The Sciences of the Artificial is based on Herber Simon’s Karl Taylor Compton lectures at the MIT in 1968 and H. Rowan Gaither lectures at Berkeley in 1980. The following quote is taken from the first chapter titled Understanding the Natural and the Artificial Worlds.

The world we live in today is much more a man-made, or artificial, world than it is a natural world. Almost every element in our environment shows evidence of human artifice. The temperature in which we spend most of our hours is kept artificially at 20 degrees Celsius; the humidity is added to or taken from the air we breathe; and the impurities we inhale are largely produced (and filtered) by man.

Moreover for most of us the white-collared ones the significant part of the environment consists mostly of strings of artifacts called “symbols” that we receive through eyes and ears in the form of written and spoken language and that we pour out into the environment as I am now doing by mouth or hand. The laws that govern these strings of symbols, the laws that govern the occasions on which we emit and receive them, the determinants of their content are all consequences of our collective artifice.

I particularly like this passage:

Natural science impinges on an artifact through two of the three terms of the relation that characterizes it: the structure of the artifact itself and the environment in which it performs. Whether a clock will in fact tell time depends on its internal construction and where it is placed. Whether a knife will cut depends on the material of its blade and the hardness of the substance to which it is applied. (…)

We can view the matter quite symmetrically. An artifact can be thought of as a meeting point an “interface” in today’s terms between an “inner” environment, the substance and organization of the artifact itself, and an ‘‘outer” environment, the surroundings in which it operates. If the inner environment is appropriate to the outer environment, or vice versa, the artifact will serve its intended purpose. Thus, if the clock is immune to buffeting, it will serve as a ship’s chronometer. (And conversely, if it isn’t, we may salvage it by mounting it on the mantel at home.)

Reference: Herbert A. Simon The Sciences of the Artificial. Third Ed., MIT,

  1. (first published in 1969)