Trapped in the Net: The Unanticipated Consequences of Computerization

Trapped in the Net: The Unanticipated Consequences of Computerization

by Gene I. Rochlin
Pub. Date:
Princeton University Press
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Trapped in the Net: The Unanticipated Consequences of Computerization

Voice mail. E-mail. Bar codes. Desktops. Laptops. Networks. The Web. In this exciting book, Gene Rochlin takes a closer look at how these familiar and pervasive productions of computerization have become embedded in all our lives, forcing us to narrow the scope of our choices, our modes of control, and our experiences with the real world. Drawing on fascinating narratives from fields that range from military command, air traffic control, and international fund transfers to library cataloging and supermarket checkouts, Rochlin shows that we are rapidly making irreversible and at times harmful changes in our business, social, and personal lives to comply with the formalities and restrictions of information systems.

The threat is not the direct one once framed by the idea of insane robots or runaway mainframes usurping human functions for their own purposes, but the gradual loss of control over hardware, software, and function through networks of interconnection and dependence. What Rochlin calls the computer trap has four parts: the lure, the snare, the costs, and the long-term consequences. The lure is obvious: the promise of ever more powerful and adaptable tools with simpler and more human-centered interfaces. The snare is what usually ensues. Once heavily invested in the use of computers to perform central tasks, organizations and individuals alike are committed to new capacities and potentials, whether they eventually find them rewarding or not. The varied costs include a dependency on the manufacturers of hardware and software—and a seemingly pathological scramble to keep up with an incredible rate of sometimes unnecessary technological change. Finally, a lack of redundancy and an incredible speed of response make human intervention or control difficult at best when (and not if) something goes wrong. As Rochlin points out, this is particularly true for those systems whose interconnections and mechanisms are so deeply concealed in the computers that no human being fully understands them.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780691002477
Publisher: Princeton University Press
Publication date: 07/27/1998
Pages: 310
Product dimensions: 6.10(w) x 9.20(h) x 0.80(d)

Table of Contents

Preface xi

Acknowledgments xv

1 Introduction 3

Prologue 3

Enter the Computer 5

Compliance and Control 7

The Structure of the Argument 11

The Structure of the Book 13

2 Autogamous Technology 15

Introduction 15

A Brief Historical Essay 16

Operating Systems 23

The Dynamics of Growth 29

The Hegemony of Design 32

3 Networks of Connectivity: Webs of Dependence 35

Introduction 35

From Anarchy to Networks 38

The Interconnected Office 46

Conclusion 48

4 Taylorism Redux? 51

Introduction 51

The Search for Managerial Control 53

The Deskilling Controversy 61

Expertise Lost 67

Heterogeneous Systems 69

Conclusion 71

5 Computer Trading 74

Introduction 74

Markets and Exchanges 76

Automating Markets 82

Conclusion 88

6 Jacking into the Market 91

The Demise of Barings P L C 91

Trading in Cyberspace 94

Global Markets 99

Conclusion 105

Epilogue 106

7 Expert Operators and Critical Tasks 108

Having the Bubble 108

Pilot Error 112

The Glass Cockpit 115

Air Traffic Control 119

Industrial and Other Operations 123

The Computer in the Loop 125

Conclusion 128

8 Smart Weapons, Smart Soldiers 131

Introduction 131

Industrial War 132

Techno-Industrial War 135

The Postwar Transition 137

Quantity versus Quality 140

Trading Tooth for Tail 144

Conclusion 147

9 Unfriendly Fire 150

Introduction 150

A "Reasonable Choice of Disaster" 152

The USS Stark 154

Tragedy over the Persian Gulf 156

Conclusion 166

10 The Logistics of Techno-War 169

Introduction 169

The Gulf War 171

Redefining Effectiveness 182

Computers and the Transformation of War 184

11 C3I in Cyberspace

Introduction 188

The Ways and Means of Modern Warfare 191

Moving toward Cyberspace 199

The Virtual Battlefield 202

Conclusion 207

12 Invisible Idiots 210

Introduction 210

Standardization and Slack 212

Virtual Organizations in a Real World 214

Conclusion 216

Notes 219

Bibliography 265

Index 285

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