Adonis Diaries

Posts Tagged ‘Human Factors in engineering

What this blog is About?

Updated “About” (August 2 /2020)

I started this blog on September 17, 2008.

This blog is about: “Who I was, what I did, what did I think, how did I grew…”

This blog is about: “Who I am, what I am doing, how I think, what are my positions, politically, economically, fairness and equitability in political systems”

I dabbed in all kinds of jobs, you name it, from the “lowest” in order to pay my fees and lodging for studies in universities, to the higher kinds of jobs. Apparently, none of the jobs gave me this feeling that “This is what I want to do for the rest of my life”: I could Not discover any kind of retaining passions to last in any professional job.

The total number of articles published so far has reached 9,300 posts and the total number of hits has crossed two million views and the average daily hits is over 600 per day. The number of steady followers increased to 550

You have choices among 45 categories to navigate around, included my autobiography and edited as new facts and memories surge.  I added the sub-category “Travel/Excursion

I got a new life of publishing what I had  expressed in years of writing for myself.  I now have to consider my target audience of readers who patronize my blog:  There is a dividing line between writing and publishing, because responsibility to others comes in publishing.

Recently, I added a new category “Daydream Projects“:  Just imagine this gigantic brainstorm networking sessions if a small fraction of mankind decides to publish their daydreaming projects with plenty of details. Wouldn’t daydreaming be considered a very productive endeavors?

I also added the categories “Time for Outrage” and Pets

I post on average of 10 articles per week (articles of mine, links from various social platforms after editing and adding my comments). I figured out that every new post generates around 100 hits within a year, and keeps increasing fast.

You may enjoy the category poems (poems of mine, and translated poems from Arabic and French into English). I had posted my autobiography, two novels, short stories, and plenty of detailed book reviews.

I feel blessed confronted with many obstacles:  I was for a long time penniless but  kept publishing, and was associated with the most abject financial condition I have experienced… I am graced of feeling the same zest in publishing almost everyday.

I do read and write every day in three languages English, French, and Arabic.  I read books, small and large, old and current, classical and common, biased and “balanced”. And spend 3 hours per day reading and taking notes in Libraries

I read dailies and their editorials. I read magazines, serious ones and tabloids. I used to keep up to date with the weekly French “Courrier International“, bi-weekly, and monthly issues, including  the French monthly “Le Monde Diplomatique“, “Science et Vie”…when they were available.

I uncover nuggets in almost all my readings and then report my notes and comments after elaboration, analysis, and exercising my individual reflection.

Lately, I have been publishing my notes and comments on Facebook and Twitter under the title Tidbits.

The category “Diary” contains the articles I wrote before I got into blogging in 2008.

Recently a few friends decided to post their memories on FB and I shared them on my blog under the title “Mon cher Ado”

My posts are No cut and paste gimmicks, and they lack pictures unless provided by a link, images and videos: I don’t have the tools for recommended visual inputs, and I have no patience for navigating the net.

Whatever I receive, I edit it, comment on it and highlight the main points.

I understand that the task of publishing carries responsibility to the general public and I have to do my due diligence in reading a lot, reflecting, and exposing various views and perspectives before extending my current convictions.

I have been writing for my own pleasure for years, such as short poems, diaries, and got into introspection in order to get in touch with my emotions and my models on life, universe, and a sustainable earth within my history growth context.  WordPress.com made it easy to taking the drastic plunge into communicating with the public.

It is a daily communion that starts by receiving comments before offering opinions, and do reply to developed opinions and comments.

I am reminded that life exercises its cyclical rights and I wish your ebbing period would not last longer than necessary, and that it would not affect your optimism.

I wish that you have a support system to remind you that life is wonderful, it is beautiful, and it is exciting.  There is a tomorrow but surely not better than today, since you are still alive!

I realized that publishing electronically is not considered by many political institutions as serious matter, since many do not navigate fast communication mediums on a wide scale yet; as if people still read hard copy manuscripts or dailies!

If you are interested in reading biographies of people “Not famous” or “Not glamorous”, then you may also enjoy reading my auto-biography titled “Introspection of a confused man”.

Anyway, most of my categories that are Not related to politics, history, religions, sciences, engineering, health, or book reviews are about myself.

It appears that my Book Reviews category is the most favored so far; closely trailed by political articles, social articles, sex/seduction categories, and religious topics.

I earned a PhD degree in Industrial/Human Factors/ system design engineering. That was in 1990 from the USA  and a couple of Masters in Physics and Operation Research, but I refused to practice until recently when I decided to teach in universities and had this lovely opportunity to write over 50 engineering articles published in the category “Professional articles“, “Human Factors in Engineering” and lately in the category “Engineering/research”.

I realized that I love best to read and disseminate what I write, and wordpress.com was the ideal platform to initiate people to publishing and expressing their opinions without any kinds of censorship.

I wish the publishers of articles and bloggers to keep in mind the dividing line between writing for comprehending and reflecting on their own positions and feelings, and just publishing.

I read and write daily, a lot, and hit libraries and follow up on news and editorials and feel serious on disseminating what I read.  I even summarize controversial books and offer my opinions ; yes, I love to be controversial, otherwise I might just rot.

A sample of a translated poem:

Your blue sea eyes

On the deck of your blue eyes is raining

Audible vibrating lights.

