On The Intelligent Design Of Processes

When I was an undergraduate student, I took it upon myself once to write, for the final paper of a course on historiography, an examination of the pseudoscience of naturalism [1]. After that piece of writing, from time to time I would come across various futile attempts by philosophers to attempt to carve out space for naturalism by the use of computer simulations that would demonstrate some sort of self-organizing principles. Likewise, for many decades scientists have sought to cleverly design origin of life experiments that would demonstrate the viability of organic compounds of a very simple order being possible to develop in what are supposed to be plausible conditions of the early earth. What struck me as particularly puzzling in all of this effort was that in their efforts to demonstrate the viability of a naturalistic explanation for the development not of life, but merely of some sort of organizing principles or some sort of very basic organic compounds that would be necessary for life, that a great deal of design of the highest order was present, which was only demonstrative of the even higher level of design expertise that would be necessary to create new life de novo, much less with the expertise and fine sense of balance that we find present on this earth.

Over the past couple of days at work, I have been asked several times not merely for the usual reports that I am accustomed to providing, but for a process by which those reports could be run. Being the sort of person who acts according to precise and fairly repetitive processes, and someone who tends to think explicitly about processes rather than merely acting according to such processes implicitly, I was happy to provide a step-by-step process by which I got the desired data. To be sure, these processes were not particularly complicated as far as processes go, but they demonstrated a certain sense of finesse and elegance that drew admiration for the speed at which I could gather appropriate data when faced with an unexpected request for information, given the knowledge of what data could be provided by which reports, and how to string them together in order to obtain information that was missing. It was pleasing for me to reflect upon the fact that I was intelligently designing processes, and that the processes I designed were of interest to others, which is not often the case.

I do not remember when I first turned my attention and interest to the question of process engineering, but I do know that by the time I was halfway through with my graduate studies in Engineering Management that I took a course on Six Sigma, and were using large plastic blocks to build a facsimile of a house. At first, our class sought to build the structures using a traditional push process by which we did not start building until we received an order, and were hurried and pressured by the demands to provide those products in both an accurate and timely fashion [2]. Dissatisfied by our results, and by the inaccuracy suffered because of being hurried, we then constructed various partially built structures, which we would pull and complete to finish orders and then pull every step along the line to rebuild the reserves we started from. This process was vastly less stressful—the adoption of a successful process had made a task that had been stressful and difficult far easier and far more accurate in its result, without any extra effort, but only with more intelligent forethought as to how to make the process work better for everyone involved. The experience was an eye-opening one for me, because I had not paid that much attention to the importance of processes and how they are designed.

What are the factors that allow us to intelligently design processes? For one, we have to have a firm grasp of the goals we have in mind. To the extent that our goals are long-term, we will act in ways that make it easier to do something again, because we do not expect to do it only once. For example, if we expect to run a fairly repetitive set of reports, we will build templates and think about the design of those templates so that we are able to accomplish the task in a way that is both easy and accurate. Part of the goal of building intelligent processes is to use one’s intellect to save one’s energy so that one has to engage in no unnecessary labor and have no unnecessary stress or pressure. Knowledge, and the skillful application of that knowledge, allows one to have a much more pleasant life than is the case otherwise. The goal is not merely to work hard, but rather to work intelligently and efficiently, so that one’s effort and time is saved for those tasks that require it, rather than merely coping with the stress of day-to-day life.

Often, though, processes are designed with certain privileged parties in mind, and there are often occasions where the suboptimization, or the design of processes to benefit a small group as opposed to the whole, takes place. Where conflicts of interests occur, designing processes itself becomes a highly political act, as winners and losers are made plain. A lack of concern for the well-being of others is exhibited by the prevalence of push systems and the absence of pull systems. The fact that many processes in this world appear to be perversely designed does not mean that they are not intelligently designed, it is merely that the intelligence of the design has been directed to very narrow and partisan ends, rather than with the right priorities in mind. As is the case with everything in life, there are choices to be made, and those choices are often made on the basis of political factors, or what is easiest for the people running or designing the process. Yet, as is the case with everything else, we can understand a great deal by not simply taking processes for granted, and by subjecting them to critical scrutiny, to understand the motives that other people operate under, even if they are unaware that even their processes tell on themselves [3], as does everything else in this life.

[1] See, for example:


[2] See, for example:


[3] This is a common problem in life. See, for example:






About nathanalbright

I'm a person with diverse interests who loves to read. If you want to know something about me, just ask.
This entry was posted in Graduate School, History, Musings and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

9 Responses to On The Intelligent Design Of Processes

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