Slayton finds an ingenious and novel way to tell the history of missile defense systems anew: as a stage on which physicists and computing experts—computer professionals? software engineers? this group’s muddled identity is part of Slayton’s point—performed for one another and for policy-makers and the public, while using those performances to forward the individual and community objectives.—Science—
In addition to providing new insights into the debate over missile defense, Slayton raises valuable questions about the broader interaction between scientific expertise and advocacy.
This complicated, fascinating, many-layered story is told with clarity, insight, and intelligence. For policy makers, it is a cautionary tale about the reliability of ballistic missile defense. For students of social science, it conveys insights that will prove useful to historians and sociologists of science and technology, students of American politics and security studies, and even anthropologists seeking to understand the curious culture of high-tech war in the space age.
Rebecca Slayton’s book is an important addition to the literature on BMD, and also a significant and original contribution to how we think about and conceptualize the role and efficacy of advanced military systems….Fundamentally, Slayton’s ability to bridge the gap between the computer science and political science literatures provides a much broader contribution to our thinking about how weapons systems and debates over national security are intrinsically socialized, and are therefore unpredictable and…’arbitrarily complex’.
Rebecca Slayton has given us a very informative and original study of the relationship between science and public policy in her book, Arguments that Count: Physics, Computing, and Missile Defense, 1949-2012….It should be of interest to academics in the field of national security studies as well as to those actively engaged in policy formulation and technology development related to missile defense.
In her subtle and understated style, Slayton concludes that we must ‘recognize that the risks we face can only partly be addressed by the physical ingenuity of America’s top scientists and engineers’. She adds that all ‘complex technological systems…can never be only physical, but…are simultaneously social and political to the core’.