Bookshelf

The Name Of The Chamber Was Peace

Janis Alton, Eric Fawcett, L.T. Gardner, editors. Samuel Stevens and Co. Toronto & Fort Myers,1988

(Editor’s note: Philip Wallace’s major, pre-publication review is not reprinted here since members received an extensive review of the contents of the book with the January Bulletin. only Professor Wallace’s conclusions about the book are here — the full text is available from the Bulletin on request.)

For several years the Toronto chapter of Science for Peace has collaborated with other peace groups in organizing the “Science for Peace Public Lectures”, a weekly series of evening lectures dealing with a broad range of social and political issues related to the search for a stable and peaceful world order. The present book represents a selection of articles based on lectures from its 1986 program.

The book is a remarkably rich reservoir of fact and analysis covering a broad spectrum of problems and as such represents an important resource for sensitizing thoughtful people to the most fundamental problems facing the global community in our time. There is no uniformity here, no central doctrine, but rather an exploration of perspectives as broad as can be found in the peace movement itself. It is the very diversity of outlook which makes the book thought-provoking; whether one applauds or finds quarrels with individual articles, none of them should leave the reader indifferent. Perhaps, in fact, the most controversial articles are the most stimulating, in that they force attention to very fundamental issues. And there are many visions of a peaceful world; we cannot afford to ignore any of them.

Philip Wallace

Review Available:

C. Voute of the Int’l Institute for Aerial Survey and Earth Sciences, ITC, Enschede, The Netherlands, “Satellites and Peace”, a review of Peace-Keeping Satellites, by Walter Dorn.

Reprint Available:

David L. Parnas, “SDI Myopia Wastes Talent” from The Whig Standard 10 December, 1987.

U.S. Invade Canada?

“A Phenomenology of Paranoid Attribution Processes in International Relations” is the subtitle of this paper submitted for the June 1988 meeting of the Canadian Psychological Association in MontrĂ©al by Gisele Pharand and Floyd Rudmin, Queen’s University SfP members. An abstract is available before the meeting on request from the Bulletin, the full text after the meeting.

Science, Technology And The Nuclear Arms Race

Dietrich Schroeer, John Wiley & Sons, 1984.

I have found this book useful as a text in a course at the University of Montréal followed mainly by political science undergraduates. At this time I know of no other single text that could replace it. Moreover, not only political scientists, but also physical scientists and the general public will find this an excellent introduction to questions of war and peace.

Particularly impressive is the way in which the technological, historical, political and strategic themes are developed in parallel, and the interplay between them made clear. In this respect, Schroeer’s book is incomparably more ambitious than Kosta Tsipis’s Arsenal, for example. Often one is reminded of D. R. Inglis’ 1973 book, Nuclear Energy: Its Physical and Social Challenge.

The treatment of all these different themes is by no means uniform. Given that Schroeer is a physicist by training, it is strange that his discussion of physics and technology is often much less successful than his presentation of strategic concepts or his accounts of various arms — control negotiations. The sections on the physics of fission and on radiation dosage are often most confusing and bear all the signs of having been hastily written. This could be a result of his very familiarity with these fields. Here, particularly, Schroeer’s book compares unfavorably with Inglis’. The section, “Missile Accuracy”, is just about incomprehensible as it stands.

But the most conspicuous defect of the book is the fact that it is already badly out of date. For example, although there is excellent coverage of ABM, there is nothing at all on SDI. Furthermore, the scant attention given C3I is very much a reflection of the times in which the book was written. The need for a new edition is pressing.

In undertaking this task, Schroeer might reflect on his frequent use (beginning with the title) of the phrase “nuclear arms race”, as though this were synonomous with the whole question of nuclear weaponry. Recent events have given us some reason for hoping that the nuclear arms race might be starting to grind to a halt. But nuclear weapons will be around for a long time to come, and the knowledge to make them will last as long as civilization. People will always be meditating on the nuclear issue and writing books such as Schroeer’s,arms race or no arms race.

- J. Michael Pearson

David Suzuki’s Metamorphosis has been fourth on the The Sunday Star (Toronto) non-fiction list of National Bestsellers for two weeks now- Jan.31 — ten weeks altogether on the list. (Stoddard, 1987.)

Computers In Battle: Will They Work?

Gary Chapman and David Bellin, editors, Harcourt, Brace, Jovanovich, 1987.

In this important book Dave Parnas discusses the context and types of military software. He does so in reference to a table of increasingly demanding roles, both in terms of the increasing degree of automation (from off line to full automation)and in terms of function (communications where we control the specs to target identification and tracking where they do). He points out three reasons for what the Pentagon refers to as the “software crisis”. 1) While the theoretical accuracy of digital arithmetic is unlimited, finite approximations of real numbers can lead to stark discrepancies: “hard-to -find errors are the result”. 2) We can and do create programs that have no compact descriptions and that are so complex that we can’t understand them completely and whose behaviour Often surprises us. 3) The ease of change of software in a system often results in a program that has lost its original structure and is not adequately understood.

Simulation, now touted by SDI proponents as the way to make SDI software reliable, is just another form of testing and faces the same statistical limitations. Simulation designers often tend to make the same assumptions as the program designers. It is difficult, sometimes impossible to keep simulation and design consistent as the system evolves.

Also discussed in the book are artificial intelligence as military technology and the so-called Strategic Computing Initiative, the latter to develop highly parallel processors and steer Al research into applied areas via prototype projects. The sophisticated requirements articulated by DARPA are at great odds with the state of the art.

Clark Thomborson reminds us that 70% of academic research in computing is funded by the Department of Defense (US). “The DOD took control of academic computer science in the 80’s. There is now more funding for applied DOD research than for all basic research in Computer Science.”

And David Mizell points out, “From my point of view, Strategic Computing is already a success. We’ve got the money.”

SDI computer research is not classified as research but as “advanced development” (6.3). They have selected an architecture and they are now building the system.

Alan Borning warns: “We must recognize the limits of technology. The threat of nuclear war is a political problem and it is in the political human realm that solutions must be sought.” The advice to policy makers is to forget about the chimera of the ‘technological fix’.

Given the central, vexing problem of producing reliable software for complex systems, especially military systems that would face an organized assault from a resourceful, intelligent adversary, it is arguable that trustworthy software is the central challenge in modern military systems.

David Horwood, Software Specialist in Large Operating Systems