RAND: When Academics Attack

All Your Tomorrows Today is a Ken Hollings/BBC documentary about the early days of RAND Corporation. Assembled by Curtis LeMay’s post-war Airf Force and highly influential to US cold war political strategy, the RAND people were early systems thinkers, and their systems were comprised largely of nations and nuclear weapons. They desired rationality on topics that don’t lend themselves to rationality. And perhaps shouldn’t, but don’t suggest that to the main characters in this story.

I particularly like one critic’s suggestion that RAND generated a “rumor of war”, which is his term for a set of disjointed facts which give the illusion of representing the whole truth. These people are what Dean Bavington would decry as ‘epistimological’ complexity thinkers. They are willing to see the world as complex, but only as an intermediary step to understanding it deterministically. And just think, they had the ear of the people who had their finger on the button.

And yes, there is coverage of the invention of the internet. I knew the standard story about it being a communication system meant to withstand a nuclear strike, but I didn’t realize just how literally and directly that was true. Although set in the Santa Monica sun, the whole story is frankly spooky.

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