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Description - The Closed World by Paul N. Edwards

"The Closed World" offers an alternative to the canonical histories of computers and cognitive science. Arguing that we can make sense of computers as tools only when we simultaneously grasp their roles as metaphors and political icons, Paul Edwards shows how Cold War social and cultural contexts shaped emerging computer technology - and were transformed, in turn, by information machines. Edwards begins by describing the emergence of a "closed-world discourse" of global surveillance and control through high-technology military power. The Cold War political goal of "containment" led to the SAGE continental air defense system, Rand Corporation studies of nuclear strategy, and the advanced technologies of the Vietnam War. These and other centralized, computerized military command and control projects - for containing world-scale conflicts - helped closed-world discourse dominate Cold War political decisions. Their apothesis was the Reagan-era plan for a space-based ballistic missile defense. Edwards then shows how these military projects helped computers become axial metaphors in psychological theory. Analyzing the Macy Conferences on cybernetics, the work of the Harvard Psycho-Acoustic Laboratory, and the early history of artificial intelligence, he describes the formation of a "cyborg discourse". By constructing both human minds and artificial intelligences as information machines, cyborg discourse helped integrate people into the hypercomplex technological systems of the closed world. Finally, Edwards explores the cyborg as political identity in science fiction - from the disembodied, panoptic AI of "2001" to the mechanical robots of "Star Wars" and the engineered biological androids of "Blade Runner" - where information age culture and subjectivity were both reflected and constructed.

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Book Details

ISBN: 9780262550284
ISBN-10: 0262550288
Format: Paperback
(229mm x 152mm x 21mm)
Pages: 462
Imprint: MIT Press
Publisher: MIT Press Ltd
Publish Date: 21-Aug-1997
Country of Publication: United States

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Author Biography - Paul N. Edwards

Paul N. Edwards is Professor in the School of Information and the Department of History at the University of Michigan. He is the author of The Closed World: Computers and the Politics of Discourse in Cold War America (1996) and a coeditor (with Clark Miller) of Changing the Atmosphere: Expert Knowledge and Environmental Governance (2001), both published by the MIT Press.

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