Generative Design

The future of CAD

Is generative design about : Man Vs Machine ?

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Upper limits of human intelligence ?


I am one of those who thought it was –  Man Vs Machine. At the time, I had just managed to get CAD systems to generate 100′s of viable designs. Without any manual intervention designs were poping in the screen every few seconds  : the experience was mesmerizing. It is only a matter of time … I thought. I was convinced that,

computers will do to design what they did for chess.

Computers will one day take design out of the proud preserve of  human skills  –  as it did with Kasprov. The vast and ever increasing power of computers I reckoned, will inevitably bring the overhyped human designers ego to a halt. Needless to say, that many designers were deeply annoyed by such a thought.  Their reactive, unfounded  arguments against the use of computers convinced me even more of their refusal to see what was patently obvious.

Kasprov’s loss was seen by many as a defeat of  human intelligense. What was once thought to be a unique human ability was now lost forever, buried deep in the depths of code that few could fathom. A colleague of mine who demonstrated to video makers a way of automatically editing and compressing movie clips told me a story. During one of his demos of a video makers had stormed out of it. He could see both it’s potential and damage. It’s prospects for him were unbearable. He had later said that :

I was impressed and depressed.

The product designers I spoke to, easily over a good hundred  over the next few years perhaps felt the same. My excitement was not shared, instead I sensed a combination of fear and annoyance. I had thought designers were creative and open-minded. I found them not, when it comes to thinking about how they design.

Engineers, on the other hand, had no problem with such a proposition;  optimization is what they do for a living. They are born to optimize : optimization is their Karma. So the idea of creating a design and improving it based on measurable performance is something that is natural. But this is mostly done at latter stages when the design has jelled. But in engineering, performance can be measured. Here, the machine clearly wins:  Because, thousands of designs can be tirelessly created and accurately evaluated. It is the refinement of such a strategy that helped beat Kasprov.

But what about early stage design when the design is still unknown and when things cannot be measured ? Is it man or machine ?


Written by Sivam Krish

July 12, 2010 at 11:57 am

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