Wednesday, December 01, 2010

Scarily prescient

The Telegraph today carries an obituary for one of the greats of early computing, Sir Maurice Wilkes. A true believer in the usefulness of computing he seems to have worked out how to create memory amongst other things and caches.

However he also could see a dystopian aspect to what he was doing in words that may feel horifyingly accurate,
When EDSAC was built, Wilkes sought to allay public fears by describing the stored-program computer as “a calculating machine operated by a moron who cannot think, but can be trusted to do what he is told”. In 1964, however, predicting the world in “1984”, he drew a more Orwellian picture: “How would you feel,” he wrote, “if you had exceeded the speed limit on a deserted road in the dead of night, and a few days later received a demand for a fine that had been automatically printed by a computer coupled to a radar system and vehicle identification device? It might not be a demand at all, but simply a statement that your bank account had been debited automatically.”
What is interesting here to me is his assumption that everybody also felt that his would be wrong, he had that shared belief in English liberty that is slowly evaporating under decades of governmental onslaught.

"How would you feel?" he says, knowing that you would be outraged.


banned said...

From 1964? Precient indeed.
"...a statement that your bank account had been debited automatically.”
Plrase don't go giving them ideas.

ukipwebmaster said...

"Cambridge Ring" - The very first network?