On the port of your blue eyes,

From a tiny open window,

A view of faraway birds swarming,

Searching for yet undiscovered islands.

On the deck of your blue eyes

Summer snow is falling.

I am a kid jumping over rocks

Deeply inhaling the sea wind

And then returns like a weary bird.

On the port of your blue eyes

I dream of oceans and navigation.

If I were a seafarer

If anyone lent me a boat

I would surely ease up my boat closer

To your blue sea eyes

Every sundown.

Note 1: This poem is an abridged free translation from Arabic of the famous late Syrian poet Nizar Kabbani.

Note 2: You may reach me on adonisbouh@gmail.com

Architects: Design for the ear

Noise goes up, heart rate goes up.

Because of poor acoustics, students in classrooms miss 50% of what their teachers say and patients in hospitals have trouble sleeping because they continually feel stressed.

Julian Treasure sounds a call to action for designers to pay attention to the “invisible architecture” of sound.

This talk was presented at an official TED conference in 2012, and was featured by our editors on the home page.

Julian Treasure · Sound consultant studies sound and advises businesses on how best to use it.
09:29

It’s time to start designing for the ears.

Note 1: In Industrial engineering, there is a section called Human Factors in engineering. It deals with health and safety in workplaces, and product designs. Vision and acoustics are major issues, besides posture (Ergonomics). I was exposed to all these issues in my graduate studies and did a few experiments on degradation of health and safety in noisy environment.

Note 2: All architects, interior designers, urban planners, product designers must be exposed to the health and safety issues in the environment they are professionals in.

“Did I choose to be a social designer?” And “Did the will and opportunity collide?”
My niece Joanna Choukeir Hojeily posted on FB:
“Did I choose to be a social designer, did it just happen, or did the will and opportunity collide?
I will be reflecting on how I got to doing what I do now; a practice and industry that didn’t exist 10 years ago when I first started out as a designer. Creating Futures Symposium this coming Tuesday at the ICA in London.
Did I choose to be a social designer, did it just happen, or did the will and opportunity collide?  I will be reflecting on how I got to doing what I do now; a practice and industry that didn't exist 10 years ago when I first started out as a designer. Creating Futures Symposium this coming Tuesday at the ICA in London.
I replied:
“Your field existed since 1942 when designers tried to minimize the frequent pilot accidents in the air war with Germany. It was called industrial psychology, then industrial engineering, ergonomics, Human Factors in Engineering
The advent of fast computing, personal computing and fast graphics facilities shifted the trend to social graphic engineering or design…
It is the varied opportunities in developed countries that upgraded your passion for “social graphic design” projects: Giving priority to the health, safety and ease of use of products and services…”
I have posted about 50 articles on that topic in the category “Human Factors in Engineering”
I have in a previous article, in a short sentence that may have gone unnoticed, mentioned that the main objective of Human Factors in Engineering is designing interfaces between complex systems and targeted end users.
Modern days are an accumulation of very complex systems that societies can no longer live without and have to suffer their consequences in health, safety, comfort, risks or fatal accidents. 
Modern days rely on communications systems, on health care, on educational, on information, on transportation, on energy, on financial, on tourism, on diplomatic, and even on political systems.
Usually, there are purposes for establishing any system and the money generated could only be the consequences of satisfying human specific demands that a developed standard of living requires, or are encouraged through advertisements, or are initiated by new laws to regulating a society.
This modern world, more than in any previous centuries, is plagued with complex systems that are automated in many portions with no human understanding of how a system functions or can be repaired or be redesigned except a few rare professional experts.
These vast and very costly systems are created, assembled, maintained and run by different specialized personnel who have no serious interconnections among one another.
Every section of any system requires an interface with another section so that the end user can communicate with another section without any obligation to know or understand the details of the other section.
These interfaces have to be designed to be used with minimal skills, knowledge or special training.
Consumers require easy to use objects, safe objects, error free and accident free objects.
Consumers need to access these complex systems quickly, cheaply, without the requirement for extensive training or intermediate personnel to doing business or making the objects function according to their idiosyncrasies.
The Human Factors engineering discipline should be the application of the body of knowledge, information and facts about human abilities, limitations, (physical, mental and psychological) and characteristics to the design of tools, machines, systems, tasks, jobs, and environments for safe, comfortable and effective human use.
The Human Factors engineering discipline is expected to direct its research toward practical design purposes and offer data that can be readily applied by engineers from different discipline”.
Here is a brief story of how I went about finishing my PhD dissertation.
My adviser had a business in forensic of accidents in workplace, safety consultancy and was focused on the lack of safety signs and pictorials since it was the rage of suing in consumer liability cases.
He proposed that I work on safety signs for my proposal and I didn’t feel hot about it: I sensed this topic was at best good enough for a Master’s thesis. The effects of safety signs were very short term, unless the system includes safety behaviors as an important part in the proper functioning of the corporation.
I recall that I worked for a year on a PhD proposal related to graphics of safety signs and pictorials. There were no personal computers and no graphic facilities. I toiled by hand.
My idea was to gather the used and adopted safety pictorials in many fields and try a taxonomy of elemental parts that designers could assemble in their jobs.  This proposal was killed by the team of advisers within half an hour of the session.
I tried another proposal related to cognitive engineering and it was not accepted. I was hooked to the cognitive field but my adviser would have none to do with cognition for my dissertation: he was not interested in such a field and it was not in his line of business.
To be fair, Dr. Purswell was more than patient with me and let me write two proposals related to cognition that both were turned down within a year.
I spent two years on idiosyncratic topics that my main advisor was not comfortable with, and I had no support system to guide me.
Two years earlier, my advisor told me: “Get on with my idea of a proposal. Get you degree and move on. At your age I had already three children...”
Two years earlier, one of my classmate obeyed the same advisor to the word and finished his dissertation (no experiment was conducted) and was accepted at a university as assistant professor, while I was toiling uselessly.
Finally, Dr. Purswell had to deliver an ultimatum or he would have no choice but to suspend my scholarships.
I was ordered to stop all part-time jobs. I obeyed and within a semester I wrote the proposal, designed the experiment, finished setting up the fictitious chemical lab and carried out several intelligence testing protocols just to divert the true objective from the over 120 “subjects”.
The subjects were mostly first year Psychology students because they are required to submit to experiments for credit-hours. That semester was hectic but a lot of fun.
The next semester was the worst of all semesters because I had to input thousands of data and read hundreds of pages of computer statistical results and the gruesome task of writing up my dissertation.
I had Dr. Schlegel in my advisory team and he forced me to use a specialized word processing program, simply because the print was professional and versatile. The problem was that no one could interpret the error in the program and fix it when I got stuck except him. I occasionally had to wait a couple of weeks to meet with him in order to untangle stupid word processing glitches.
By the time I submitted the final written copy I was totally depressed and I had erased from my mind any academic prospect.
To make matters worse, the US was experiencing a depressed market and universities had put a moratorium on hiring professors.
What a foreign PhD graduate with the wrong nationality and in a bad job market is to do to survive?
I asked for what I deserve. My temperament predicted this outcome.
I don’t complain in real life, but the blog is supposed to write about the oddities in life.

