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Minding the Machines: Preventing Technological Disasters Hardcover – Apr 15 2002

4.8 out of 5 stars 4 customer reviews

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 512 pages
  • Publisher: Prentice Hall; 1 edition (April 15 2002)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0130656461
  • ISBN-13: 978-0130656469
  • Product Dimensions: 15.7 x 3 x 23.6 cm
  • Shipping Weight: 771 g
  • Average Customer Review: 4.8 out of 5 stars 4 customer reviews
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #1,409,906 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Product Description

From the Back Cover

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

Description

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.

About the Author

WILLIAM M. EVAN is Professor Emeritus of Sociology and Management at the University of Pennsylvania. He has taught at The Wharton School, MIT's Sloan Management School, the University of Chicago Graduate School of Business, and Columbia University's Graduate School of Business and has served as research sociologist for Bell Laboratories. The author of over 100 articles for various professional journals, Evan's books include Organization Theory: Research and Design, Knowledge and Power in a Global Society, Preventing World War III, and Nuclear Proliferation and the Legality of Nuclear Weapons. He currently consults with major corporations and government agencies on issues including organizational design and crisis management.

MARK MANION is an Assistant Professor in the College of Arts and Sciences and the College of Engineering at Drexel University in Philadelphia, PA and directs Drexel's philosophy program. His interests include the ethics and politics of risk assessment, the social effects of technology, engineering ethics, the philosophy of technology, and crisis management. His publications have appeared in the International Journal of Technology Management, International Journal of Risk Assessment and Management, Technology in Society, Computers and Society, The Journal of Information Ethics, and many other leading professional journals.

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Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
Minding the Machines reminds us of one crucial fact: technological disasters are almost always the result of human error. But the flip side of this truism offers hope: humans learn from their mistakes, and technological disasters can be prevented. Evan and Manion, both professors in Pennsylvania, study a number of key technological disasters spanning the twentieth century-from the sinking of the Titanic to the poison gas release at Bhopal. The result is Minding the Machines: a systematic analysis of technological risk.
In each case study of technological disaster, the authors go straight to the heart of the problem: human error. Evan and Manion rightly recognize that "technological disasters are failures of sociotechnical systems." In other words, technologies are human creations, and therefore the root causes of technological disasters should be sought in the human systems that gave rise to the technologies in the first place. Once the causes are isolated, future solutions can be developed. But only at the social, economic, and political levels can acceptable solutions to technological risk be generated. To prevent future disasters, we must mind the machines; the machines will not mind themselves.
The pace of the book is slowed somewhat by the exhaustive analysis to which academics are prone. Yet the diligent reader is rewarded. The case studies of the Titanic, Challenger, and Three Mile Island disasters make for fascinating, if sometimes morbid, reading. The meat of the book can be found in chapters five ("The Root Causes of Technological Disasters"), eleven ("The Role of Corporations in the Management of Technological Disasters"), thirteen ("Assessing the Risks of Technology"), and fourteen ("Technological Decisions and the Democratic Process").
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Format: Hardcover
The enormous technological advances of our time bring with them great vulnerabilities. Things break down, people screw up. This has always been so, but now the very power and scope and pervasiveness of our devices and systems give leverage to the breakdowns and screwups. Cost-saving refusal to install an $11 part in the Ford Pinto cost 500-900 lives, untold injuries, and $137 million in damages. Miscommunication among pilots and traffic controllers, and mismanagement of stressful demands on pilots, resulted in 587 dead, 57 injured, and $110 million in property and damage costs in the Tenerife runway collision. Chernobyl, Bhopal, asbestos poisoning, the list goes on.
Unlike natural disasters, technological disasters are predictable and preventable - but only if we recognize the new vulnerabilities and risks inherent in technological advances and effectively neutralize them. For that, it is essential that we learn from those man-made disasters that have already occurred. Evan and Manion have analyzed a wide range of technological disasters to their root causes, and describe how they can be prevented by appropriate training and action by scientists and engineers, by corporate executives and managers, by administrators of government agencies, by legislators, by academics like themselves, and by the general public. Here we have the example of the Year 2000 problem. Many believe this was overblown because it came to nothing. But it had so little effect because corporations and governments world wide spent more than $600 billion to avert it, aided by teams of engineers and scientists, largely from the US.
We also have the example of September 11.
Read more ›
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Format: Hardcover
Evans' and Manion's Minding the Machines is one of the most accessible and readable texts I have seen in an area known for its significant obscurity and evasion. While its wealth of case study information makes a welcome addition to any philosopher's or engineer's library, its topic of preventing technological disasters is a contemporary must-think for layman or "expert." I highly recommend it.
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By A Customer on July 19 2004
Format: Hardcover
Iliked this book. It covered alot of topics, all concerning ethics. Good job Mark
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)

