It is time we understood the kind of age we live in!
MORE AND MORE, nations are becoming dependent on computers and micro-circuitry. And in that dependence resides frightening vulnerability — and, potentially, enormous social problems. Without computers — and the microchip, left, highly magnified — the banking system of modern nations would already have broken down under a blizzard of billions of checks and financial transactions. Jumbo jets could not fly smoothly in the air without computers. Nor could you reliably reserve a seat on one. Computers are used to navigate ships, military spacecraft and missiles. They are utilized to design and cut out complex swaths of metal and fabrics in industry, speeding up production while reducing wastage. Also, computers assist in developing weather forecasts, directing complex city traffic light systems, setting newspaper and magazine type — even for The Plain Truth! Modern oil refineries, steel and glass-making plants are run by computers. Dams often open and shut by computers. Modern business and industrial needs for efficiency are so great that businessmen must use computers or microelectronic technology to cut labor costs, cut waste and fight inflation — or die because their competition uses computers. In more and more industries, engineers and artists need only to type in or draw a rough idea of what they conceive on a computer terminal. An aeronautical engineer, for example, can instruct a computer to immediately display and rotate the rough design idea of an airplane wing or plane body from any angle. He can then make further refinements with the computer. Long distance telephone dialing would be impossible without computer routing. Without computers it would consume in the United States the labor of all employed women over 18 years of age to do this telephone operation alone.
And more startling developments lie in the years ahead, computer developers promise. Computer developers say we are at the dawn of the super-smart machine with "artificial intelligence." Already industrial robots are taking over dangerous, emotionally boring or highly repetitive assembly line jobs. Whole factories are run by them. One engine factory in a suburb of Tokyo employs a small crew of human workmen during the day. At the end of the day robots take over the work and toil tirelessly throughout the night under the supervision of a lone overseer.
And for Education, Too!
The pocket teaching computer will soon be upon us in full force. Computer developers are starting to pump major sums of money into investigating the nature of the teaching process. The avowed purpose is to develop powerful computer programs for education at all levels. Computers can be programmed in any subject to allow remedial work for slower learners and allow fast learners to proceed at their own pace. Computers can allow science teachers, for instance, to present in a classroom knowledge or experiments that would otherwise be too expensive, or dangerous. Fierce competition by computer developers worldwide, along with mass microchip production, is rapidly cutting small computer costs. For the first time in history the microcomputer offers the average middle-class person in developed nations the opportunity to reach beyond their limited experience and education and link into massive data and information bases. The United States and Japan are working on microchips for computers that will each hold a million words, something like the contents of a small encyclopedia. The information being squeezed onto computer chips is so rapidly developing that some developers say whole books or libraries could be placed on a chip or two. Already developed is a machine that uses an electronic scanner and a speech synthesizer. It can satisfactorily read aloud 200 different type faces of printed material — books, magazines, letters — at 250 words per minute. While yet fairly costly (around $30,000), this development makes it possible for a blind person to read in privacy almost anything desired. Translating languages is another area of attempted computer application. So far the nuances and idioms of human languages and dialects have proven full of pitfalls for computers. However, concepts and terminology used in the scientific world are more precise and universally understood by scientists. It is envisioned that international communications satellites (computer controlled) could allow more rapid translation and communications at least between scientists of different nations.
Yet Other Trends
The small computer has important economic advantages. First, small computers consume insignificant
Computer developers say we are at the dawn of the supersmart machine.... Already industrial robots are taking over dangerous, emotionally boring or highly repetitive assembly line jobs. Whole factories are run by them.
amounts of cheap raw materials (silicon comes from sand). They consume minute amounts of power (they can run on small dry batteries) and they require inches instead of miles of electric wires as in older computers. Mass production and fierce competition make them cheaper and cheaper. Lastly, they are extremely portable and can be put to endless uses. Computer developers realize if computer markets are to grow, computers must be "friendly," easy to use instead of seeming complex. There is a new thrust to more "user friendly" languages — words familiar to the average person that can be typed in to initiate computer responses. Already some white collar employees work out of their homes with home computer terminals. They write and communicate to central offices or to other employees across the nation almost instantaneously. This trend by itself could revolutionize the way much business is handled. Another application could find students opting for home learning by computer, instead of going into an unsavory or costly school environment. But the computer, here, treats only the effect. Computer technology cannot change the bad classroom environment because it cannot be programmed to resolve moral and spiritual problems. One computer specialist foresees that, given the incentive of 100 million or more customers, the price of rooftop satellite communications dishes and antennas for computers could drop to $100, making them as common as television antennas today.
