Enhanced Tools for Creativity

As technology becomes ever more complex, engineering design becomes an increasingly difficult challenge. For example, it is extremely costly to create large software systems, and the major bottlenecks reducing their effectiveness are unreliability and inefficiency. Similar problems beset systems for large-scale organization administration, supply chain management, industrial design, mass media, and government policy making. We can anticipate that future industries in biotechnology and nanotechnology will present unprecedented design challenges.

Investment in research and development of wholly new industrial design methods will pay great dividends. Among these, biologically inspired techniques, such as evolutionary design methods analogous to genetic algorithms, are especially promising. Terascale and petascale computer simulations are excellent approaches for many design problems, but for the foreseeable future the cost of creating a facility to do such work would be prohibitive for universities and most companies. Therefore, a national center should be established for high-end engineering design simulations. This facility could be linked to a network of users and specialized facilities, providing a distributed design environment for advanced research in engineering. Good models for creating the National Center for Engineering Design would be the supercomputer networks established by the National Science Foundation: the National Computational Science Alliance, the National Partnership for Advanced Computational Infrastructure, and the new Terascale Computing System.

At the same time, radically new methods would enhance small-scale design activities by a wide range of individuals and teams in such fields as commercial art, entertainment, architecture, and product innovation. New developments in such areas as visual language, personalized design, designing around defects, and the cognitive science of engineering could be extremely valuable. Breakthroughs in design could become self-reinforcing, as they energize the economic and technical feedback loops that produce rapid scientific and technological progress.

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