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 [F] New York Times on the Web Forums  / Science  /

    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.

Earliest Messages Previous Messages Recent Messages Outline (16525 previous messages)

rshow55 - 05:08pm Nov 4, 2003 EST (# 16526 of 16536)
Can we do a better job of finding truth? YES. Click "rshow55" for some things Lchic and I have done and worked for on this thread.

The most common patterns are the base on which all other skill patterns are buit - these patterns are MUCH more common than average - and they are likely to be so automatic that people don't easily think about them, until they go wrong. Indeed, these patterns are likely to be "unconscious" as well as automatic. These most common patterns are especially important (but in some key ways, especially hard) to get right. Word frequency is an example.

A problem with these most common patterns is that they are very low in status - even though they are especially important. Problems at this level are hard to predict, find and fix - but when problems at this level occur, they are especially important to find and fix.

- - - contains this

rshowalter - 06:30pm Aug 24, 2001 EST (#8116 of 8127)

MD7178 rshowalter 7/18/01 10:32pm

My old partner, the late Professor Steve Kline, of Stanford, told me that when he was a grad student at MIT, the Dean made a point of gathering students together, and telling them about a story. The story was Jules Verne's TWENTY THOUSAND LEAGUES UNDER THE SEA .

In Verne's story, a Captain takes 10,000 tons of steel, glass, wood and other materials

--- he makes careful drawings

-- gets a team of workmen together

-- the team makes the pieces according the drawings and puts them together . . .

and off the Captain and the workmen go -- cruising 20,000 leagues under the surface of the sea.

The Dean made sure that this lesson was very clearly made --

" In the whole history of engineering, NOTHING LIKE THIS HAS EVER HAPPENED."

Things go wrong. Pretty often. For everybody. You have to test.

No MIT engineer was to leave Cambridge without knowing that lesson.

- - - - also contains this: frankmz - 05:36pm Aug 24, 2001 EST (#8115 of 8127) As someone who has had experience with complex computer systems, I have extreme skepticism of a complex system (and the missile defense system is extremely complex) that will work in real-time as it was supposed to, and on the first try.

rshow55 - 05:09pm Nov 4, 2003 EST (# 16527 of 16536)
Can we do a better job of finding truth? YES. Click "rshow55" for some things Lchic and I have done and worked for on this thread.

These difficulties are more-or-less accepted for new technical systems. But for the social arrangements of sociotechnical systems - the point is usually a great deal less clear. People think they have a deal - in good faith, as dealmaking goes - and go on to find out that what they think would work, doesn't. It is easy to find blame, sometimes for good reasons.

That's especially true in diplomacy - where meetings are rare and word counts are low.

Because the gains of socio-technical cooperation are so high complex cooperations that have very positive sums are possible - but almost all (anyway, the one's I've been able to think about) are unstable unless there's a good deal of care, and talking - to put things together.

Getting a new kind of deal working the first time isn't any more likely than Verne's story. So people have to take some time. And the people involved ( who are likely to be preoccupied, emotional, and especially scared) take some time getting used to anything new and important. Especially if it deals with very common patterns - obvious as these patterns may seem.

Wish I was more eloquent - but it does seem to me that this little thread, with the small problems here - is still big enough to illustrate essentially all the problems that real complex cooperative negotiations have. Under unstable circumstances - it can show what it takes for success - and also how failures happen.

It seems to me that analogies to diplomacy are pretty direct.

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 [F] New York Times on the Web Forums  / Science  / Missile Defense