Rationality has different meanings within different contexts. In engineering design, to be rational usually means to be instrumentally rational, that is, to take a measured decision aimed at the realization of a particular goal, as in attempts to optimize an objective function. But in many engineering design problems, especially those that involve several engineers collaborating on a design task, there is no obvious or uncontested, unique objective function. An alternative approach then takes the locus of optimization to be individual engineers’ utility functions. In this paper, we address an argument which claimed that unless the engineers hold a common utility function over design alternatives, a suboptimal, hence, irrational, design is bound to ensue. We challenge this claim and show that, while sticking to the utility-function approach but adopting a game-theoretic perspective, rational outcomes to the problem at issue are possible.
On Rationality in Engineering Design
Contributed by the Design Theory and Methodology Committee for publication in the JOURNAL OF MECHANICAL DESIGN. Manuscript received November 10, 2003; revised March 12, 2004. Associate Editor: C. Dym.
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Franssen, M., and Bucciarelli, L. L. (February 14, 2005). "On Rationality in Engineering Design ." ASME. J. Mech. Des. November 2004; 126(6): 945–949. https://doi.org/10.1115/1.1803850
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