Minding the Machines: Preventing Technological Disasters

Book description

Praise from readers

"A superb book on how to prevent and minimize technological disasters."

—P. Roy Vagelos, M.D. Retired Chairman and CEO,
Merck & Co., Inc.

"If you want to know how serious technological disasters can be, how poorly we tend to handle them, and what can be done to reduce or eliminate the dangers associated with them, this is the book for you."

—Russell L. Ackoff, Professor Emeritus of Management Science
at The Wharton School, University of Pennsylvania

"A thorough compendium of technological disasters, complete with detailed descriptions, analyses of what happened, what went wrong, and why. This lucid book candidly addresses human and societal failings that need to be corrected if future disasters are to be prevented."

—Severo Ornstein, Internet Pioneer
and Founder of Computer Professionals for Social Responsibility

"Minding the Machines provides us with insights that are greatly needed to cope with the major technological disasters that are endemic to our times."

—David A. Hounshell, David M. Roderick Professor of Technology and Social Change, Carnegie Mellon University

"An excellent, balanced, and highly readable book emphasizing human, social, and organizational elements universally present in technological disasters."

—Carver Mead, Gordon and Betty Moore Professor Emeritus of Engineering and Applied Science
at the California Institute of Technology,
1999 Lemelson-MIT Prize Winner

"This book presents a systematic analysis of the root causes of technological disasters, accompanied by many riveting examples. More importantly, the authors provide the reader with an enlightening discussion on how we can prevent them."

—David J. Farber, The Alfred Fitler Moore Professor of Telecommunication Systems
in the School of Engineering and Applied Sciences
and Professor of Business and Pubic Policy
at The Wharton School, University of Pennsylvania


A complete blueprint for preventing technological disasters in the 21st century.

Why do technological disasters occur, and how can we prevent them? How do we design technological systems that enhance human life rather than imperil it? How do we live with the technology we have created?

In Minding the Machines, William M. Evan and Mark Manion offer a systematic and provocative guide to preventing technological disasters. They reveal the hidden patterns and commonalities beneath more than 30 of the worst technological tragedies of recent history—and identify powerful preventive measures that address every key area of risk.

Minding the Machines throws light on:

* Technological disasters: theories and root causes From systems theory to terrorism and counter-terrorism measures * Strategic responses to key risk factors Attacking the four key causes of disaster * Technical design failures—and the organizational failures connected to them How communications failures lead to system failures, and what to do about it * Socio-cultural failures: the lessons of Bhopal Two comparable Union Carbide plants: one safe in West Virginia, one murderous in India * The responsibilities of institutions, the responsibilities of individuals What corporate managers, engineers, scientists, and government officials can do * Participatory technology: the central role of the citizen Why citizens must play a far more active part in decisions about technology

In Minding the Machines, two leading experts in technological risk assessment analyze more than 30 disasters—from the Titanic sinking to Exxon Valdez oil spill, the Challenger shuttle disaster to Chernobyl nuclear catastrophe, the Love Canal toxic waste contamination to Bhopal poison gas release. They present lessons learned and preventive strategies for all four leading causes of technological disasters: technical design factors, human factors, organizational systems factors, and socio-cultural factors. They also identify appropriate roles for every participant in technological systems—from corporations to regulators, engineering schools to individual citizens.

Technological disasters can kill thousands, and destroy the organizations in which they occur. In recent decades, much has been discovered about the causes and prevention of technological disasters, but many organizations have not learned the lessons or implemented appropriate preventive strategies.