Updated “About” (Oct. 29/2013)

I started this blog on September 17, 2008.  The total number of articles published has reached 3,800 posts and the total number of hits is  over 290,000, and the daily hits have crossed the 400 mark.

You have choices among 42 categories to navigate around. Recently, on September 12, I added a new category “Daydream Projects“:  Just imagine this gigantic brainstorm networking sessions if a small fraction of mankind decides to publish their daydreaming projects with plenty of details. Wouldn’t daydreaming be considered a very productive endeavors?

I post on average of 10 new articles per week and I have been posting a list of articles published each week with the proper ready links for viewing.  I figured out that every new post generates 75 hits within a year, and keeps increasing fast.

You may enjoy the category poems (poems of mine, and translated ones from Arabic or French). I had posted my autobiography, two novels, short stories, and plenty of detailed book reviews.

Last year was the most glorious year in my life.

Penniless but publishing, and associated with the most abject financial condition I have experienced… I am graced of feeling the same zest in publishing almost everyday, kind of 2 posts per day, just not to overwhelm the reader with more reading.

I do read and write in three languages English, French, and Arabic.  I read books, small and large, old and current, classical and common, biased and “balanced”.  I read dailies and their editorials. I read magazines, serious ones and tabloids, the weekly French “Courrier International“, bi-weekly, and monthly issues, including  the French monthly “Le Monde Diplomatique“, “Science et Vie”

I uncover nuggets in almost all my readings and then report themes after elaboration, analysis, and exercising my individual reflection.

My posts are no cut and paste gimmicks, and they lack pictures, images and videos: I don’t have the tools for recommended visual inputs, and I have no patience for navigating the net. You may start accessing my Home page and then select one of the categories of your interest and navigate from there.  I added the category “Time for Outrage“.

I understand that the task of publishing carries responsibility to the general public and I have to do my due diligence in reading a lot, reflecting, and exposing various views and perspectives before extending my current convictions.

I have been writing for my own pleasure for years, such as short poems, diaries, and attempts to introspection in order to get in touch with my emotions and my models on life, universe, and a sustainable earth within my history growth context.  WordPress.com made it easy to taking the drastic plunge into communicating with the public.

It is a daily communion that starts by receiving comments before offering opinions, and do reply to developed opinions and comments.  I am reminded that life exercises its cyclical rights and I wish your ebbing period would not last longer than necessary, and that it would not affect your optimism.

I wish that you have a support system to remind you that life is wonderful, it is beautiful, and it is exciting.  There is a tomorrow but surely not better than today, since you are still alive!

I realized that publishing electronically is not considered by many political institutions as serious matter, since many do not navigate fast communication mediums on a wide scale yet; as if people read hard copy manuscripts or dailies!  Well, I got a new life of publishing what I had  expressed in years of writing for myself.  I now have to consider my target audience of readers who patronize my blog:  There is a dividing line between writing and publishing, because responsibility to others comes in publishing.

If you are interested in reading biographies of people “Not famous” or “Not glamorous”, then you may also enjoy reading my auto-biography titled “Introspection of a confused man”.

Anyway, most of my categories that are not related to politics, history, religions, sciences, engineering, health, or book reviews are about myself.   It appears that my Book Reviews category is the most favored so far; closely trailed by sex/seduction categories, and religious topics.

