This is a linkpost for a research initiative at MIT I just discovered while following up on some earlier reading. I have linked to the Publications page to make it easiest for people to get in and start perusing.

The goal of this initiative is to improve state-of-the-art systems engineering, and in particular to be able to account for uncertainty and changing contexts during and after the design phase.

What drove me to bring it to the attention of this community is the MATE program, which stands for Multi-Attribute Tradespace Exploration. This is interesting because it consists of defining desirable qualities and then building a utility function out of them, upon which design decisions will be based.

  • Among the publications are a series of applied attempts at building actual utility functions for real things, then using decision theory with them.
  • They increase the amount of things you can trade off for by expanding what they call the "Ilities" (reliability, versatility, etc). Among these new ilities is a more advanced notion of safety.
  • This means there is a body of applied work which has a concept of safety, calculated into utility functions, and operated on according to decision theory.

Further updates will be made in the comments as I finish readings.

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Model Curation

  • Models are important. They are arguably more valuable than physical assets.
  • Models often have uses beyond their original intent.
  • Models are currently ad-hoc in terms of their location and transmission.

Think of them as a kind of IP. Things like patents and copyrights are strategically managed: they are tracked and controlled; they have a lifecycle; they can be combined to generate yet more value. But models are mostly laying around at the department level, the team level, or individual people's heads. There is no formal, universally recognized system for them the way there is for IP.

Instead, we should curate them:

Model curation is the lifecycle management, control, preservation and active enhancement of models and associated information to ensure value for current and future use, as well as repurposing beyond initial purpose and context.

There are several areas of curation which can be drawn on for examples: museum; digital; content; biomedical models. The work recommends making this a specific responsibility at the organizational level. There should be a Chief Model Curation Office at the enterprise level with a team dedicated to the purpose, including officers at the program level.

Models should have a pedigree: the origin, verification, enhancements, and uses over time should all be a part of the model object.

Source: Rhodes, D.H., "Model Curation: Requisite Leadership and Practice in Digital Engineering Enterprises," 17th Conference on Systems Engineering Research, Washington, DC, April 2019. [paper] [briefing]

FLI should reach out to these people since they're located in the same area and academics presumably love to get grants that are highly related to work they're already doing.

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