Logic

Here’s something annoying about engineers and anarcho-reductive philosophers—our training and background in Boolean logic. We tend to be analytical, even when making routine decisions—like what to have for dinner. Let’s see, we had sushi 4.8 days ago, so, to modulate our Mercury intake, we should hold off for another 29.7 hours.

Boolean logic is an on-off, one-zero decision-making strategy, so it doesn’t always map well to the messy modern world. Essentially, we wiggle input B and if we don’t see any change at output C, then B is redundant and can be ignored, eliminated and cast away into the third circle of Hades.

There’s more complexity in real life than can be captured in a Karnaugh map, so no experienced designer would thoughtlessly remove a redundant input in case it was required for hazard coverage or for some other secondary reason. However, the basic simplification strategy gets lodged in our brains. If something changes and does not affect the result, then that input can be ignored. If your boss is equally grumpy whether you turn in the TPS weekly report or not, then that report is redundant and can be ignored. If your significant other is surly no matter what you do, then it doesn’t matter, do anything you like.

Logic can be an excellent guide in decision making because it lets you down so rarely. You can trust logic to, well, be logical. It’s like the laws of physics; once you grok the fundamental forces and transfer functions, often you can quickly filter out nonsense and focus on the important central themes.

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have to navigate the flow chart and figure out what I’m having for lunch.

What are your thoughts? Set me straight in the comment section.

Ken Coffman is a Field Applications Engineer & Member of the Technical Staff at Fairchild Semiconductor. His postings are his own and don’t necessarily represent the opinions or positions of Fairchild Semiconductor.