Technology: The Cybernated Generation

  • Share
  • Read Later

(9 of 11)

Like a Ballerina. One area made mercilessly vulnerable by the computer is that of U.S. business management. The computer has proved that many management decisions are routine and repetitive and can be handled nicely by a machine. Result: many of the middle management jobs of today will go to computers that can do just about everything but make a pass at a secretary. As much as anything else, the computer is of great value to big business because it forces executives to take a hard, logical look at their own function and their company's way of doing business. "Computers don't take the risks out of business," says Ted Mills of Manhattan's Information Management Facilities Inc. "They just make the risks clearer."

Though they have so far been largely excluded from management policy decisions, the men who run computer operations eventually are bound to have a bigger voice in business. Who else will understand the beasts? "There will be a small, almost separate society of people in rapport with the advanced computers," predicts Donald M. Michael, a social psychologist at the Institute for Policy Studies in Washington. "They will have established a relationship with their machines that cannot be shared with the average man. Those with talent for the work will have to develop it from childhood and will be trained as intensively as the classical ballerina."

Not even the computer experts, however, are quite sure what kind of thing they have created—or what are its ultimate potential and limitations. The computer, says Dr. Herbert A. Simon of Carnegie Tech, represents "an advance in man's thinking processes as radical as the invention of writing." Yet the computer is neither the symbol of the millennium nor a flawless rival of the human brain. For all its fantastic memory and superhuman mathematical ability, it is incapable of exercising independent judgment, has no sense of creativity and no imagination.

One of the great ironies of the computer is that it would rate as a low-grade moron if given an IQ test. "With a computer," says Mathematician Richard Bellman of the Rand Corp., "everything is reversed. If a one-year-old child can do it, a computer can't. A computer can calculate a trajectory to the moon. What it cannot do is to look upon two human faces and tell which is male and which is female, or remember what it did for Christmas five years ago." Bellman might get an argument about that from some computermen, but his point is valid.

  1. 1
  2. 2
  3. 3
  4. 4
  5. 5
  6. 6
  7. 7
  8. 8
  9. 9
  10. 10
  11. 11