Computers as omnipotent instruments of power

Hopes, fears and actual change in administration, politics, and society from the 1960s to 1980s

With examples concerning the development and dissemination of computer technology in the Soviet Union, the U.S., and other Western countries it shall be demonstrated that computer development on the one hand and social change as well as changes in policy making and administration on the other hand are mingled with each other without a clear direction of causation being discernible. It also shall be shown that perceived social and political threats imposed by early computer technology sometimes actually helped to stop or at least slow down social change. One conclusion that can be drawn from the case studies described for RRI is that the conscious steering of innovations fails because of diffuse and uncoordinated resistance from very different stakeholders. The case studies also suggest that the effectiveness of RRI might be rather limited.


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