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Men, Machines, and Modern Times$
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Elting E. Morison

Print publication date: 2016

Print ISBN-13: 9780262529310

Published to MIT Press Scholarship Online: May 2017

DOI: 10.7551/mitpress/9780262529310.001.0001

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A Little More on the Computer

A Little More on the Computer

(p.117) 5 A Little More on the Computer
Men, Machines, and Modern Times

Elting E. Morison

The MIT Press

This chapter talks about the computer, first by putting it in historical perspective. After discussing how new machines and men have got on together in the past and what some men think they have found out about the perplexing dialogue between question and answer, problem and solution, the chapter considers earlier devices such as looms, engines, and generators that resisted at critical points human ignorance and stupidity; that is, they set clear limits to man's ineptitudes. For the computer the limits are not so obvious. Used in ignorance or stupidity, asked a foolish question, it does not collapse; it goes on to answer a fool according to his folly. The chapter also reflects on the role of computers in history and describes proper programming before concluding with proposals for exploring the machine in a series of experiments in which the machine would be asked to reconstrue a series of situations out of the past; for example, the machine would be used not so much in problem solving as a learning machine.

Keywords:   computers, machines, ignorance, stupidity, history, programming, experiments, learning, problem solving

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