UBC Faculty Research and Publications

Examining Rock Engineering Knowledge through a Philosophical Lens Elmo, Davide; Mitelman, Amichai; Yang, Beverly


This paper presents a philosophical examination of classical rock engineering problems as the basis to move from traditional knowledge to radical (innovative) knowledge. While this paper may appear abstract to engineers and geoscientists more accustomed to case studies and practical design methods, the aim is to demonstrate how the analysis of what constitutes engineering knowledge (what rock engineers know and how they know it) should always precede the integration of new technologies into empirical disciplines such as rock engineering. We propose a new conceptual model of engineering knowledge that combines experience (practical knowledge) and a priori knowledge (knowledge that is not based on experience). Our arguments are not a critique of actual engineering systems, but rather a critique of the (subjective) reasons that are invoked when using those systems, or to defend conclusions achieved using those systems. Our analysis identifies that rock engineering knowledge is shaped by cognitive biases, which over the years have created a sort of dogmatic barrier to innovation. It therefore becomes vital to initiate a discussion on the subject of engineering knowledge that can explain the challenges we face in rock engineering design at a time when digitalisation includes the introduction of machine algorithms that are supposed to learn from conditions of limited information.

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