The Laws Of Technical Systems Evolution Information Technology Essay

Altshullers laws of system evolution reveal noteworthy, predictable, and repeatable interactions between elements of systems and between the systems and their environment (Fey & Rivin, 1999). The repeatable trends that have emerged through the observation of system evolution enable problem solving based on these patterns. TRIZ theory and its laws of system evolution are predicated on the notion that systems have a predictable life cycle with identifiable stages. Systems progress from birth to growth and pass through maturity onto decline.

As a result of extensive research into the patterns of technical systems evolution, Genrich Altshuller in the early 1970s subdivided all laws of technical systems evolution into three categories; statics, kinematics and dynamics. Static laws describe the criteria of feasibility of newly created technical systems during their inception. Static laws include the laws of completeness, the law of energy conductivity of the system and the law of harmonization of the rhythm of the systems parts. Kinematic laws define how technical systems evolve regardless of conditions during the systems growth phase. These laws include the law of increasing ideality, the law of non-uniform development of system components, the law of transition to higher level systems and the law of increasing dynamism. Dynamic laws hope to define how technical systems evolve under specified conditions near the conclusion of the systems development. Dynamics include the law of transition from macro to micro level systems and the law of increasing substance field interactions (Kraev, 2005).

Law of increasing degree of ideality

The law of increasing degree of ideality holds that systems evolve toward an increasing state of benefit to cost ratio. The ideality of a system is a qualitative ratio expressed as the desirable functionality of the system over the sum of the systems costs and problems. The capabilities of various products are endlessly increasing while the prices of these products to consumers fall (Fey & Rivin, 2005). Some common trends in product development in relation to increasing system ideality include the reduction in size, weight and cost while simultaneously adding functionality. For example, adding a more powerful camera to a cell phone.

Law of increasing the degree of ideality of the system is a natural progression in innovation of any design or invention. This is accomplished by increasing benefits and decreasing harmful effects, undesirable states and reducing costs. The ideal final result would be to have all the benefits of the system with a cost of zero. Whether this is attainable or not, it should be striven for in the process of innovation. This law is predicated on the observation that successive versions of a technical design usually increase ideality over time.

According to Ivanov (1994) the fundamental ways to boost the degree of ideality in systems are expressed to increase the number of functions performed by a single element. This shift includes the movement from bi to poly level systems and homogenous to heterogeneous elements. Ivanov goes on to suggest that ideality can be promoted by minimizing technical contradictions simultaneously in all parts of the system. Other methods of Idealization include reducing some parts of a system or a process, increasing the number of delivered functions, using advanced equipment, materials, processes and by using disposable objects. To further idealize a system and eliminate undesirable effects, managers and systems engineers can use block structured design, use expensive materials only where necessary and look to other resources to improve the systems ideality (Petrov, 2001).

By improving the degree of ideality, the system will be first lead to the increased complexity of the system elements. Next the process will move to simplify the system, but complicate the subsystems. Finally, improving the degree of ideality in the system will lead to substantial simplification of subsystem elements (Ivanov, 1994).

In recent years, the Apple iPod has embodied the law of increasing ideality. When the iPod first hit the market, they were expensive and only functioned as a music playing device. After several iterations of the initial design, the system has yielded outcomes congruent with an improving cost to benefit ratio. The iPod is now relatively inexpensive (to the point where it is often a prize of gift) and it has increased functionality. The iPod Touch now plays movies, supports games and applications and has Wi-Fi and email capability.

Law of non-uniform evolution of subsystems

The law of Non-Uniform Evolution of Subsystems holds that various parts of a system evolve at different non-uniform rates. The uneven development of various parts of a technical system encompassing different parts will evolve differently, leading to system conflicts and consequently new technical and physical contradictions in the system.

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According to Ivanov (1994) uniformity is mutually exclusive to systemic behaviour. Various system elements respond differently to external stimuli, this stimuli has the potential to disrupt previously stable system element relationships (Ivanov, 1994).

The law states that the improvement of one element of a system design is usually at the expense of another part of the system. These system conflicts are not ideal and usually result in a compromise. Improving the system often starts with a focus on improving a specific subsystem. It is important to recognize that subsystems have different life cycle curves. Therefore when attempting to improve a system, it is essential to focus on the correct sub system (TRIZ Experts, 1996).

Advancement in wind farm technology in recent years provides an example of non-uniform subsystem evolution. The turbine systems have evolved to the point where they can create surplus power on some grids. Transmission and storage capacity of some areas of the grid have not evolved at a rate sufficient to keep up with the increased capacity generated by enhancement to turbines.

