4.0408 Big Science (1/20)

Elaine Brennan & Allen Renear (EDITORS@BROWNVM.BITNET)
Wed, 22 Aug 90 16:08:15 EDT

Humanist Discussion Group, Vol. 4, No. 0408. Wednesday, 22 Aug 1990.

Date: Wed, 22 Aug 90 08:35 EST
Subject: on technology and human nature

In one of the recent (July or August) issues of The Chronicle of
Higher Education, there is an interesting article on the problems of
big science, that I think illuminates what happens when human nature,
as manifest in political bureaucracy, guides technology.

The point that really impressed me was this. When someone representing
NASA (or some other big project such as the Hubble Space Telescope or
the Superconducting Supercollider) goes to Congress to present a
budget, the political pressures to be unrealistically optimistic are
overwhelming. It was pointed out that if a project manager insisted on
giving Congress realistic cost projections, then the manager would be
replaced with someone who would tell Congress what they were prepared
to hear!!!

Perhaps this is just another example of why "yes people" rise so high
in organizations, but it was useful to be reminded of it in the
context of current technological issues.

Jim Cerny, Computing and Information Services (and Geography),
University of New Hampshire. j_cerny@unhh