. Multiple responses come to mind:

A.      Like a thousand of monkeys at typewriters trying to write Shakespeare

B.      That’s faster than my slide rule, young whippersnapper

C.      Hmm… don’t look now but the optimum bike frame has already been invented

D.      I’ll be dead before this stupid program figures it out

He settles on B, figuring he could get away with a joke. But it falls flat. The likelihood of the whippersnapper knowing about slide rules is the same as the grumpy engineer having finished a single Shakespeare play.

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