A starting tangent.
oh, and I am not an engeineer although I do have an engineering degree.
This is good stuf but I am tired. More tomorow.Hope you dont mind if I go off on a bit of an (other) tangent...
Im assuming you're an engineer
Engineering is a very good example:
Originally Posted by Professional Engineers Ontario ([url
www.peo.on.ca)][/url] Through the Code of Ethics, professional engineers have a clearly defined duty to society, which is to regard the duty to public welfare as paramount, above their duties to clients or employers.
Of course I dont mean to pick on engineers or anything, but you may find the work of David F. Noble very interesting
Particularly Forces of Production, published in 1984 (not '75 as wikipedia mistakenly states), "a social history of industrial automation".
From the dustjacket:
[for those who may not know: "metalworking industry - the heart of a modern industrial economy" means "machine tools" = the machines that make the other machinery that makes everything else]
This provocative study of the post-war automation of the American metalworking industry - the heart of a modern industrial economy - explains how dominant institutions like the great corporations, the universities, and the military, along with the ideology of modern engineering, actually shape the development of technology itself.
Noble shows how the system of "numerical control," perfected at MIT and put into general industrial use, was chosen over competing systems for reasons other than the technical and economic superiority typically advanced by its promoters. Numerical control took shape at an MIT laboratory rather than in a manufacturing setting, and a market for the new technology was created, not by cost-minded producers, but instead by the U.S. Air Force. Meanwhile, competing methods, equally promising, were rejected because, among other reasons, they left control of production in the hands of skilled workers, rather than in those of management or programmers. Thus, Noble demonstrates, engineering design is influenced by political, economic, managerial, and sociological considerations, while the deployment of equipment - illustrated by a detailed case history of a large General Electric plant in Massachusetts - can become entangled with such matters as labour classification, shop organization, managerial responsibility, and patterns of authority.
In its examination of technology as a human, social process, Forces of Production is a pathbreaking contribution to the understanding of this phenomenon in American society.
Its very well done.. hes very 'political', obviously, but very intellectually fair, reasonable, consistent, etc, not some raving leftist ideologue.. former professor of the history of technology at MIT and "Curator of Industrial Automation at the museum of American History, Smithsonian Institute" (a position he had to leave b/c his ideas bothered some people)
The history is very concrete. I was thinking you'd probably find the stuff about engineering and technology interesting
Hi-tech engineering involving computers in particular was born out of very particular ideas that in context become kind of unsettling: "total control", "command & control", all explicitly about projecting control, thats where a lot of "automation" comes out of, and these foundational ideas had a very formative influence on how the field has developed since (and the influences that determined those original ideas have continued to play significant roles as well)
Another good one is America by Design ("Science, Technology, and the Rise of Corporate Capitalism"), which Science magazine summarized very conservatively: "Arguing the thesis that 'the history of modern technology in America is of a piece with that of the rise of corporate capitalism,' Noble contends that the industrial transformation that took place in the United States between 1880 and 1930 owed much of its impetus to a relatively small cadre of scientists and engineers who shared a devotion to the spirit and objectives of large-scale private enterprise. ...within the period covered by this book, Noble has explored, with many insights, a series of key developments whose connections have not been previously examined."
The New Republic is more to the point: "an extraordinarily detailed and closely argued examination of the institutional devices that came to link management and engineering." <-- that really concisely sums up why its so interesting, and its not wishy-washy, its written with a strong (actually 'sympathetic' Id say) scientific sensibility... also, connections to the military and WWI are very specific and influential, not as extreme and total as they would be in WWII though
He talks about Norbert Wiener: (the wikipedia entry greatly understates his political convictions)
Originally Posted by en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Norbert_Wiener
mathematician and applied mathematician, especially in the field of electronics engineering. He was a pioneer in the study of stochastic processes (random processes) and noise processes, especially in the field of electronic communication systems and control systems. He is known as the founder of cybernetics. He coined the term "cybernetics" in his book Cybernetics or Control and Communication in the Animal and the Machine (MIT Press, 1948), widely recognized as one of the most important books of contemporary scientific thinking. [...]He thus represents a watershed period in American mathematics. Wiener did much valuable work in defense systems for the United States, particularly during World War II and the Cold War.
After World War II, Wiener became increasingly concerned with what he saw as political interference in scientific research, and the militarization of science. He published the article "A Scientist Rebels" in the January 1947 issue of The Atlantic Monthly, in which he urged scientists to consider the ethical implications of their work. He himself refused to accept any government funding or to work on military projects. He was a strong proponent for using automation to improve the standard of living, and to develop impoverished areas. These ideas were very influential in India, and he advised the Indian government during the 1950s.
He also refused to advise industry (as in, management) (and you can imagine he was probably turning down pretty enormous amounts of money doing so) on how to implement his ideas to management's advantage at the cost of workers, help enhance employers "command and control"
Instead he wrote to unions urging them to take action and offering to help them, warning them about cybernetics "falling into the wrong hands", explaining that he was refusing to help degrade workers and destroy jobs, but, sooner or later, others less sympathetic to labour would, and how the consequences of this kind of technology and his ideas in the future could be severe
Of course it didn't have to be, it could just as well be developed to empower people more widely... but look at who the engineers that developed computing worked for... literally totalitarian commanders: the allied command at the height of WWII, the most powerful military command establishment ever, and then continuing into the Cold War... thats who developed the technology, then it went to business management
So its not so extreme when Noble describes (emphasis added to the really cool line) "private capital, scientized and subsidized, mobile and global, and now heavily armed with military-spawned command, control and communications technologies. Empowered by the second industrial revolution, capital is moving decisively now to enlarge and consolidate the social domination it secured in the first."
oh, and I am not an engeineer although I do have an engineering degree.