Modules, Mechanisms, and Algorithms

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How Everything Works - and how to Build a New Civilization with 10,000 People in 1 Day

This is a crash course on how just about all technology works - from a cordless drill to a solar cell production facility. The approach taken is one of mechanisms - what is the set of mechanisms that makes up all of known technology? While there is an unlimited number of g aller. For example, there may be thousands of different car models that have been made throughout history - but they are all made of maybe a dozen modules, and each of these modules may be made of another dozen submodules or parts. Each of these parts falls into a category of some key mechanism. That mechanism may be applied to a car - but also to a spaceship, a machine for making silicon chips, or anything else. Once we know the mechanisms, then we can handle any technology. Understanding known mechanisms also allows us to derive new mechanisms.

The key is understanding the working mechanisms - to enable one to design anything in the world. This gets into physics and engineering - actually understanding the innards of techology rather than just using it. The mechanisms are broad in scope: from mechanics, hydraulics, to optics, pneumatics, acoustics, electronics, chemistry - but the good point is that these can be recombined to make anything. Therefore, to understand the GVCS, it is useful to understand the underlying mechanisms. Understanding these underlying mechanisms comes from a theoretical and practical study of them. Understanding mechanisms invlves applied numeracy - the ability to count various quantities - such weight (kilogram), as the number of gas atoms (Avogadro’s number), the number of charged particles (Coulombs). Applied numeracy is the ability to understand how something works, and then to count it. Sounds simple - and that’s what engineers and computer programs do - they are just advanced accountants who count not only money but many other quanities.

Beyond mechanisms there are also algorithms - sequences of working mechanisms. With computer control - algorithms are used to compute insights from existing data in the information field - such as computer vision for detecting objects. For physical artifacts - an algorithm could refer to what steps are taken to make a complex mechanism work - which may be a combination of simpler steps, done in series or at the same time. The point is that by breaking down complex proccesses and algorithms into small parts - we are able to approach a design problem by solving all the individual parts - with a large team - at the same time. This is what we do with modular design. As long as we define the interfaces for how the parts fit together, then we can engage a large team in solving the individual parts.