Law of transition to a higher level system

System genesis usually manifests in a mono system form designed to perform one specific task. Over the lifecycle of the system there is a trend to develop from a mono system to a bi or poly system to accomplish a wider scope of tasks. Eventually the poly system evolves into a new more complex but efficient system. At this point in the system lifecycle, multiple poly systems may merge to become a super system designed to perform a more complex task (Fey & Rivin, 2005). Also known as the law of transition to a super-system, the rule postulates that when a system attains a level where the likelihood of further substantial enhancement becomes nominal, the system has become an element of a super-system.

Some bi and poly system are the result of duplicating the component of the mono system and using the duplication to extrapolate the desired result. According to Fey & Riven, by combining multiple mono systems into such a homogeneous bi or poly system can improve functionality of each sub system element such that the whole is greater than the summation of its components. Some more complex heterogeneous bi and poly systems are the result of an addition of a new element such as a clock to a radio to have a clock radio. In addition to the emergence of heterogeneous and homogenous bi and poly systems, this law further helps to identify inverse bi and poly systems which combine elements with contradictory or opposite functions; i.e. a pencil and an eraser (Fey & Rivin, 1999).

One example cited by Ladewig (2003) of system evolution progressing from a mono to a bi to a poly system is found in the disposable razors market. Razors initially had one blade and have advanced to two then three and currently up to four blades. A further example is found in observing screw drivers, initially this tool had one head and had advanced to include Robertson, Phillips and flathead heads, this system has now advanced to contain fittings for dozens of heads and bit styles all contained within the unit handle itself (Ladewig, 2003). Another example may be noted in the evolution of a bicycle to a bicycle with training wheels (4 wheels).

Law of increasing dynamism

Systems are developed and tailored to specific operating tasks and environments, as those environments change, the system needs to be flexible to adapt. The pressure exerted on rigid structures is a constant force external to the system. There is a demand on the system to evolve into more flexible and adaptive parameters that stems from end user demand. The evolving needs and demands of consumers and other users stimulate change in the system environment which translates to pressure on the system. It is important that the core competencies and values of the system entity are not corrupted in this process.

In the transition between a rigid system and a flexible system, a system passes through multiple stages. The line of increasing flexibility as outlined by Fey & Rivin (1999) illustrates that system begin with one state, become a system with many discrete states and ultimately exist as a continuously variable system.

An example of the law of flexibility being exerted on a system is through the emergence of e-books which evolved from traditional paper books. The transcendence of hand held technology in recent years has changed the landscape of the book industry by creating new opportunities for consumers. The end user created demand for a system that would meet the needs of portability, increased capacity and decrease cost. This was a natural evolution for the paper book in terms of flexibility of use.

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Law of transition from macro to micro level systems

The law of transition from macro to micro level systems states that systems evolve as far as possible to an ever increasing fragmentation of their components. Altshuller moved that in the context of evolving systems, what is initially one unit eventually evolves into many separate components. Through a careful observation of the physical effects of system evolution, it is evident that this law is especially emphasized in modern technical systems. The transition from macro to micro level systems is a result of the need for increased control, measurement and understanding of individual elements of a system. This narrowing of scope on system levels provides increased precision and a deeper understanding of the system as a whole.

An instance of a transition from a macro to micro level system can be found in agriculture. Traditional fertilizing techniques observed that manure was beneficial to the soil to increase the productiveness of the land. The composition of the manure was not a concern as it was more beneficial than not having using it. The evolution of this system has yielded a focus on understanding the exact composition of the fertilizer down to its individual atoms. The correct mix or phosphates and nitrates are combined to provide a precise result for a specific product need. A different mix for grains than would be used for fruit trees. This transition came about as a there was a demand for increased control and efficiency.

Law of completeness

The law of the completeness of the parts of the system is an identification of the fact that any working system must be comprised of four essential components. The required elements of a complete system are: the engine, the transmission, the working means and the control component. The engine is the primary source of the systems required energy; the transmission component is responsible for directing the required energy to the system organ. The control function of the system ensures that the functionality can be made adaptable and flexible for the user. According to Miller and Domb (2007), when viewed in terms of the functionality of the system, completion is defined by the following actions. The existence of a tool acting on an object, the energy used by the tool to affect the object, the transmission of that energy, and the control to guide functionality (Miller & Domb, 2007).

The law of completeness identifies the trend towards decreased human involvement with the system. In the system lifecycle, early stage systems have more human involvement than late stage systems. The reduction of human involvement makes systems more efficient by mitigating the likelihood of operator error from human interaction with the system. The reduction of human involvement also increases system efficiency by eliminating the dependency of skilled or unskilled human inputs into the system. This reduction of human effort makes systems more adaptable to varying uses and environments.

