Changing Large Technical Systems

Changing Large Technical Systems

Changing Large Technical Systems

Changing Large Technical Systems

Excerpt

Historians and social scientists, as well as engineers and managers of technology-driven companies, should be particularly interested in and learn from the approaches to technological and social change in this volume. Its contributors see technology in both its multifaceted systemic complexity and its interwoven relationship with other social forces. Managers of research and development and practicing engineers with broad responsibilities for technological change know that a one- dimensional approach to complex technological problems is simplistic and unworkable.

The conference at which the papers in this volume were presented was one of five held internationally since 1988 on the history and sociology of large technological systems. All have been dedicated to the proposition that the invention, development, and use of technological hardware and software involve a seamless interaction with political, economic, and social activities. The authors of these papers, social scientists and historians, have learned from their first- and second-hand contact with engineers and managers that these professionals rarely reach a goal or fulfill a plan by viewing technology simply as machines, chemical processes, electrical and electronic devices, or material structures. Instead, the experienced system builder perceives technology as sociotechnical systems, sometimes requiring a technical, other times a scientific, and often a social solution to the sequence of problems that arises as technology is being developed.

For instance, my present study of the history of military-funded megasystems since World War II shows that system builders who managed the engineers, scientists, and skilled workers designing and constructing the production systems that made weapons found themselves facing nearly insurmountable political and organizational problems as often as they encountered technical ones. Most of the system builders in charge had conventional engineering-school educations that poorly prepared them for the diversity and complexity of presiding over technological change, but they learned to cope with the reality of their responsibilities by using the tacit knowledge and broad perspective that their practical experience provided.

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.