By Rebecca Slayton
In a speedily altering global, we depend upon specialists to evaluate the promise and dangers of latest know-how. yet how do those specialists make feel of a hugely doubtful destiny? In Arguments that Count, Rebecca Slayton bargains a tremendous new point of view. Drawing on new old records and interviews in addition to views in technology and expertise experiences, she presents an unique account of ways scientists got here to phrases with the extraordinary risk of nuclear-armed intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs). She compares how varied specialist groups -- physicists and laptop scientists -- developed arguments in regards to the dangers of missile security, and the way those arguments replaced through the years. Slayton exhibits that our figuring out of technological hazards is formed via disciplinary repertoires -- the codified wisdom and mathematical principles that specialists use to border new demanding situations. And, considerably, a brand new repertoire can deliver long-neglected hazards into transparent view.
In the Nineteen Fifties, scientists famous that high-speed pcs will be had to deal with the extraordinary pace of ICBMs. however the nation's elite technological know-how advisors had no strategy to study the hazards of desktops so used physics to evaluate what they can: radar and missile functionality. merely many years later, after constructing computing as a technological know-how, have been advisors in a position to research authoritatively the hazards linked to advanced software program -- such a lot particularly, the chance of a catastrophic failure. As we proceed to confront new threats, together with that of cyber assault, Slayton bargains invaluable perception into how other forms of craftsmanship can restrict or extend our ability to handle novel technological risks.
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In a speedily altering international, we depend upon specialists to evaluate the promise and dangers of recent know-how. yet how do those specialists make experience of a hugely doubtful destiny? In Arguments that count number, Rebecca Slayton bargains an incredible new viewpoint. Drawing on new old records and interviews in addition to views in technology and know-how reports, she offers an unique account of the way scientists got here to phrases with the remarkable probability of nuclear-armed intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs).
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Extra info for Arguments that Count: Physics, Computing, and Missile Defense, 1949-2012
By the late 1950s, their assessment was grim: conventional defenses would not protect civilians from a determined attack, something that might eventually include thousands of nuclear missiles. 3 They hoped that limited defenses could protect the United States from a more limited attack, and advocated such defenses as a means of arms control. They believed that policymakers might agree to limit nuclear weapons if they knew that they could intercept some extra missiles that the Soviet Union might sneak into its arsenal.
48 Top physicist-advisors had only a foggy notion of what they were getting into with digital computing. A newly formed Lincoln Steering Committee chaired by Loomis, and including elites like Zacharias, Wiesner, and Hill, tried to get a grip on the problem as they organized the lab in the fall of 1951. ”49 Forrester replied that this was impossible. No computer capable of air defense had even been designed! Zacharias asked for more information, prompting Forrester to describe the Whirlwind and plans for a more advanced computer that might handle air defenses.
But he might have known better. Although Whirlwind could be programmed to interact with equipment in real time, it could not be programmed in real time. Programming was as tedious for the Whirlwind as it was for any other computer. 45 But at MIT, Forrester’s first priority was to demonstrate the promise of digital computing for air defense, and he succeeded. In August 1951, Project Charles’s final report noted plans for a new, Air Force–operated air defense laboratory, soon known as Lincoln Laboratories (for its location 15 miles off-campus, in Lincoln, Massachusetts).
Arguments that Count: Physics, Computing, and Missile Defense, 1949-2012 by Rebecca Slayton