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How Reason Almost Lost Its MindThe Strange Career of Cold War Rationality$
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Paul Erickson, Judy L. Klein, Lorraine Daston, Rebecca Lemov, Thomas Sturm, and Michael D. Gordin

Print publication date: 2013

Print ISBN-13: 9780226046631

Published to Chicago Scholarship Online: May 2014

DOI: 10.7208/chicago/9780226046778.001.0001

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The Bounded Rationality of Cold War Operations Research

The Bounded Rationality of Cold War Operations Research

Chapter:
(p.51) Two The Bounded Rationality of Cold War Operations Research
Source:
How Reason Almost Lost Its Mind
Author(s):

Paul Erickson

Judy L. Klein

Lorraine Daston

Paul Rebecca

Thomas Sturm

Michael D. Gordin

Publisher:
University of Chicago Press
DOI:10.7208/chicago/9780226046778.003.0003

Cold War military needs for cost-effective readiness induced a mathematical construction of rationality while simultaneously binding that rationality with computational reality. In 1947 in an effort to mechanize their planning process, the USAF constituted the Project for the Scientific Computation of Optimum Programs. George Dantzig developed mathematical models and algorithmic solutions for digital computation of an efficient allocation of resources to different USAF activities. In 1948 the Berlin Airlift served as an important prove of concept for Dantzig’s linear programming, but a lack of computational capacity forced Project SCOOP to make do with a sub-optimizing mathematical model. Herbert Simon and colleagues at the Carnegie Institute of Technology, also doing optimizations under military contract, found that their mathematical reach for best decisions exceeded their computational grasp. This chapter narrates the path from this dilemma to Simon’s conceptualizations of bounded rationality and procedural rationality.

Keywords:   Berlin Airlift, bounded rationality, procedural rationality, George Dantzig, Herbert Simon, management science, operations research, optimizations, Project SCOOP, Linear programming

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