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Systems, Experts, and ComputersThe Systems Approach in Management and Engineering, World War II and After$
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Agatha C. Hughes and Thomas P. Hughes

Print publication date: 2000

Print ISBN-13: 9780262082853

Published to MIT Press Scholarship Online: August 2013

DOI: 10.7551/mitpress/9780262082853.001.0001

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A Worm in the Bud? Computers, Systems, and the Safety-Case Problem

A Worm in the Bud? Computers, Systems, and the Safety-Case Problem

(p.161) 6 A Worm in the Bud? Computers, Systems, and the Safety-Case Problem
Systems, Experts, and Computers

Donald MacKenzie

The MIT Press

This chapter aims to examine a paradox. The computerization of technical systems is considered as one of the greatest technological success stories of the late twentieth century; however, it is also a matter of deep concern, even to many of those whose work has helped make it possible. This concern is best manifest in a statement found in a 1986 U.K. Cabinet Office report signed by C. A. R. Hoare, one of the world’s most influential computer scientists, which goes, “Nobody trusts a computer; and this lack of faith is amply justified.” The relevance of computerization to the spread of the systems approach goes beyond its role in enhancing the capacities and efficiency of technical systems, and therefore encouraging their dissemination. An incompatibility has emerged between computerization and a key aspect of the systems approach as manifest in other spheres of systems engineering.

Keywords:   technical systems, technological success stories, Hoare, computer scientists, systems approach, systems engineering

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