Table of contents

  1. Copyright
    1. Dedication
  4. Preface
  5. Invitation to Our Readers
  6. Acknowledgments
  7. I. Introduction
    1. 1. Technological Disasters: An Overview
      1. Dangerous Technologies
      2. Selected Examples of Technological Disasters
        1. Asbestos-Related Illnesses
        2. The Chernobyl Catastrophe
        3. Bhopal Poison Gas Release
        4. DC-10 Crashes
        5. Ford Pinto Rear-End Collisions
        6. Tenerife Runway Collision
        7. Hyatt Regency Walkway Collapse
        8. Tylenol Poisoning
      3. Causes of Technological Disasters
      4. Strategies for Prevention
      5. Who Should Be Concerned?
        1. Scientists and Engineers
        2. Corporate Executives and Corporate R&D Managers
        3. Government Agency Administrators
        4. Congress
        5. The Academic Community
        6. The Citizenry
      6. Conclusion
      7. References
    2. 2. Natural and Human-Made Disasters
      1. Natural Disasters
        1. Floods
        2. Hurricanes
        3. Earthquakes
      2. Human-Made Disasters
        1. Nuclear Reactor Accidents
        2. Nuclear Weapons Accidents
          1. Broken Arrows
          2. False Alarms
          3. Unauthorized Use
      3. Comparison of Natural and Human-Made Disasters
      4. Conclusion
      5. References
      6. Endnotes
  8. II. The Prevalence of Technological Disasters
    1. 3. The Year 2000 (Y2K) Debacle: An Ironic Failure of Information Technology
      1. The Overall Impact of Y2K
        1. The Leap Year Rollover Problem
      2. Anticipation of the Problem
      3. The Causes of the Problem
        1. Technical Factors
          1. Lack of Internationally Accepted Date Standards
          2. High Cost of Computing
        2. Programming Factors
          1. Unexpected Tenacity of Original Programs
          2. Code Reuse
          3. Systems Compatibility
        3. Managerial Factors
          1. Managerial Accounting Protocols
          2. Decisional Inertia
      4. The Scope of Y2K
      5. The Costs of Y2K
      6. Conclusion
      7. References
    2. 4. Theories of Technological Disasters
      1. A Systems Approach to Technological Disasters
      2. Feedback Mechanisms and the Design of Engineering Systems
      3. Perrow's Theory of "Normal Accidents" (NAT)
      4. High Reliability Theory (HRT)
      5. A Sociotechnical Systems Analysis of Technological Disasters
      6. Conclusion
      7. References
    3. 5. The Root Causes of Technological Disasters
      1. Technical Design Factors
      2. Human Factors
      3. Organizational Systems Factors
      4. Socio-Cultural Factors
      5. Terrorism in the Nuclear-Information Age
        1. September 11 Attacks
      6. Terrorism and Counter-Terrorism
        1. Technical Factor Counter-Measures
        2. Human Factor Counter-Measures
        3. Organizational Systems Factor Counter-Measures
        4. Socio-Cultural Factor Counter-Measures
      7. Conclusion
      8. References
  9. III. Technological Disasters Since the Industrial Revolution
    1. 6. Three Industrial Revolutions and Beyond
      1. Three Technological Revolutions
      2. The First Industrial Revolution
      3. The Second Industrial Revolution
      4. The Third Industrial Revolution
        1. Risks of Nuclear Power Plants
        2. Computer-Related Risks
      5. A Fourth Industrial Revolution?
      6. Conclusion
      7. References
      8. Endnotes
    2. 7. A Matrix of Technological Disasters
      1. Testing Three Hypotheses about the History of Technological Disasters
      2. Conclusion
      3. References
      4. Endnotes
  10. IV. Analysis of Case Studies of Technological Disasters
    1. 8. Twelve Exemplary Case Studies of Technological Disasters
      1. Reference
      2. CASE STUDY 1
      3. CASE STUDY 2
      4. CASE STUDY 3
      5. CASE STUDY 4
      6. CASE STUDY 5
        1. References
      7. CASE STUDY 6
        1. References
      8. CASE STUDY 7
        1. References
      9. CASE STUDY 8
      10. CASE STUDY 9
      11. CASE STUDY 10
        1. References
      12. CASE STUDY 11
        1. References
      13. CASE 12
        1. References
    2. 9. Lessons Learned from the Case Studies of Technological Disasters
      1. Specific Lessons Learned
      2. General Lessons Learned
      3. Conclusion
      4. References
  11. V. Strategic Responses to Technological Disasters
    1. 10. The Responsibilities of Engineers and Scientists
      1. The Role of Engineering Schools
        1. Responsibility for Safety in Engineering Design
        2. Engineering as a Social Practice
      2. The Role of Engineering Societies
        1. The Advancement of Knowledge
        2. Protection of Ethical Engineers
        3. Promotion and Enforcement of Codes of Ethics
      3. The Role of Science and Scientists
        1. Knowledge and Power
        2. Examples of the Relationship between Knowledge and Power
        3. Professionalization and Internationalization of Science
      4. Conclusion
      5. References
    2. 11. The Role of Corporations in the Management of Technological Disasters
      1. Corporate Management versus Mismanagement
      2. Case Studies in Crisis Management
        1. Ford Pinto Case
        2. Ford-Firestone Conflict
        3. Eastern Air Lines: Whistleblowing Case
        4. Dalkon Shield Case
        5. Johns-Manville Asbestos Case
        6. Exxon Valdez Oil Spill
        7. Johnson & Johnson
      3. Crisis Management Theory
      4. Conclusion
      5. References
      6. Endnotes
    3. 12. The Role of the Legal System in Technology Policy Decisions
      1. The Executive Branch
      2. The Legislative Branch
      3. The Administrative Branch
      4. The Judicial Branch
      5. The Legal Profession
      6. Relative Effectiveness of U.S. Legal Subsystems in Technology Policy Decisions
      7. Conclusion
      8. References
    4. 13. Assessing the Risks of Technology
      1. Probabilistic Risk Assessment
      2. Risk-Cost-Benefit Analysis
      3. Technology Assessment
      4. Conclusion
      5. References
    5. 14. Technology Decisions and the Democratic Process
      1. Technocratic versus Democratic Assessments of Risk
      2. Participatory Technology
      3. Mechanisms for Citizen Participation
      4. Toward an Alliance of Citizens' Organizations
        1. Women’s Organizations
        2. Civil Rights Organizations
        3. Environmental Organizations
        4. Consumer Organizations
      5. Conclusion
      6. References

Product information

  • Title: Minding the Machines: Preventing Technological Disasters
  • Author(s): William M. Evan, Mark Manion
  • Release date: April 2002
  • Publisher(s): Pearson
  • ISBN: 9780130656469