I earned a PhD degree in Industrial/Human Factors/ system design engineering, over 20 years ago from the USA but I refused to practice until recently when I decided to teach in universities and had this lovely opportunity to write over 50 engineering articles published in the category “Professional articles“, “Human Factors in Engineering” and lately in the category “Engineering/research”.

I realized that I love best to read and disseminate what I wrote, and wordpress.com was the ideal platform to initiating people to publishing and expressing their opinions without any kinds of censorship.  I wish the publishers of articles and bloggers to keep in mind the dividing line between writing for comprehending and reflecting on their own positions and feelings, and just publishing.

I read and write daily, a lot, and hit libraries and follow up on news and editorials and feel serious on disseminating what I read.  I even summarize controversial books and offer my opinions ; yes, I love to be controversial, otherwise I might just rot.

A sample of a translated poem:

Your blue sea eyes

On the deck of your blue eyes is raining

Audible vibrating lights.

On the port of your blue eyes,

From a tiny open window,

A view of faraway birds swarming,

Searching for yet undiscovered islands.

On the deck of your blue eyes

Summer snow is falling.

I am a kid jumping over rocks

Deeply inhaling the sea wind

And then returns like a weary bird.

On the port of your blue eyes

I dream of oceans and navigation.

If I were a sea farer

If anyone lent me a boat

I would surely ease up my boat closer

To your blue sea eyes

Every sundown.

Note: This poem is an abridged free translation from Arabic of the famous late Syrian poet Nizar Kabbani.

Do the design of seating arrangements promote Inspiration?

Do you think Apple, Google, Pixar, and other giants can be wrong in their seating arrangements?

Do you feel that these arrangement:

  • make the spaces appear homely to promote a relaxed environment, which leads to a mind receptive to unrelated stimuli.
  • integrate multiple types of seating to encourage long conversations.
  • are designed to maximize random encounters, which maximises exposure to random stimuli.

Google studies show that this arrangement was responsible for innovations like Gmail and Street View, and has boosted creativity by 25%.

A few samples of how Google and Pixar designed their seating arrangements.
(Pixar photographs by Sharon Risedorph)

how Google and Pixar design their seating arrangements

Do you think the seating arrangements were adopted to satisfy the best environment to increase inspiration?

As best selling author Robert Greene in ‘Mastery’ gave  the two steps that invite inspiration:

  1. relax: you relax without focusing directly on the problem. you take walks or attend unrelated activities. the tension disappears and you can easily accept incoming stimuli. you invite unexpected ideas no matter how irrational, then explore where they lead. you note down these ideas, especially when you’re most relaxed; while dozing off to sleep or waking up.
  2. widen your search: our minds are limited and cannot explore all possibilities. instead we rely on random stimulation, which leads to inspiration. to maximize this, you widen your search into other fields. most importantly you’ll want to trust this process.
  3. Trust that the mind, when exposed to a multitude of unrelated ideas, will make the most unheard-of associations; associations often labeled as genius.

When we focus on a project, it’s like facing a tiger: Our attention becomes so focused and narrow, and we grow tense, and the mind reduces the amount of stimuli down to only what’s vital.  We fail to notice all the inspiring possibilities around us.

Armed with this knowledge, both designers and hospitality concept-owners can benefit.  Concept-owners can either throw a tiger in front of their designers and create urgency, or they can give them the space to ignore ‘the need for certainty‘, to step into the unknown, and to invite inspiration. each has its pros and cons. the best judge is you.

Designs of seat arrangement and sitting implements are one of the oldest endeavor in human development.

You see people assembled in circles around a fire, students seated in rows, or semi-circles…

Tables in shapes that are intended to provide the necessary connotation of how discussions and dialogue will proceed…

One of the important and oldest field in Human Factors in engineering is the design of workplaces. The beginning was to design mass production facilities, and then it focused attention on the safety of workplaces, and the health of the workers and employees.

It goes without saying that if body comfort is not cared for, all the seating arrangements will not offer the proper environment for inspiration and communication.

Experiment on seats and seating arrangements must simultaneously factor in the body variability and the psychological  well being, the safety and health (physically and mentally).

That’s what make experiments on seats and seating arrangement very difficult and time consuming, since they involve people’s variability and differences.

In a previous article, I proposed that lower echelon employees should enjoy private spaces, while the higher echelon should be working in an open space for all to communicate with easily.

https://adonis49.wordpress.com/2010/05/26/the-door-is-always-open-decide-to-enter/

 

 

Tips on: Reducing stress at work

Do you think that High workloads, physically and emotionally demanding work, uncertainty about the future, the temporary nature of jobs, lack of talents, growing older, competition with new graduate students with versatile abilities and technical expertise…. can lead to stress and therefore to poor mental wellbeing?

Joanna and Toby’s of  posted their Point of View on Nov.22, 2012 under “Reducing stress at work: A few simple tips

We’re all likely to experience job-related stress at some point in our lives.

But wellbeing is fundamental to everything: how we think, feel and function through the courses of our lives.

It is a precious individual and collective resource that needs to be protected and enhanced.

Around the world, a growing body of evidence is showing that people with lower levels of stress and higher levels of mental wellbeing are more creative, more productive and take less time off work.

They have better resistance to colds, feel pain less acutely and even live longer.

Additionally, there’s a compelling organisational case for better mental health: Annual costs of mental ill-health to a UK organisation with 1,000 employees are £835,355 (NICE, 2009).

