ad Silicon Tails: A bit of IT history

Monday, March 31, 2008

A bit of IT history

Back when I was in College, the book "Understanding Computers and Cognition" by Fernando Flores and Terry Winograd was one of the most important books I read. In fact it may be one of the most important books on the development and uses of information technology in the past 30 years, in that it helped re-shape the thinking and the discourse around IT and it's optimal use in organizations and society as a whole.

So I was interested to read this story on Mr. Flores' part in early experiments on how to use IT to help run production in a quasi-socialist system in Chile under Salvador Allende. Mr. Flores was both economy and finance minister in the Allende government and left for California after spending three years in Pinochet's concentration camps, received his Ph.D in philosophy and in 1987 co-wrote the above mentioned book. But back in 1971 Fernando Flores was 28-year-old government technocrat, who foresaw how IT and cybernetic concepts could help manage work-flows. I wonder how his thinking changed incrementally between 1971 and 1987, the story doesn't go into that level of detail, but obviously there is a stretch between cybernetics a la '71 and hermeneutics a la '87. NYT story here.