Generative Design and Engineering Ethics: Where’s the Intersection?

Let’s talk about how generative design and engineering ethics intersect. Generative design offers a ton of capabilities to automate, explore, and discover new design options. Topology optimization, removing material that isn’t carrying load, or biomimicry, coming up with entirely new structures that humans might never have considered, provides lots of opportunity for new concepts. There’s also generative design potential in helping with productivity. You can have many agents running topology optimization or generative design jobs for one engineer.

The thing that companies need to be careful about is making sure that responsibility and accountability still sits with a human. You could come up with an incredible design produced by topology optimization, but you still have to make it work.

So I think this is where we separate validation from generative design and topology optimization. Generative design and topology optimization are great for concepts; the same way a human would come up with a new idea. But this is not validation or a way to make sure it performs the way you expect it to and qualify it for test. There have been some companies in the vein of simulation-driven design pushing towards the minimization of prototyping a test. That’s a good initiative. I believe in that. Don’t mistake generative design for that though, because you need fault and accountability to sit with someone within engineering.

The other trend that intersects is the move away from individual accountability in engineering. In the past, an engineer would put their signature on the drawing. If anything happened to that part, you would talk to that person. The engineer had a personal reputation to maintain. That kept you within the normal bounds of reasonable design.

Today, companies are moving more towards group think design. Everybody in the engineering organization gets together for project management or design review meetings, everybody weighs in, and you can leverage the collective wisdom of the entire organization. And that’s good, too. However, we have to be careful about moving away from one person being accountable for that design.

So this is all an emerging topic. It’s an emerging field. I think generative design and topology optimization can affect engineering ethics. I’m interested to see what the comments will be on this.

That’s it. Take care and talk soon.

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