It has always been models

There is a relatively recent boom on model-based X. Model-based development, model-based design, model-based systems engineering, …

In all the domains of engineering, it looks like we have just discovered the use of models to support our work. But this is, obviously, false. It has always been models. All around. All the time.

When an engineer-to-be starts his studies, the first he learns is physics and mathematics: i.e. how to model reality and the language to build the model. In recent parlance we would say that math is just a metamodel of reality. A model of the models that we use to capture the knowledge we have about an extant system or the ideas we have about a system to be engineered.

The distinction between knowledge and ideas may seem relevant but it is not so much. They’re all about mental content; that may or may not be related or co-related to some reality out there. Both knowledge and ideas are models of realities-that-are or realities-to-be that are of relevance to us or our stakeholders.

It has always been models. In our minds and in the collaborative processes that we use to engineer our systems. Model-based X is not new. It is just good, old-fashioned engineering.