One example of a system that once relied on human interaction was an elevator. Elevators used to have dedicated operators to facilitate the opening and closing of the door and the vertical movement of the elevator car. This need for human involvement has been reduced to a simple input by the end user who merely selects a button with the desired corresponding floor.

Law of shortening of energy path flows

The law of shortening of energy path flows describes that systems evolve to a shortening of the distance between energy sources and their working means. The law of energy conductivity of the system is predicated on the understanding that all systems require the transfer of energy. Ideally, system energy should transfer freely and by the most direct and therefore efficient path through the components of the system. Energy cannot be created nor destroyed and systems are always moving towards increased efficiency. With these foundations, it can be postulated that more direct energy flows are more efficient. According to Ivanov (1994), the laws of conservation of matter and energy will always dictate to choose the path flow that leads to a decrease in energy expenditure rather than to its increase (Ivanov, 1994).

One case of shortening of energy path flows can be observed in rear windshield in automobiles. In environments that get cold in the wintertime, it is necessary to defrost windshields on vehicles before they can be operated. A defrost system has been developed in automobiles to meet this need. Previously hot air was directed and blown at the glass areas that needed defrosting first. This system is inefficient because much of the heat required to defrost the surface was lost as the hot air dissipated and cooled over the relatively large distance before it accomplished its task. The solution to this was to embed the rear glass with heating coils so that the rear windshield could defrost through conduction. This shortened energy path flow increased the efficiency of the system. Due to the issues that would arise from visibility, this solution cannot be applied to front windshields. In the context of the front windshield, this could be considered a system conflict. It is also interesting to note that a similar principle has been applied to heated seats.

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Law of increasing subfield interactions

The law of increasing subfield interaction is also known as the law of increasing controllability. As systems evolve, the level of control interactions improves among each of the system elements. The dispersion of substances in the S-Fields increases as the connection among fields increases which results in the responsiveness of the whole system tending to increase. According to Vladimir Petrov, veteran TRIZ practioner and educator, the increase in the degree of control over a system is the direct result from transition from a noncontrollable system to the control over deviances and variables. This progression to a controllable system, also involves developing the system to have a feedback mechanism and to be adaptive and self reproducing. The increasing degree of control over the system variables coincides with the process of automation (Petrov, 2001).

A non technical example of this law in action can be found in airport security measures. There are several different stages and processes of airport security. This system has evolved from having no security at all to having customs, passport checks at check in, security, customs and before boarding. This level at control throughout all levels and elements of the system is an example of increased interaction and control.

Law of harmonization of rhythm

The law of harmonization of rhythm expresses that the necessary coordination for the existence of an effective system is the coordination of the periodicity of actions and its components. The law of harmonizing the rhythms of parts of the system refers to the frequency of vibrations of parts and movements of the system. These movements should ideally be in full synchronization other parts of the system. Chaos and high harmony are the two opposite ends of this spectrum. System evolution should move from chaos towards harmony.

System harmonization occurs when contradictions are minimized by allowing components to be reorganized. Regrouping system elements into new configurations begets new qualities, and therefore develops new relationships among elements (Ivanov, 1994). Through reorganization, Petrov (2001) maintains that system harmonization can come in the form of functional, structural and function-structural coordination. Minor levels of coordination can be achieved at the structural and functional planes of the system which translate to increased harmonization.

An obvious instance of necessary harmonization of rhythm and coordination of system elements is observed in an orchestra. An orchestra can be viewed as a system designed to produce beautiful music with all the various instruments as individual system components. When all the components are assembled for the first time the result is likely chaotic but as the symphony rehearses together over time the move toward high harmony. To improve functional coordination the conductor would insist that the individual members practice their instruments to improve on them in skill. To further the structural harmony of the orchestra as a whole, the conductor may instruct the symphony to practice together.

Ideal final result

According to Fey & Rivin, the ideal final result is a concept based on the notion of an ideal technical system. The ideal technical system would be one that achieves the required function for which it is designed and required while producing no adverse effects. The ideal technological system would be absent of any physical entity. The lack of physical entity would be advantageous in mitigating physical system malfunctions and the cost of physical system components.

The concept of ideal final result should be the goal of every system and the destination for all systems as they follow the laws of technical system evolution. The physical manifestation of the IFR may be inhibited due to physical restrictions. However, the notion of the IFR is not intended to necessarily be achievable, but nonetheless should be actively pursued in the interest of making the system better.

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