Amazon.com: HASH(0xa68f1678) out of 5 stars 4 reviews
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0xa670ab04) out of 5 stars Minding Our Machines Jan. 15 2003
By Steve R - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover
Minding the Machines reminds us of one crucial fact: technological disasters are almost always the result of human error. But the flip side of this truism offers hope: humans learn from their mistakes, and technological disasters can be prevented. Evan and Manion, both professors in Pennsylvania, study a number of key technological disasters spanning the twentieth century-from the sinking of the Titanic to the poison gas release at Bhopal. The result is Minding the Machines: a systematic analysis of technological risk.
In each case study of technological disaster, the authors go straight to the heart of the problem: human error. Evan and Manion rightly recognize that "technological disasters are failures of sociotechnical systems." In other words, technologies are human creations, and therefore the root causes of technological disasters should be sought in the human systems that gave rise to the technologies in the first place. Once the causes are isolated, future solutions can be developed. But only at the social, economic, and political levels can acceptable solutions to technological risk be generated. To prevent future disasters, we must mind the machines; the machines will not mind themselves.
The pace of the book is slowed somewhat by the exhaustive analysis to which academics are prone. Yet the diligent reader is rewarded. The case studies of the Titanic, Challenger, and Three Mile Island disasters make for fascinating, if sometimes morbid, reading. The meat of the book can be found in chapters five ("The Root Causes of Technological Disasters"), eleven ("The Role of Corporations in the Management of Technological Disasters"), thirteen ("Assessing the Risks of Technology"), and fourteen ("Technological Decisions and the Democratic Process"). With these four chapters alone, Minding the Machines may prove invaluable for those in industry and government who want to better understand how a little prevention can be worth billions in cure-not to mention saved lives.
[This review is modified from my original review of Minding the Machines, Colorado Springs Business Journal, 12 July 2002]
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0xa670acfc) out of 5 stars An eminently readable reference. Aug. 2 2002
By James Stieb - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover
Evans' and Manion's Minding the Machines is one of the most accessible and readable texts I have seen in an area known for its significant obscurity and evasion. While its wealth of case study information makes a welcome addition to any philosopher's or engineer's library, its topic of preventing technological disasters is a contemporary must-think for layman or "expert." I highly recommend it.
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0xa6858888) out of 5 stars Great insight and guidance Dec 19 2002
By Bruce E. Nevin - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover
The enormous technological advances of our time bring with them great vulnerabilities. Things break down, people screw up. This has always been so, but now the very power and scope and pervasiveness of our devices and systems give leverage to the breakdowns and screwups. Cost-saving refusal to install an $11 part in the Ford Pinto cost 500-900 lives, untold injuries, and $137 million in damages. Miscommunication among pilots and traffic controllers, and mismanagement of stressful demands on pilots, resulted in 587 dead, 57 injured, and $110 million in property and damage costs in the Tenerife runway collision. Chernobyl, Bhopal, asbestos poisoning, the list goes on.
Unlike natural disasters, technological disasters are predictable and preventable - but only if we recognize the new vulnerabilities and risks inherent in technological advances and effectively neutralize them. For that, it is essential that we learn from those man-made disasters that have already occurred. Evan and Manion have analyzed a wide range of technological disasters to their root causes, and describe how they can be prevented by appropriate training and action by scientists and engineers, by corporate executives and managers, by administrators of government agencies, by legislators, by academics like themselves, and by the general public. Here we have the example of the Year 2000 problem. Many believe this was overblown because it came to nothing. But it had so little effect because corporations and governments world wide spent more than $600 billion to avert it, aided by teams of engineers and scientists, largely from the US.
We also have the example of September 11. With the likelihood of terrorists exploiting the vulnerabilities in the technologies on which we increasingly depend, it is vital that we understand and act upon the very important work that Evan and Manion have done for us here. Executives and shareholders will be especially interested in how a corporation can avoid causing a technological disaster, with its potentially crippling costs - while by the same means being an exemplary corporate citizen.
The book is thorough, well documented, and easy to read. Every page is an eye opener.
0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
A Kid's Review - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover
Iliked this book. It covered alot of topics, all concerning ethics. Good job Mark


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