Generally, our progress involves adding to what we know and what we can do; engineering is a fairly systematic application of what we know about what we can control. Yet, there are unknowns which may vary in importance from 'of no consequence' to 'we better pay some attention.'
There was some mention yesterday (09/05/07 conference call, see flightblogger) about not knowing what-is-what until you get to where you have to deal with what. This sort of suggests that part of a schedule would be actually giving time to work several things through a process before trying to lean-and-efficient the thing. Otherwise, you're talking only in the abstract and allowing those things-in-themselves to have little ground. This can bite one.
Which brings up not knowing what we don't know. The financial types have been discussing the 'black swan' theory as it pertains to our inclination to over layer what we don't know with what we have known. That is, do we need to be better about expecting the real unexpected?
This issue does apply to engineering, as well, in particular when what we know is either relaxed or we make mixes of what we know in a new fashion. In the first sense, unknowns will be more problematic in less stable domains; in the second sense, using lab results and making sure that extreme values are tested are a couple, of many, techniques that we have come up with.
In any case, time is usually not of overriding importance unless you're heading toward a crash in the wall. But, under such conditions, one wouldn't be experimenting with fundamental control issues. 'However long it takes' is the real key for handling unknowns.
04/07/2012 -- Flightblogger ends, as least, Jon's watch. Some issues raised five years ago are still apropos. The context may have changed a little, yet, perhaps now is time to re-address the themes.
09/02/2009 -- Lets face it, folks, undecidability needs to be discussed and adopted in any complex situational setting, especially if computers are involved. Only hubris pushes us to make loud exclamations about what we're going to do in the future.
09/02/2009 -- We need to assess wind direction, many times.
05/27/2009 -- That we have topsy-turvy needs to be addressed more fully in both an epistemologic and an operational sense.
01/27/2009 -- Lessons to be learned (as opposed to learnt), including, by necessity, Ponzi.
06/14/2008 -- Early posts were related to engineering, but the tone of the blog now covers the gamut. What we see with engineering can be tested since science is available; what we see with finance and marketing will continue to be more problematic and therefore of interest.
3 hours ago