Design and Responsibility: The Interdependence of Natural, Artifactual, and Human Systems
This essay explores design as the imposition of human purpose onto nature. It argues that understanding design requires that we be able to distinguish among three different kinds of systems: natural, artifactual and human. Each kind has its own distinct requirements for stability and sustenance, yet each is also dependent upon the stability and sustenance of the other two. Design entails crafting artifactual systems by imposing aims and values from human systems onto the raw materials of natural ones. Effective and responsible design, moreover, is undermined when distinctions among systems are ignored or when one kind is treated as another. Life as we now live it is increasingly dependent upon the stability of our artifactual systems; this, in turn, is increasingly dependent upon our ability to make the value judgments by which alone we can determine that a design is worth making and how best to realize it.
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