Minding the Machines: Preventing Technological Disasters

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9780130656469: Minding the Machines: Preventing Technological Disasters

Technological disasters can impact every area of a corporation's infrastructure, not to mention its reputation and bottom line. This book explores today's best strategies -- organizational, professional, political and legal -- for reducing the incidence of technological catastrophe and mitigating its vast human cost. Technological breakthroughs have revolutionized our lives, but some of them have also led to catastrophe. In this book, two leading experts in technological risk assessment and mitigation analyze nearly three dozen disasters -- from Chernobyl to Challenger, the Bhopal gas leak to the Exxon Valdez oil spill. They present lessons learned and preventive strategies for all four leading causes of disaster: technical design, human factors, organizational system factors, and socio-cultural factors. They also identify appropriate preventive roles for every participant in technological systems, from corporations to individual citizens. For everyone concerned with the risks of technological disaster: educated laypeople, corporate executives, R&D professionals, practicing engineers and scientists, regulators, lawyers, policymakers, and many others.

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From the Back Cover:

Praise from readers

" A superb book on how to prevent and minimize technological disasters."

—P. Roy Vagelos, M.D. Retired Chairman and CEO,
Merck & Co., Inc.

" If you want to know how serious technological disasters can be, how poorly we tend to handle them, and what can be done to reduce or eliminate the dangers associated with them, this is the book for you."

—Russell L. Ackoff, Professor Emeritus of Management Science
at The Wharton School, University of Pennsylvania

" A thorough compendium of technological disasters, complete with detailed descriptions, analyses of what happened, what went wrong, and why. This lucid book candidly addresses human and societal failings that need to be corrected if future disasters are to be prevented."

—Severo Ornstein, Internet Pioneer
and Founder of Computer Professionals for Social Responsibility

"Minding the Machines provides us with insights that are greatly needed to cope with the major technological disasters that are endemic to our times."

—David A. Hounshell, David M. Roderick Professor of Technology and Social Change, Carnegie Mellon University

" An excellent, balanced, and highly readable book emphasizing human, social, and organizational elements universally present in technological disasters."

—Carver Mead, Gordon and Betty Moore Professor Emeritus of Engineering and Applied Science
at the California Institute of Technology,
1999 Lemelson-MIT Prize Winner

" This book presents a systematic analysis of the root causes of technological disasters, accompanied by many riveting examples. More importantly, the authors provide the reader with an enlightening discussion on how we can prevent them."

—David J. Farber, The Alfred Fitler Moore Professor of Telecommunication Systems
in the School of Engineering and Applied Sciences
and Professor of Business and Pubic Policy
at The Wharton School, University of Pennsylvania

Description

A complete blueprint for preventing technological disasters in the 21st century.

Why do technological disasters occur, and how can we prevent them? How do we design technological systems that enhance human life rather than imperil it? How do we live with the technology we have created?

In Minding the Machines, William M. Evan and Mark Manion offer a systematic and provocative guide to preventing technological disasters. They reveal the hidden patterns and commonalities beneath more than 30 of the worst technological tragedies of recent history—and identify powerful preventive measures that address every key area of risk.

Minding the Machines throws light on:

* Technological disasters: theories and root causes From systems theory to terrorism and counter-terrorism measures * Strategic responses to key risk factors Attacking the four key causes of disaster * Technical design failures—and the organizational failures connected to them How communications failures lead to system failures, and what to do about it * Socio-cultural failures: the lessons of Bhopal Two comparable Union Carbide plants: one safe in West Virginia, one murderous in India * The responsibilities of institutions, the responsibilities of individuals What corporate managers, engineers, scientists, and government officials can do * Participatory technology: the central role of the citizen Why citizens must play a far more active part in decisions about technology

In Minding the Machines, two leading experts in technological risk assessment analyze more than 30 disasters—from the Titanic sinking to Exxon Valdez oil spill, the Challenger shuttle disaster to Chernobyl nuclear catastrophe, the Love Canal toxic waste contamination to Bhopal poison gas release. They present lessons learned and preventive strategies for all four leading causes of technological disasters: technical design factors, human factors, organizational systems factors, and socio-cultural factors. They also identify appropriate roles for every participant in technological systems—from corporations to regulators, engineering schools to individual citizens.

Technological disasters can kill thousands, and destroy the organizations in which they occur. In recent decades, much has been discovered about the causes and prevention of technological disasters, but many organizations have not learned the lessons or implemented appropriate preventive strategies.

About the Author:

WILLIAM M. EVAN is Professor Emeritus of Sociology and Management at the University of Pennsylvania. He has taught at The Wharton School, MIT's Sloan Management School, the University of Chicago Graduate School of Business, and Columbia University's Graduate School of Business and has served as research sociologist for Bell Laboratories. The author of over 100 articles for various professional journals, Evan's books include Organization Theory: Research and Design, Knowledge and Power in a Global Society, Preventing World War III, and Nuclear Proliferation and the Legality of Nuclear Weapons. He currently consults with major corporations and government agencies on issues including organizational design and crisis management.

MARK MANION is an Assistant Professor in the College of Arts and Sciences and the College of Engineering at Drexel University in Philadelphia, PA and directs Drexel's philosophy program. His interests include the ethics and politics of risk assessment, the social effects of technology, engineering ethics, the philosophy of technology, and crisis management. His publications have appeared in the International Journal of Technology Management, International Journal of Risk Assessment and Management, Technology in Society, Computers and Society, The Journal of Information Ethics, and many other leading professional journals.

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