Systems, Experts, and Computers: The Systems Approach in Management and Engineering, World War II and After

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After World War II, a systems approach to solving complex problems and managing complex systems came into vogue among engineers, scientists, and managers,fostered in part by the diffusion of digital computing power. Enthusiasm for the approach peaked during the Johnson administration, when it was applied to everything from military command and control systems to poverty in American cities. Although its failure in the social sphere, coupled with increasing skepticism about the role of technology and "experts" in American society, led to a retrenchment, systems methods are still part of modern managerial practice.

This groundbreaking book charts the origins and spread of the systems movement. It describes the major players including RAND, MITRE, Ramo-Wooldrige (later TRW), and the International Institute of Applied Systems Analysis—and examines applications in a wide variety of military, government, civil, and engineering settings. The book is international in scope, describing the spread of systems thinking in France and Sweden. The story it tells helps to explain engineering thought and managerial practice during the last sixty years.

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Meet the Author

Thomas P. Hughes is Professor of the History and Sociology of Science at the University of Pennsylvania.

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Table of Contents

Introduction 1
1 Automation's Finest Hour: Radar and System Integration in World War II 27
2 The Adoption of Operations Research in the United States during World War II 57
3 From Concurrency to Phased Planning: An Episode in the History of Systems Management 93
4 System Reshapes the Corporation: Joint Ventures in the Bay Area Rapid Transit System, 1962-1972 113
5 Planning a Technological Nation: Systems Thinking and the Politics of National Identity in Postwar France 133
6 A Worm in the Bud? Computers, Systems, and the Safety-Case Problem 161
7 Engineers or Managers? The Systems Analysis of Electronic Data Processing in the Federal Bureaucracy 191
8 The World in a Machine: Origins and Impacts of Early Computerized Global Systems Models 221
9 The Medium Is the Message, or How Context Matters: The RAND Corporation Builds an Economics of Innovation, 1946-1962 255
10 Out of the Blue Yonder: The Transfer of Systems Thinking from the Pentagon to the Great Society, 1961-1965 311
11 The Limits of Technology Transfer: Civil Systems at TRW, 1965-1975 359
12 From Operations Research to Futures Studies: The Establishment, Diffusion, and Transformation of the Systems Approach in Sweden, 1945-1980 385
13 The International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis, the TAP Project, and the RAINS Model 413
14 RAND, IIASA, and the Conduct of Systems Analysis 433
15 How a Genetic Code Became an Information System 463
Notes on Contributors 493
Index 497
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