A Foundation for Design
A Foundation for Design
The underlying thesis of this book is that, although computing technology, in its relatively short lifetime, has clearly impacted modern economies and cultures, our understanding of software remains rooted in our experience with precomputer technology. It follows, therefore, that if we wish to take advantage of software’s unique capabilities, we must begin by reassessing our objectives and constraints. with this renewed understanding serving as a framework, we then can explore alternative paradigms. A revised interpretation is necessary, I assert, because there is a ceiling on the returns available by simply improving the present methods. To attain the level of productivity that software makes possible, we need a new normative model that explains how we ought to develop and employ software. Part III identifies one such normative model, called adaptive design, and demonstrates its efficacy. Yet this is not a book about adaptive design; it is about the mismatch between software’s inherent flexibility and the methods now used in software’s construction. If we are to rectify that disjunction, we must abandon our historical assumptions and reexamine the foundations upon which computer science and software engineering rest. The first two parts of the book are devoted to this reappraisal and foundation building. In Part I, the relationships between science and technology were considered. The discussion was not limited to computers and software. It began by examining the two myths that dominated technological thinking at the time the first digital electronic computers were created; resilient myths that sometimes persist in policy making and academic research. The first myth is that the goal of science is to discover immutable truths about the universe, and the second is that technological advancement depends on the application of this scientific knowledge. These two ideas combine to produce an implicit model of progress: As scientific knowledge accumulates, greater technological advances are enabled. The model is hierarchical. Technological progress follows the discovery of scientific knowledge, and, therefore, technology requires a scientific base to prosper.
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