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    Missile Defense

Technology has always found its greatest consumer in a nation's war and defense efforts. Since the last attempts at a "Star Wars" defense system, has technology changed considerably enough to make the latest Missile Defense initiatives more successful? Can such an application of science be successful? Is a militarized space inevitable, necessary or impossible?

Read Debates, a new Web-only feature culled from Readers' Opinions, published every Thursday.

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rshowalter - 12:33pm Mar 21, 2001 EST (#1231 of 11890)
Robert Showalter

I found some good quotes, and some especially on Russia, that I like, in some ways, but find dangerously incomplete, in others. I'm looking at Friedman's The Lexus and the Olive Tree which is a brilliant, though sometimes infuriating book, around page 337 of the hardback edition (in the chapter "IF YOU WANT TO SPEAK TO A HUMAN BEING -- PRESS 1" )

Good stuff, though he makes some assumptions about "speaking to a human being" that sound much too much as if all "human beings" are Americans.

I'll be a while - maybe as much as half an hour - writing this up.

But I DO think that the intellectual effort embodied in Friedman's book is important, though it can be misleading.

"A little knowledge is a dangerous thing" . . . and that can be true of a LOT of knowledge, too, in a complex system, if it doesn't cover all the things involved for function in a particular case.

Back in a while.

almarst-2001 - 12:54pm Mar 21, 2001 EST (#1232 of 11890)

A "little knowledge" is not dangerous if presented as such.

I have to admit, I haven't read the "The Lexus and the Olive Tree ".

almarst-2001 - 01:01pm Mar 21, 2001 EST (#1233 of 11890)

U.S. names North Korea No. 1 Asian enemy -

rshowalter - 01:08pm Mar 21, 2001 EST (#1234 of 11890)
Robert Showalter

We might find other uses for 37,000 expensive troops, if we talked nicer. If they're our "number 1 enemy"-- maybe we don't need such a defense budget -- but let me post some on Friedman's stuff.

rshowalter - 01:08pm Mar 21, 2001 EST (#1235 of 11890)
Robert Showalter

Maybe I'm a low class person, but I was taught an association --

an assumption. can

"make an ASS out of U and ME ."

But everybody has to make assumptions, to think at all - Friedman makes them, and for what he's talking about, for the readers he has in mind, really profound ones, at the CRUDE level at which he's working. But it is easy to forget that he's being crude -- and he asks Russia, for example, to do some things that, without a good deal more detailed knowledge than he provides, aren't possible.

rshowalter - 01:09pm Mar 21, 2001 EST (#1236 of 11890)
Robert Showalter

Here's Friedman (p23) quoting Murray Gell-Mann

.... "we human beings are now confronted with immensely complex ..... problems. When we attempt to tackle such difficult problems, we naturally tend to break them up into more manageable pieces. That is a useful practice, but it has serious limitations. When dealing with any (here Gell Mann use a muddled word I hate) non-linear system , especially a complex system, we can't just think of the behavior of this, and the behavior of that, and then study each aspect, and then study the very strong interaction between them all. Only in this way can you describe the whole system.

"We need a corpus of people who consider that it is important to take a serious and professional crude look at the whole system. ... "It has to be a crude look, because you will never master every part of every interconnection. You would think most journalists would do this. But they don't. ......... We have to learn not only to have specialists but also people whose specialty is to spot the strong interactions and the entanglements of the different dimensions, and then take a crude look at the whole. What we once considered the cocktail party stuff -- that's a crucial part of the real story."

Friedman ends the chapter, with a sentence that ought also to be a warning:

"So, on to my cocktail party."

rshowalter - 01:12pm Mar 21, 2001 EST (#1237 of 11890)
Robert Showalter

Friedman gives, in the book, a brilliant, but crude look at some essential things about global economics and trade, in the new world of the internet. These are ideas that I've found original, useful and distinguished -- and a lot of people agree -- though these ideas ARE limited.

And if you take Friedman's ideas, and try to apply them to specific cases, as more than the tentaitive possibile descriptions that they are, you are committing the fallacy of misplaced concreteness.

Something Friedman, and many other writers, make it hard for a reader to avoid, though Friedman gives warnings a member of his own culture can read, in many spots. In other cultures, and even in other circles in America, people are likely to miss these warnings.

Now, as I've said, I have a somewhat different view of complexity, and I think people like Gell-Mann and Friedman often convince themselves that they are smarter than anyone can be, when facing the complexities of a real system. rshowalter 3/17/01 6:02pm

He thinks he has a theory of an "entire system" that's more trustworthy than it is.

  • ****

    But I also think that Friedman gets some important things right -- that is - right enough to consider worth matching to circumstances ---though those things are incomplete in dangerous ways, when he talks about China and Russia. I'll be a while getting that part written.

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