However, the Department of Health’s mental health strategy highlights that each pound spent on mental health promotion at work generates net savings of £10 within one year.

Each single pound spent on early intervention for depression at work generates net savings of £5.

The 7th of November was the National Stress Awareness Day.

This inspired us to think about and share a little bit of what we learned on a project we carried out in London, where we shadowed nurses and admin staff to examine the issues that impact on their stress levels and ultimately, their mental wellbeing.

We found out that there are some practical, low-cost measures that managers can take that could have a significant impact on the team’s wellbeing. Here are a few:

1. Acknowledge that sadness is not a weakness: those we spoke to tended to suppress their emotions. However, allowing yourself the release of crying or talking about stressful moments increases your ability to deal with them

2. Recognize your team’s achievements: many felt that they rarely received praise or thanks for work done well or delivered in the face of difficult circumstances

3. Link rewards to emotional needs rather than organisational targets: for example, you could encourage your team to monthly nominate a colleague who has been particularly supportive or has dealt well with a difficult incident – let them decide the metrics. The person with the most votes could win a reward linked to wellbeing, such as a fitness class

4. Facilitate informal peer-to-peer support: opportunities to get together and chat with colleagues following a stressful or difficult event or day were valued more than compulsory supervision

5. Protect time for training and development and share opportunities with your team: most of those we spoke to wanted to develop their skills and progress their careers, but felt that opportunities were not communicated and continuing personal development time often slipped

6. Create opportunities for your team to get to know colleagues from other teams, specialisms and bands: ‘meet and greets’ were felt to be good for morale, making staff, particularly in frontline and junior positions, more likely to be treated as human beings, rather than just functionaries

7. Assess the physical ability of each member of staff individually: physical resilience varies, with some members of staff able to withstand long periods on their feet or physically demanding work better than others; but injuries and fatigue are detrimental to wellbeing (end of article)

So far so good. The wellness attributes in workplaces are what Human Factors in Engineering are concerned with: The safety and health of workers, physically, mentally and emotionally.

Twenty years later, and I am still hurting; (Jan. 28, 2010)

I returned to the USA in 1986 for a PhD program in industrial/Human Factors in engineering.  It hurts to recollect this non efficacious decision that was hasty, as all my previous decisions were, a split-second decision with no turning back.  Anyway, most of my jobs and positions after graduation were not related to my specialty, a specialty that I am still trying to define and explain to myself.

Luckily, 15 years later in 2001, I had the opportunity to teach at a university in Lebanon, on part-time basis, two courses related to Human Factors in engineering.  That was a golden opportunity to write over 50 professional articles, 25 of which were my way to re-discover what this field of industrial engineering/Human Factors is all about, in this fast evolving technological breakthrough, and transmits its concept.   I thus published on wordpress.com the category “What is that concept of Human Factors in Engineering?

I applied for a Canadian emigration visa in 1990, a year before graduation, but it was denied me: the Canadian consulate in Houston did not interview me at all. After inviting me for an interview the consulate told me by letter that since I have a USA visa then I had to go back home for application or something to that effect.

I left with $5,000 of my own saved money, much devalued by inflation. Again, I had no one to receive me at the airport and had no acquaintances to shelter me. It was the same lonely and frustrating process as my first travel.  It was as if I never learn anything from past mishaps, but I knew my destination this time around, and what to expect to see. There were no internet facilities at the time and no versatile communications.

I stayed two days at the temporary university boarding building.  A bright Lebanese undergraduate student in electrical engineering named Ghassan visited me at the dorm and connected me with a Lebanese graduate student in Environmental Engineering who rented a house far from campus. This graduate student agreed to take me in for a week and I used to accompany him in his car, mornings and evenings.

Ghassan was an undergraduate electrical engineer and ended up obtaining his PhD in the same year of my graduation; he got a job with Cisco in Oklahoma City while I was totally exposed to an uncertain future.

I forgot the name of the Environmental engineer: my memory is the weakest element of my brain, especially in recall. I remember that I aided this student during his PhD project; I connected him with the specialized person in data design and acquisition and then I helped him imputing data for statistical analysis. He insisted on paying me and when I finally asked for $100 for an entire month of work (I was totally broke at the time) he got furious for accepting the money since he took me in for free, 5 years ago for a week.  This is a typical Lebanese testing gimmick for loyalty or whatever you label it; they insist and your role is to continue refusing, but I was not proficient in that custom and abhorred it.

In the meantime, I had contacted the university student foreign office and a lovely structural engineering undergraduate, a Tunisian student named Suhail, agreed to share his university apartment with me.  Suhail loved everything that is Lebanese, food, music and all, but I was not up to his expectations.  Suhail was a bright and caring person; he finished his PhD in no time and wrote an “artificial intelligent” computer program for structural engineers; the program would prompt you with inquiries and at the end it would suggest the proper equation to use for your problem or project.

The notion of artificial intelligence was the rage at the time and I had audited a course on that topic because I could not afford tuition; I read many books on the topic.  I was working four part-time jobs at minimum wages, within university campus, because I am a law-abiding kind of guy.

Suhail got married at the same period with a Palestinian/US girl in Norman and got a son; he did all these things while I was plugging in to get past my General Exam. I think Suhail’s wife name was Wafaa and she helped her parents in a restaurant that specialized in Near Eastern food. I recall that we occasionally had the specialty of the day around lunch time; probably Suhail’s visits were much more frequent.

