Trapped in the Net

Gene I. Rochlin, Author, Rochlin, Author
Gene I. Rochlin, Author, Rochlin, Author Princeton University Press $32.95 (310p) ISBN 978-0-691-01080-9
Reviewed on: 12/30/1996
Release date: 01/01/1997
Paperback - 310 pages - 978-0-691-00247-7
Open Ebook - 310 pages - 978-1-4008-2226-3
Hardcover - 978-1-4008-1773-3
Open Ebook - 310 pages - 978-1-282-75322-8
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HAL the computer may not really be scheming to do us all in, but, according to University of California energy and resources professor Rochlin, computerization is leading us into pretty dire straits. In financial markets, warp-speed automated trading creates opportunities for fraud and moves us further away from a stable investment climate. In the office, computers promise efficiency, but bring fragmented knowledge and reduced autonomy to workers. There's worse news. Pilots in the ""glass cockpits"" of modern airplanes have too much data to interpret, and nuclear power plant operators are less likely to have an intuitive feel for things going wrong ""on the floor."" Most sobering of all is the discussion of automation and the military. In a provocative analysis of the 1991 Persian Gulf War, Rochlin argues that the success of American smart weapons was due to atypical circumstances--enormous preparation and inflow of resources, clear weather and lack of resistance by Iraq. In future campaigns, the ""fog of war"" might make such precise operations impossible. At times, Rochlin's broad-brush coverage leaves one hungry for detail, and his professorial style may even detract from the urgency of his message. As for solutions to our increasing dilemma, readers are left on their own. Gloomily, Rochlin just asserts that without paying ""substantial costs,"" ""there is no way that we can pull the plug."" (May)
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