Systems, Experts, and Computers

The Systems Approach in Management and Engineering, World War II and After

After World War II, a systems approach to solving complex problems and managing complex systems came into vogue among engineers, scientists, and managers, fostered in part by the diffusion of digital computing power. Enthusiasm for the approach peaked during the Johnson administration, when it was applied to everything from military command and control systems to poverty in American cities. Although its failure in the social sphere, coupled with increasing skepticism about the role of technology and "experts" in American society, led to a retrenchment, systems methods are still part of modern managerial practice.

This groundbreaking book charts the origins and spread of the systems movement. It describes the major players including RAND, MITRE, Ramo-Wooldrige (later TRW), and the International Institute of Applied Systems Analysis—and examines applications in a wide variety of military, government, civil, and engineering settings. The book is international in scope, describing the spread of systems thinking in France and Sweden. The story it tells helps to explain engineering thought and managerial practice during the last sixty years.

Table of Contents

  1. Introduction

    Thomas P. Hughes and Agatha C. Hughes

  2. 1. Automation's Finest Hour: Radar and System Integration in World War II

    David A. Mindell

  3. 2. The Adoption of Operations Research in the United States During World War II

    Erik P. Rau

  4. 3. From Concurrency to Phase Planning: An Episode in the History of Systems Management

    Stephen B. Johnson

  5. 4. System Reshapes the Corporation: Joint Ventures in the Bay Area Rapid Transit System, 1962-1972

    Glenn Bagos

  6. 5. Planning a Technological Nation: Systems Thinking and the Politics of National Identity in Postwar France

    Gabrielle Hecht

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

    Donald MacKenzie

  8. 7. Engineers of Managers? The Systems Analysis of Electronic Data Processing in the Federal Bureaucracy

    Atsushi Akera

  9. 8. The World in a Machine: Origins and Impact of Early computerized Global Systems Models

    Paul N. Edwards

  10. 9. The Medium is the Message, or How Context Matters: the RAND Corporation Build an Economics of Innovation, 1946-1962

    David A. Hounshell

  11. 10. Out of the Blue yonder: The Transfer of Systems Thinking From the Pentagon to the Great Society, 1961-1965

    David R. Jardini

  12. 11. The Limits of Technology Transfer: Civil Systems at TRW, 1965-1975

    Davis Dyer

  13. 12. From Operations Research to Futures Studies: The Establishment, Diffusion, and Transformation of the Systems Approach in Sweden, 1945-1980

    Arne Kajiser and Joar Tiberg

  14. 13. The International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis, the TAP Project, and the RAINS Model

    Harvey Brooks and Alan McDonald

  15. 14. RAND, IIASA, and the Conduct of Systems Analysis

    Roger E. Levien

  16. 15. How a Genetic Code Became an Information System

    Lily E. Kay

  17. Notes on Contributors
  18. Index