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Control Is Dead?

已有 14154 次阅读 2010-7-16 22:49 |系统分类:海外观察

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In an earlier article
I mentioned in passing that the program manager of the US National Science Foundation on system sciences reportedly said the title of this blog article. Although I thought I provided an explanation of the meaning and implication of this utterance at the time, there were a number of critical comments about my article taking me to task for passing on such a depressing remark.
While I stand by everything I said, it is perhaps worthwhile for me to elaborate further on this sentence which is a truthful statement not just about the control but any mature topic of science. Here is what I mean:
1.    Any applied scientific field typically go through three stages– breakthrough into a new problem area, building the theoretical foundation, and maturing of the field. I discussed this in more detail in
http://www.sciencenet.cn/m/user_content.aspx?id=45898 Currently everyone agrees that the field of control is in this mature third stage. The framework and foundation of the main stream control system thinking is very clear. Most application works have been standardized and more or less routine. Academic research efforts are basically third generation problems removed from real world dealing with theoretical extensions within the established framework whether the subject is H-infinity, robust control or LMI. It is in this sense I believe NSF said that they won’t support further theoretical work in control. In fact, a similar situation existed towards the late 1950s. Given the text by Bode on feedback amplifiers, Truxal’s text on adaptive control, and Newton-Gould-Kaiser’s work on frequency domain approach to feedback controller design in stochastic environment, people and MIT thought the last words have been said until new aerospace problems arise and Kalman et all heralded in an entirely new approach. Same thing need to happen again. “Control is dead” until it is reborn like Lazarus by a Jesus miracle. In this sense, one can argue CONTROL is certainly not dead and now may be waiting for the “second coming” of another golden age of control. But chances are it won’t be from extending the current mature theory.
2.    Critics have also raised the question, “In the mean time, what are we suppose to do? Starve?”. The answers are fairly simple. First, you can sincerely try to break new grounds as stated above. If successful, you will be amply rewarded like R.E. Kalman. Second, you can certainly keep on doing extensions because you like to; just don’t expect to be generously supported at the same time. Thirdly, as the cruel saying goes, “Those who can, do. And those who cannot, teach”. You always have the chance of writing a great text book codifying a mature field (just as Professor Thomas of MIT did in early 1950 on Calculus despite the fact that the materials were invented centuries before). Lastly, one can always go into scientific administration where knowledgeable talents are always needed.
3.    To be world class and remain on the cutting edge of research is very competitive, pressure-intensive, and requiring hard work. No one promised that it will be a bed of roses.


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