Reverse engineering needs to be explained in the context of forward
Forward engineering is when devices are designed and built to perform
certain tasks using basic already acquired knowledge, for example
planes that fly. Reverse engineering is the opposite of this process,
the devices for example, people, are already built and the "engineers"
have to find out how they are designed, this is the case in cognitive
psychology - the attempt to try and "explain the mind" as cognitive
psychologists try and give a causal explanation of our mental and
behavioural processes. Cognitive psychology forms theories which are
then tested and refined by observing behaviour and brain processes in
order to generate models i.e. artificial devices which are also capable
of performing the same tasks so we know it can be done. Reverse
engineering is an example of bottom-up processing. All the "why"
questions in reverse engineering have answers. Reverse engineers have a
great deal of self knowledge and although engineers sometimes make
mistakes in their designs and overlook retrospective shortcuts, the
"default assumption must be optimality as if reverse engineering can't
assume that there is a good rationale for the features they observe,
they can't even begin their analysis." - Dennett.
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