Design Without Final Goals: Getting Around Our Bounded Rationality

Jude Chua


Herbert Simon’s theory of design welcomes those unintended consequences of one’s original design intention, with a view to integrating them as new final goals of one’s design. Seen this way, design and design education has the powerful potential to broaden human preferences and unconceal new cultures, like a kind of liberal education. The basis of such an account of design is in the recognition of our rationality’s boundedness and with that, the need to search for what we cannot too easily know – an idea for which he acknowledges a depth to James March. Indeed, March’s own writings instantiate the same insight that we need to find strategic ways of exploring and searching for ideas that we are often blind to because of our cognitive limitations. Yet Simon’s attentiveness to bounded rationality and the need for searching discovery is equally, if not more, indebted to Ludwig von Mises and F A Hayek. Hayek’s ideas critical of Cartesian constructivism and the need to appreciate institutions such as the free market which are the result of human action rather than design parallels many aspects of Simon’s theory of design without final goals. All three thinkers, Simon, March and Hayek, were painfully cognizant of the fact that human beings are not as smart as they think they are, and that we had to design strategies for outsmarting ourselves.   


design; Simon; March; Hayek; goals

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