Suhail aided me greatly in writing the computer program for my computer generated experiment. I started writing the program in Pascal but I was not that proficient in programming and Suhail translated my ideas into C++.  I had audited a course in C++ because I could not afford any tuition, but had to stop coming to class: I thought that I was taking an introductory course in C++ but discovered quickly that the computer engineers were already proficient in that programming language. The funny part was that the team I was added to were gracious enough to deliver me the programming instructions of its final project.

The Dean, who was from India, refused me a grant and Dr. Foote, my former MS advisor, would not support me as I expected of him. I had no choice but to enroll in order to straighten my visa status from business visa to graduate student.  I paid the full exorbitant tuition for the minimum 12 credit-hours and was completely broke by the end of the semester. I had to take three undergraduate courses, two of them I had taken but the third one (Experimental Design) turned out to be the most interesting and very important for my field and for scientific mind.

I settle for the Human Factor specialty within the industrial engineering department because Dr. Purswell agreed to be my advisor next semester, and offered me a quarter scholarships which allowed me reduced tuition fees.  Dr. Purswell was more interested in the health and safety aspects in this field: he had a private company in forensic engineering for work related accidents.

There were not enough graduate Human Factors courses in the industrial engineering department for a PhD program: the human factors field was not well-developed as the other industrial engineering specialties and the university lacked qualified professors in that field. I was lucky to complement my graduate course requirements in many other departments such as psychology, “quantitative psychology”, marketing, accounting, economics, and education which offered me new perspectives and approaches to the human element in all these artificial human made systems.

I enrolled in a couple of graduate courses in the Psychology department and I felt at home; my heart got set on the cognitive aspect of human capabilities and limitations instead of the physical aspects that is known as Ergonomics, and the modeling of the human body versus the functions of the brain.

I had taken many courses in cognitive psychology and various statistical modeling and software analysis programs, frequently used in marketing, business, psychology, and econometrics.  One professor by the name Getty gave me credits for the Pascal programming language, the next semester, when I paid for the course that I had audited and did all the homework and exams.

I was hooked to the cognitive field in Human Factors but my advisor would have none to do with cognition for my dissertation because he was not interested in such a field and it was not in his line of business.

To be fair, Dr. Purswell was more than patient with me and let me write two proposals related to cognition that both were turned down within a year.  I attempted several times to get on teams working on interesting projects but I was turned down on account that I should have security clearances; what? GM requires security clearance for designing a new ergonomically functional board for its cars! Or the other project for selecting a dozen indicators, sort of operation measurement of the mental and sensory responses of individuals for flying military jets.  The project was done and I attended the presentation.  I guess this project is operational in selecting applicants.

Finally, Dr. Purswell had to deliver an ultimatum or he would have no choice but to suspend my scholarships. I was ordered to stop all part-time jobs. I obeyed and within a semester I wrote the proposal.  I then designed the experiment, finished setting up the fictitious chemical lab, and carried out several intelligence testing protocols just to divert the true objective from the over 120 “subjects” whom I enrolled mostly from first year Psychology students: they are required to submit to experiments for credit-hours.

That semester was hectic but a lot of fun. The next semester was the worst of all semesters because I had input thousands of data and read hundreds of pages of computer statistical results and then the gruesome task of writing up my dissertation.

I had Dr. Schlegel in my advisory team and he forced me to use a specialized word processing program, simply because the print was professional and versatile; the problem was that no one could interpret it when I got stuck, except Dr. Schlegel; I had occasionally to wait a couple of weeks to meet with him in order to untangle stupid word processing glitches.

What still hurt, after 20 years, is that I was not satisfied with my thesis.  Not that practical applications are expected from an engineer, but because no one controlled the process of my experiment.  What was initially an excellent design of the experiment that turned out to get out of the designed program.

The analysis would no longer correspond to cause and effect designed experiment and I had to contend with descriptive analyses that ruined all the pride that I had as an excellent scientific mind.

I am still hurting; I am glad that the publishing company for dissertations refused to publish it, because the manuscript had a numbered blank page and I could do nothing about it: I had no money at all. to recopy the entire manuscript. And didn’t care for the thesis to be published anyway.

All scarce money going down the drain and no professional future in the horizon.

I am hurting because I hated academia after graduation, and tried my best to keeping academic life at bay, working on lousy jobs hoping that my “unconscious” depression would subside.

This mental block never let go and I had no support system to get on the right track.  Yes, I wasted my life as a professional, but deep in my mind and my heart I know that I have a better and sounder scientific mind than many professionals that I know, and I am still interested in many fields of study and have the capabilities to untangle the good valid scientific projects from the faked ones.

Human Factors in Engineering (Article #29)

“How objective and scientific are research?”

Friend, allow me just a side explanation on experimentation.  Psychologists, sociologists and marketing graduates are trained to apply various experimentation methods and not just cause and effects designs.

There are many statistical packages oriented to provide dimensions and models to the set of data dumped into the experiment, so that a preliminary understanding of the system behavior is comprehended qualitatively.

Every applied science has gone through many qualitative models or schema, using various qualitative methods, before attempting to quantify their models. However, many chairmen of engineering departments, especially those who have no understanding of the discipline of Human Factors or were never exposed to designing experiments, have a conception that this field is mostly qualitative in nature.

