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Arguments that Count:Physics, Computing, and Missile Defense, 1949-2012

Cover Image Copyright Year: 2013
Author(s): Rebecca Slayton
Publisher: MIT Press
Content Type : Books & eBooks
Topics: Aerospace ;  Communication, Networking & Broadcasting ;  Components, Circuits, Devices & Systems ;  Computing & Processing ;  Engineered Materials, Dielectrics & Plasmas ;  Fields, Waves & Electromagnetics ;  General Topics for Engineers ;  Signal Processing & Analysis ;  Transportation
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Abstract

In a rapidly changing world, we rely upon experts to assess the promise and risks of new technology. But how do these experts make sense of a highly uncertain future? In Arguments that Count, Rebecca Slayton offers an important new perspective. Drawing on new historical documents and interviews as well as perspectives in science and technology studies, she provides an original account of how scientists came to terms with the unprecedented threat of nuclear-armed intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs). She compares how two different professional communities -- physicists and computer scientists -- constructed arguments about the risks of missile defense, and how these arguments changed over time. Slayton shows that our understanding of technological risks is shaped by disciplinary repertoires -- the codified knowledge and mathematical rules that experts use to frame new challenges. And, significantly, a new repertoire can bring long-neglected risks into clear view.In the 1950s, scientists recognized that high-speed computers would be needed to cope with the unprecedented speed of ICBMs. But the nation's elite science advisors had no way to analyze the risks of computers so used physics to assess what they could: radar and missile performance. Only decades later, after establishing computing as a science, were advisors able to analyze authoritatively the risks associated with complex software -- most notably, the risk of a catastrophic failure. As we continue to confront new threats, including that of cyber attack, Slayton offers valuable insight into how different kinds of expertise can limit or expand our capacity to address novel technological risks.

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      Frontmatter

      Copyright Year: 2013

      MIT Press eBook Chapters

      This chapter contains sections titled: Half title, Inside Technology, Title, Copyright, Contents, Acknowledgments, Introduction View full abstract»

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      Software and the Race against Surprise Attack

      Copyright Year: 2013

      MIT Press eBook Chapters

      This chapter contains sections titled: 1 The Social Roots of SAGE, 2 Discovering the ¿Most Underestimated Task¿, 3 Conclusion: Finding a Place for Programming View full abstract»

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      Framing an ¿Appallingly Complex¿ System

      Copyright Year: 2013

      MIT Press eBook Chapters

      This chapter contains sections titled: 1 Racing against a Time Fraught with Danger, 2 Toward Limited Defenses: Physics, Computing, and Bureaucratic Politics, 3 Humans, Machines, and Nuclear Anxieties: Whither Software? View full abstract»

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      Complexity and the ¿Art or Evolving Science¿ of Software

      Copyright Year: 2013

      MIT Press eBook Chapters

      This chapter contains sections titled: 1 Managing Complexity in the Cold War, 2 Structuring the Science of Command and Control, 3 Conclusion View full abstract»

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      ¿No Technological Solution¿

      Copyright Year: 2013

      MIT Press eBook Chapters

      This chapter contains sections titled: 1 Why Not Defend Ourselves? Technology, Politics, and the Arms Race, 2 Physicists as Advisors and Activists: The Making of a Public Debate, 3 Conclusion: Public Debate and the Emergence of New Arguments View full abstract»

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      What Crisis? Software in the ¿Safeguard¿ Debate

      Copyright Year: 2013

      MIT Press eBook Chapters

      This chapter contains sections titled: 1 Software Research, Development, and Production, 2 Computer Experts Size Up Missile Defense, 3 Computing, Risk, and Progress in the Safeguard Debate, 4 Conclusion: Black-Boxing Software in the Age of Apollo View full abstract»

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      The Politics of Complex Technology

      Copyright Year: 2013

      MIT Press eBook Chapters

      This chapter contains sections titled: 1 The Technopolitics of Defense, 2 Public Debate and the Shifting Place of Physics, 3 Physics and Computing in the New Political Establishment View full abstract»

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      The Political Economy of Software Engineering

      Copyright Year: 2013

      MIT Press eBook Chapters

      This chapter contains sections titled: 1 Making Software Engineering Persuasive, 2 The Revival of Software Engineering, 3 Computer-Related Risks View full abstract»

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      Nature and Technology in the Star Wars Debate

      Copyright Year: 2013

      MIT Press eBook Chapters

      This chapter contains sections titled: 1 Risking Disaster, Promising Progress, 2 Physics, Computing, and the Limits of Progress, 3 Conclusion: Software and the Rise of ¿Brilliant Pebbles¿ View full abstract»

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      Conclusion: Complexity Unbound

      Copyright Year: 2013

      MIT Press eBook Chapters

      This chapter contains sections titled: 1 Defense in the Era of Video-Game War, 2 A Rush to Failure, 3 A Reset or Risks Renewed?, 4 Conclusion: Defense in a Risky World View full abstract»

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      Notes

      Copyright Year: 2013

      MIT Press eBook Chapters

      This chapter contains sections titled: Introduction, Chapter 1, Chapter 2, Chapter 3, Chapter 4, Chapter 5, Chapter 6, Chapter 7, Chapter 8, Chapter 9 View full abstract»

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      Unpublished Sources and Notations

      Copyright Year: 2013

      MIT Press eBook Chapters

      This chapter contains sections titled: Archives, Personal Files, Interviews Conducted View full abstract»

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      Index

      Copyright Year: 2013

      MIT Press eBook Chapters

      In a rapidly changing world, we rely upon experts to assess the promise and risks of new technology. But how do these experts make sense of a highly uncertain future? In Arguments that Count, Rebecca Slayton offers an important new perspective. Drawing on new historical documents and interviews as well as perspectives in science and technology studies, she provides an original account of how scientists came to terms with the unprecedented threat of nuclear-armed intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs). She compares how two different professional communities -- physicists and computer scientists -- constructed arguments about the risks of missile defense, and how these arguments changed over time. Slayton shows that our understanding of technological risks is shaped by disciplinary repertoires -- the codified knowledge and mathematical rules that experts use to frame new challenges. And, significantly, a new repertoire can bring long-neglected risks into clear view.In the 1950s, scientists recognized that high-speed computers would be needed to cope with the unprecedented speed of ICBMs. But the nation's elite science advisors had no way to analyze the risks of computers so used physics to assess what they could: radar and missile performance. Only decades later, after establishing computing as a science, were advisors able to analyze authoritatively the risks associated with complex software -- most notably, the risk of a catastrophic failure. As we continue to confront new threats, including that of cyber attack, Slayton offers valuable insight into how different kinds of expertise can limit or expand our capacity to address novel technological risks. View full abstract»