October 1996

Root Page of Article: Coming Out of the Closedt World, by John Horberg

Centralized, Compterized Warfare

Another techno-drama in the 1950s developed over the merits of centralized vs. decentralized strategic air defense systems. Although it seems likely that independent decentralized stations could be more flexible and better able to respond to incoming missiles, centralized planning won out. The point is that these and many other decisions documented by Edwards were fostered by and led up to the growing conclusion that one computer-controlled central system could be designed and installed to run autonomously, giving us the freedom to not have to worry about it.

As Langdon Winner suggests, high technology implies the need for centralized and autocratic control systems.

Surprisingly, the American passion for centralized, depersonalized, people-taken-out-of-the-loop offensive/defensive military systems was directly opposite the tack taken by our Soviet counterparts: "According to one military observer, the Soviet results were excellent: it was Oorganized like a field-army air defense system -- no central control; everybody shoots at anything that looks hostile with everything he has.... The Soviet system is what you do when you are serious about continental air defense." ^

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