They would ask me to concentrate in my courses on the quantitative aspects such as the environmental factors of lighting, noise, heat and any topic that requires computation or has well defined physics equations.

We have 3 concepts in the title: objectivity, scientific and research that are related in people’s mind as connoting the same concept.

However, the opposite meanings for these concepts are hard to come by without philosophical divergences or assumptions.

If we define science as a set of historical paradigms, a set of concepts, truths, facts and methods that most of them keep changing as new technologies and new methodologies enlarge the boundaries of knowledge, then you might be more inclined to discuss notions with a freer mind.

Could subjectivity be accepted as the opposite of objectivity without agreeing on a number of axioms and assumptions that are not tenable in many cases?  Any agreement in the meanings of objectivity in scientific research procedures and results are basically consensual among the professionals in a discipline, for a period, until the advent of a new paradigm that changes the meaning or orientation of the previous consensus among the professionals.

Could opinions, personal experiences, recalled facts or events not be accepted in the domain of research even if they could be found in written documents but not thoroughly investigated by a researcher? 

So what if you refer to an accredited research article and then it turned out that the article was fraught with errors, misleading facts with borderline results and untenable interpretations?  Would the research be thrown in the dust bin as unscientific or non objective and thus not worth further investigations?

Research in Physics, Chemistry and engineering deal with objects and are related to studying the behavior of the physical nature; these kind of research can arrive to well establish mathematical models because the factors are countable, could be well controlled in experimental settings and the variability in errors are connected to the technology of the measuring instruments once the procedure is well defined and established according to experimental standards.

It is when research has to deal with the variability in the human nature such as in psychology, psychometric, sociology, marketing, business management and econometric that the notions of objectivity, research and science become complex and confusing.

The main problem is to boldly discriminate among research and admit that not every research is necessarily scientific or objective and that a research has an intrinsic value if the investigator is candid about the purpose and nature of his research.

We need to admit that every research is subjective in nature because it is the responsibility of the investigator to select his topic, his intentions, his structured theory, references, fund providers, the hypotheses, the design, the methodology, the sample size, the populations, the data collection techniques, the statistical package, emphasis on either error type I or error type II, the interpretation of results and so on.

By admitting prior subjective environment to a research endeavor, we can proffer the qualitative term of objectivity to the research only and only when the investigators provide full rationales to every subjective choices in the research process.

Every step in the research process is a variation on an accepted paradigm at one point in the history of science and the mixing of paradigms with no conscious realization of the mixing process should set a warning alarm on the validity of the research and the many pitfalls it is running through.

Acknowledging the role of subjectivity in the methodology, the data and its interpretation could open the way for more accurate and flexible judgments as to the extent of objectivity and scientific tendencies of the research.

Article #30 of “What is Human Factors in Engineering?”;  December 27, 2005

 “How objective and scientific are experiments?”

If we narrow this article to the statistical analysis of experiments and without going into details suffice us to mention a few controversies.  First, let us do a chronology of the various paradigms in statistics and statistical algorithms.  From a European perspective Pascal is believed to have started probability theory in1654.

LaPlace and Legendre contributed to the Least-Squares algorithm for how to fit a model to data (1750-1810)

Gauss developed the geometry and algebra of the multivariate normal distribution (1800’s)

Galton studied regression between two variables (1885) and Pearson the correlation coefficient in 1895.

Fisher, Snedecor and Sheffe concurrently worked on experimental design and analysis of variance algorithm (ANOVA) to statistically test the population distribution under the assumptions of normality in the 1920’s.

The data analyses of non distribution base samples to fit models to data showing structural features were developed by Thurstone in Factor Analysis, by Young and Householder (1935) in Multidimensional scaling and Cluster analysis algorithms.

Joreskog, K. G developed in 1973 the algorithm of a general method for estimating a linear structural relational equation labeled LISREL that analyses the relationships among latent variables linked to operationalized indicators. This general method considers as special cases path analysis recursive or non recursive as well as Factors analysis.

John Tukey and Mosteller concentrated on studying exploratory data analysis to fit mathematical and geometric models to data showing both structural and residual, and thus complementing confirmatory or inferential analyses.

There are divergent paradigms in the following concepts:  first, the suitability of data measurements according to measurement theory versus the distribution properties of the variable of interest (S. S. Stevens versus I. R. Savage in the 60’s); second, the need to investigate real world data prior to applying any statistical package (data snooping) so that if you perform serious detective work on the data and torture it long enough it will confess and open many ways to understand its underlying behavior (John Tukey); thus increased emphasis on graphs of individual data points and plotting to investigate the preliminary screening so as to ensure that the summary statistics selected are truly relevant to the data at hand. 

Third, the application of the Bayesian approach from the consumer or decision maker viewpoint which provide the final probability against evidence instead of the investigator standard acceptance of a p-value to rejecting a hypothesis (read the “Illusion of Objectivity” by James Berger and Donald Berry, 1988).

Fourth, the selection of an investigator for a statistical package that he is familiar with instead of the appropriate statistics for the research in question;  The acceptance of untenable assumptions on population distributions and computing unrealistic parameters simply because the investigator is not trained to understanding or interpreting alternative statistical methods of nonparametric or distribution freer population methods.

