Thursday, March 08, 2012

Human design with and without a market test

Today's LA Times includes one more effort to make the California bullet train proposal look like a serious idea. "A collision of visions on bullet train ... The high-speed rail line would transform California lifestyles for the better, backers say. Opponents see a costly social-engineering folly."

Serious journalism gives equal billing to both sides.  "Is the Moon made of Blue Cheese?  Let's listen to both sides."

I have the highest regard for engineers and designers.  Almost all of the wonderful things within reach are the products of human design.  We feel safe at 30,000 feet; we marvel at the amazing things that surgeons and medical doctors using their new instruments can accomplish these days.

But just about all of the underlying designs (by humans) are subject to a market test.  Some fail and some survive.

One would think that "social engineering" and "transform lifestyles" says it all.  Unintended self-parody? 

Some designers want to go where no market test is possible.  This is where we get the "visions" and the "mega-projects" -- and usually a lot of trouble (see Peter Hall's Great Planning Disasters).