Normal Accidents: Living With High-risk Technologies

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9780465051427: Normal Accidents: Living With High-risk Technologies

A noted Yale sociologist examines how and why catastrophic accidents occur in high-tech industries—nuclear power, petrochemical, and aerospace—and argues that they are becoming nearly inevitable in our advanced technological society.

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Review:

Hang a curtain too close to a fireplace and you run the risk of setting your house ablaze. Drive a car on a pitch-black night without headlights, and you dramatically increase the odds of smacking into a tree.

These are matters of common sense, applied to simple questions of cause and effect. But what happens, asks systems-behavior expert Charles Perrow, when common sense runs up against the complex systems, electrical and mechanical, with which we have surrounded ourselves? Plenty of mayhem can ensue, he replies. The Chernobyl nuclear accident, to name one recent disaster, was partially brought about by the failure of a safety system that was being brought on line, a failure that touched off an unforeseeable and irreversible chain of disruptions; the less severe but still frightening accident at Three Mile Island, similarly, came about as the result of small errors that, taken by themselves, were insignificant, but that snowballed to near-catastrophic result.

Only through such failures, Perrow suggests, can designers improve the safety of complex systems. But, he adds, those improvements may introduce new opportunities for disaster. Looking at an array of real and potential technological mishaps--including the Bhopal chemical-plant accident of 1984, the Challenger explosion of 1986, and the possible disruptions of Y2K and genetic engineering--Perrow concludes that as our technologies become more complex, the odds of tragic results increase. His treatise makes for sobering and provocative reading. --Gregory McNamee

About the Author:

Charles Perrow is Professor of Sociology at Yale University. His other books include The Radical Attack on Business, Organizational Analysis: A Sociological View, Complex Organizations: A Critical Essay, and The AIDS Disaster: The Failure of Organizations in New York and the Nation.

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Charles Perrow
Editore: Basic Books (1985)
ISBN 10: 0465051421 ISBN 13: 9780465051427
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Charles Perrow
Editore: Basic Books (1985)
ISBN 10: 0465051421 ISBN 13: 9780465051427
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Descrizione libro Basic Books, 1985. Paperback. Condizione libro: New. book. Codice libro della libreria 0465051421

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Perrow, Charles
Editore: Basic Books (1985)
ISBN 10: 0465051421 ISBN 13: 9780465051427
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Descrizione libro Basic Books, 1985. Paperback. Condizione libro: New. Codice libro della libreria P110465051421

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