Fifth, there are examples of investigators adopting explanatory statistical packages to torture data into divulging confusing causative variables while, in fact, the science is already well established in the domain to specifically determine exhaustively the causative factors simply because the investigator is not versed in mathematics or physics (“Tom Swift and his electric factor analysis machine by J. Scott Armstrong, 1967).

Sixth, there is a need to the “mathematization of behavioral sciences” (Skelum, 1969) which involves the development of mathematically stated theories leading to quantitative predictions of behavior and to derivation from the axioms of the theory of a multitude of empirically testable predictions. Thus, instead of testing verbal model as to the null hypothesis, an adequate mathematical model account for both variability and regularity in behavior and the appropriate statistical model is implied by the axioms of the model itself.  Another advantage is that attention is turned to measuring goodness of fit, range of phenomena handled by the model and ability to generating counterintuitive predictions.

This discussion is an attempt to emphasize the concept of experimentation as a structured theory and that the current easy and cheap computational potentials should be subservient to the theory so that data are transformed to answer definite and clear questions.  The Human Factors practitioner, whom should be multidisciplinary in order to master the human and physical sciences, is hard hit by the need of performing complex scientific experiments involving human subjects and yet required to yield practical recommendations for the applied engineering fields.

No wonder Human Factors professionals are confused in their purposes and ill appreciated by the other discipline unless a hybrid kind of scientists are generated from a structural combination of engineering discipline and modern experimental methods and statistical algorithms. 

However, Human Factors engineers who have an undergraduate engineering discipline and a higher degree in experimental research and statistical analyses training can be better positioned to handle research involving mathematical modeling of theories in sciences.

The fixed mindedness in adolescents reminds us of the mind fix of old people with the assumption that the mind has the potential flexibility to grow while young.

You may look young masking and old mind or look older and exhibiting a younger mind; it is your choice how much time and energy you are willing to invest for acquiring knowledge.

Something about my profession (#53)

Introspection within introspection

I started this chapter in September 13, 2007 as a personal introspection concerning my profession which generated later into a life introspection; I am basically editing this chapter.  Personal rambling set aside, I presently focus on the core of the subject that started my introspection into the industrial and human factors engineering. I have already written over 50 articles and later published them on wordpress.com in the category “Professional articles”.  Thus, this chapter should be technically redundant, but it is for my benefit that I am recapitulating the story.

This chapter is sort of introspection within introspection.  I did not attempt to copy/paste sections from what I had published because I want to discover how my positions and inclinations have changed since then:  It is very revealing to compare texts after a lapse of time and ponder what statements were fundamentally true to you and what were for the consumption of the general public.

Industrial engineering

I spent years pondering on the importance of industrial and human factors engineering and how to communicate their relevance in this fast pace environment of computer aided, computer simulated and computer controlled experiments that generate alternative solutions.  I was baffled on how to explain the difference between industrial and mechanical engineering when prompted: “So you are kind of a mechanical engineer?”  The two fields have not much in common except the pre-requisite courses in the first two years and the connotation to something having to do with machines and geared toward the manufacture and production of goods and the inevitable design of equipment and tools.

By the way, I never had the opportunity to take an industrial drawing course: everytime I tried to enroll for this course, I discovered that priority was given to the undergraduates.  The Dean had failed to include this course as a pre-requisite to satisfying my undergraduate program in 1975.  My guess is that the Dean might have figured that it is not actually that necessary for the graduate industrial engineer, since no industrial drawing would be contemplated, but I beg to differ.  How can any engineer whose basic general function is to design systems and tools not be trained in his mind and with his hand at viewing things in many dimensions?  Frankly, when I graduated I had many offerings in quality control of mechanical specifications to matching standards; I was too honest to declare that I had no industrial drawing schooling or training and declined jobs that were perfectly within my capabilities if I had the guts to lie.

May be the most damaging reason that inhibits me from socializing among people is the first unsolicited question asked: “What is your job?”  This is a question that I struggled very hard to identify and clarify for my own benefit first. I could take the alternative of returning a question by a question and try to find out what a “job” means in the mind of the inquirer. This technique in communication might means that I feel an interest in the person, that I like him to talk, that he would be willing to resume the conversation. I want to take a chance of investigating his reactions first; do we really want to communicate or the question is flatly a socializing gimmick?  Frankly, if I had something to sell or to buy my job should not be complicated.  The problem is that I probably have nothing to sell or buy either product or myself.

I don’t have a vocation and I am not interested wholeheartedly in anything that comes to mind.  I must discover myself and what gives me a sense to fight and struggle; I must know what drives me to wake up early and go at it.

Is my job what I currently do to earn a living or what I have studied and was trained to practice? Should I focus my explanation first on industrial or rather on the human factors engineering issues?  Is my real vocation my undergraduate (in Physics), Master’s (industrial), or Doctoral (human factors) program or what I have read lately?  Am I to disseminate the concepts that I hold to heart or to sell the company or the main product?

These wonderings are not abstract notions to me because I have been affected differently at various stages.  These questions are valid for someone who believes, deep down, that he never had a vocation and never really practiced what he should have been trained to do as a profession.

I consider myself a generalist in knowledge with no specific skills in any job specifications.  What is a job specification if not first, expertise in a very restricted job, and second, a thorough communication of the terms and vocabulary of the job?


adonis49

adonis49

adonis49

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