Here Come the Microkids

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of human problems, which is essentially being ig nored." It is still impossible, after all, to reduce a human rela tionship to a printout or to solve a moral question by bits and bytes. Some critics predict a future not unlike that portrayed in Isaac Asimov's I, Robot, a science fiction novel set in a society so thoroughly computer-dominated that the people cannot do arithmetic. Humanist Critic George Steiner acerbically calls the computer generation the advance guard of a breed of "computer-mutants." Says Steiner: "They will be out of touch with certain springs of human identity and creativity, which belong to the full use of of language rather than mathematical and symbolical codes."

Many others are much more sanguine. University of Chicago Philosopher of Science Stephen Toulmin predicts that computers will "re-intellectualize" the television generation. "TV relieved people of the necessity to do anything," says Toulmin. "Computers depend on what you do yourself." Catholic Theologian David Tracy argues that "using computers sharpens the mind's ability to deal with our world: the world of technology."

The final word may be simpler, and not pronounced by elders who find a devil ish soul in the new machine. More so than adults, the young know the computer for what it is. Says a ten-year-old at Manhattan's Bank Street School: "It's dumb. I have to tell it everything." They also know something important is afoot. Says Shawn Whitfield: "When I grow up it's going to be the Computer Age. It won't affect parents. They're out of the Computer Age. They had their own age."

—By Frederic Golden. Reported by Philip Faflick/New York and J. Madeleine Nash/Chicago

* References to computer commands to send (POKE) or retrieve (PEEK) information to or from a particular location in the machine's memory.

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