Functional Representation of Technology

Ernest J. Breton


The literature on technology can be viewed as a vast compilation of answers to technical needs or problems. Take the patent literature, for instance: We have over four million inventions designed to satisfy specific technical needs of every type imaginable. Every technical product is intended to answer some need. On the other hand, here we are in a rapidly changing civilization that is generating technical needs at an ever accelerating rate: needs to protect the environment, to conserve materials, to feed people, to move people, to house people, to create jobs, to support civilization's infrastructure.... The challenge of scientists and engineers is to tap this resource of answers in the literature to to satisfy civilization's evolving needs. This challenge translates into an information retrieval task: matching technical needs with potential answers in the literature. Current classification and querying means have not been optimized to do this.

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