(Another pass at my design vs engineering concept. It remains un-nailed. It’s important, though, so I will continue to spiraling into the gravitational center of this perspective until I find the standpoint from which it is best said.)

Social engineering failed and will always fail, not because it is hubristic for humanity to try to shape and regulate its own existence, but because it conceives of society in engineering terms — as an engine, functioning mechanically, with well-understood technical requirements.

Social design, however, could very well succeed, at least in certain contexts. Design pays attention to more than function and form. It pays attention to what happens when systems are partially composed of free-willed beings who should not be compelled to behave  mechanically.

In order for social engineering to work, human beings must be compelled to behave mechanically — that is, forced to comply with roles and adhere to rules — that allow the system to function efficiently and predictably, like a well-oiled machine.


I am coming to believe the word “design” is most useful as an antithesis to “engineering” — an antithesis defined within the broad category of  “intentional efforts to make changes to the world”.