One of the things I really enjoy doing on a sunny day is going out walking. It doesn’t matter whether it’s windy or cold, as long as there’s no rain, I find it a really enjoyable pastime. I was recently walking on a really windy day in my hometown, and I walked past this fountain.
You’ll see from the picture that the fountain isn’t fully active, it’s just bubbling over gently. In the summer, the jets fire straight into the air, and children (and the occasional adult) can jump in and cool down.
Initially, I’d assumed that the jets had been turned off for the winter, but a few minutes after walking past, I noticed the jets were active again. This piqued my curiosity—why had they suddenly switched on again—were they on a timer? My attention was drawn to a small wind speed instrument on a nearby lamppost—you can barely see it in the following photo:
I then made the connection. The fountain is designed to switch itself off when it’s windy. This prevents water getting lost from the system, whilst also ensuring that those passing by don’t get an unwelcome surprise when they suddenly get soaked when there is an unexpected gust of wind. Genius!
The Danger of ‘Hard Wiring’
At its essence, this could be considered an example of a mechanistic system that is ‘hard wired’ to respond to its environment. This is a convoluted way of saying it has been designed to respond in certain pre-designed ways to certain types of stimuli If the wind increases, it stops the jets. If the wind stops, it starts the jet. Job done!Continue reading What a Fountain can Tell us About Process Design: Mechanistic isn’t Adaptive