Capabilities: Human and Machine

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A capability is an attribute of a person, a machine, or a system which brings benefits when realized. A hospital trauma system has capabilities, and so also does a factory or an orchestra. Capabilities play a role in many kinds of decision-making. The job of educational institutions is to create and enhance capabilities. Clinicians must deal with human capabilities such as the ability of patients to cope with pain or to follow doctors' instructions. Systems engineers must deal with the capabilities of both the mechanical elements of systems and the human beings who operate and maintain them. As information technology becomes involved in ever more aspects of healthcare, manufacturing and other industries, the ability to reason with capabilities information will become ever more important. This meeting is an attempt to advance the understanding of what capabilities are and of how they should be represented in information systems.

Venue: 126 Bonner Hall, University at Buffalo School of Engineering and Applied Sciences, Buffalo, NY


Date: Friday, April 20, 2018



12:45pm Introduction and Welcome
1:00pm Barry Smith: What Are Capabilities? Slides
  • We will propose a definition of capabilities and illustrate its application to the consistent formulation of capabilities data of a range of different sorts, ranging from data relating to the skills of individual human beings to data about the capabilities and functions of large engineered systems.
2:00pm Peter Koch: Representing Human Capabilities Slides
  • We will ask, first, what is welfare? what is it for a human being to be faring well? We will then argue that welfare is best understood in terms of capabilities of the sort which are capable of being shared by all human beings. We will first explore the advantages of a capabilities-based approach over competing accounts, and then consider certain potential challenges to this approach.
3:00pm Break
3:15pm Tom Hagedorn: Representing Capabilities for Product Design
  • We will address several types of capability of interest to engineering design and manufacturing. The talk will showcase different treatments of capabilities for design relevant ontologies and demonstrate how they might be used for different ontology applications.
3:45pm Farhad Ameri: Keynote Lecture: Representing Manufacturing Capabilities Slides
  • We will provide an overview of different aspects of manufacturing capability​ and then ​focus on a use case for ​representing ​manufacturing capability ​in the context of supply chain formation ​. ​We will conclude with the preliminary design of an ontology for manufacturing capabilit​ies ​precision machining and additive manufacturing.

Barry Smith is well-known for his contributions to both theoretical and applied ontology. Most recently has has been working on the development of the NIST Industrial Ontologies Foundry, intended as a suite of consensus-based ontologies to support interoperability of digital manufacturing software.

Peter Koch is a clinical ethics consultant and assistant professor of philosophy at Villanova University who researches the theoretical foundations of patient welfare and the related notions of harm, benefit, health, and capabilities. His current project is developing and applying an account of capabilities-based welfare to help guide the patient goals of care and to ground welfare-based ethical principles in bioethics.

Tom Hagedorn is a Post-Doctoral Researcher in the Center for e-Design at UMass Amherst. He has a PhD in mechanical engineering. His research interests include ontologies for systems engineering, additive manufacturing, and medical device design.

Farhad Ameri is an Associate Professor of Manufacturing Engineering and Technology at Texas State University. His research is focused on knowledge-based engineering in design and manufacturing applications, ontology engineering, and design theory and methodology. Ontologies developed in his research group include: Requirements Ontology (ReqOn), Fixture Ontology (Fixon), Maintenance Diagnosis Ontology (DiagOnt), and Manufacturing Service Description Language (MSDL).