RE: ethics

From: Dani Eder (
Date: Thu May 20 2004 - 09:01:59 MDT

> > That’s equivalent to saying never make an
> intelligent machine because
> > you’ll never understand a mind greater than your
> own.

Since I work for Boeing, I'll use our product as
an example. There is no single person who understands
all the complexities of building a modern passenger

The way it gets done is we have designed a system
that combines the efforts of many thousands of people
to produce a complex product.

There is an engineering discipline, called systems
engineering, which is my specialty, whose function
is to organize a complex project. We do it mainly
by breaking it down into smaller pieces (segment,
system, subsystem, unit, assembly, component).
Each piece has assigned to it some functions it has
to perform, and has defined interfaces to other
pieces. These are recorded in documents that
form a tree from the overall program requirements
down to, in the case of what I'm working on now,
subroutines in the Space Station's flight software.

We test that the subroutines each do what they are
supposed to do according to the requirements we've
been given, then test the entire software package
on a given computer with the hardware it is supposed
to control. Finally we do integrated testing of
an entire space station module. Each level of
testing verifies the item meets the requirements
documented at that level. In theory we should have
tested the entire space station as a whole on the
ground, but the program didn't allow for that.
We did, when possible, connect two modules that
will be joined in space on the ground and verify
the connections.

The process isn't perfect by any means, but it does
make it possible to design and build complex
items that are beyond any single person's capability.


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