There seems almost no limit to the application by the human mind of computer technology. In the medical field it is predicted computers will increasingly be used to help doctors quickly compute diagnoses and treatment of human ailments. Some foresee implantable microprocessors controlling artificial organs such as pancreas, or kidneys; or micro-pumps controlled by microprocessors regulating faulty heart or circulatory valves. This, of course, is only treating effect, not the causes of diseases. Some developers predict that all electrical signals produced in the body will soon be collected and analyzed by doctors in the same hand-held computer. "Someday we will attach a computer directly to the nervous system.... That is the clear direction of research and development," reported Computers '82 (Mechanix Illustrated Home Service Series, Number 3, p. 23). What's also contemplated by medical science is a pea-sized computer implanted in the flesh of a doctor. This miniscule computer will allow, for example, computer information to be synchronized with the doctor's brain waves and put computer information into his or her mind whenever spare mental capacity is available. "Don't imagine that this evolution can be outlawed. The first brain surgeon able to engage a tight instantaneous link with his medical library and other surgeons while he is operating will lead the way for all other surgeons to follow" (ibid). That's what the new technology is leading men of science to anticipate — but the computer cannot prevent the need of the surgeon to operate since computers cannot force people to stay healthy!
New Entertainment Craze
In the area of entertainment, computer driven games are already being programmed to provide ever more scintillating — and temporary — heights of realism and excitement. Whereas television is largely passive entertainment, new computer entertainment allows a person to interact with and affect the outcome of programmed stories — such as a moon-landing, or a famous war battle, or a love scene. For many people such entertainment is becoming a major hobby and a consuming passion. One can already purchase programmed novels where after the program presents the major part of the novel, you join in, talking by computer with the other characters. Your responses and answers determine how characters in the novel react and how the novel ends. Imagine the involvement of those who would immerse themselves in the plot and outcome of famous movies like King Kong, or in a detective mystery with Sherlock Holmes. Or in some grossly perverted use, such as a lurid sex scene where viewers experiment with all kinds of possible outcomes. (Don't think the latter won't happen. Pornographic tapes already constitute a big share of the present videotape market!)
No Computer Millennium!
Now consider the social dislocations produced by the Computer Revolution — especially in jobs. On this matter, science has no sure answers. On one hand, new technology produced by computers could create an enormous variety of new products and jobs. But the catch is the job openings would only be available to those willing to make rapid changes in employment and learning. Such a transformation carries the seeds of economic dislocation and social unrest for those who won't or can't adapt. "For those who are informed [about computers] employment opportunities will be prodigal, while those who remain ignorant,
By 1985, according to one estimate, 75 percent of jobs in the United States will involve computers in some way. People who don't know how to use them will be at a major disadvantage.
resistant or unwilling to learn will find the world an alarmingly alien place" (The Micro Millennium, by Christopher Evans, page 104). By 1985, according to one estimate, 75 percent of jobs in the United States will involve computers in some way. People who don't know how to use them will be at a major disadvantage. Others worry about computer criminals. Already computer thieves rip off millions of dollars by breaking computer codes. The average computer theft involves around a half million dollars, making ordinary theft seem petty. Computers also open the way for serious intrusion by others into matters of privacy. Already many transactions and details of individuals' personal lives are stored in various public or government data banks. "We're fooling around with things so new that we can't even predict what they might be used for," said one microelectronics physicist recently.
One avenue scientists are now involved in is building super-cooled semiconductors that can conduct electricity 30 times faster than today's silicon chips. That permits pushing computers to higher speeds. Faster electrons mean higher frequencies. The military hopes to develop satellites and communications with frequencies so high that no earthbound or enemy forces could listen in to military planning. Today's modern armies are extensively electronic armies. Weapons designers are pushing the outer limits of all microelectronic technology. They are producing more and more sophisticated "smart" bombs, missiles, planes, tanks, guns and lasers. The Soviet Union and the United States are locked in an electronics warfare superiority race. The Soviets are known to be stealing much advanced Western microelectronics technology. A major breakthrough in this race could be decisive in any future war. As modern nations move more and more into dependence on micro-circuitry, human life support systems can more easily be knocked out by strategically targeted nuclear blasts. Jesus Christ foresaw these consequences when he prophesied, "... except those days should be shortened, there should no flesh be saved [alive]" (Matthew 24:22). But God will not allow this to happen. He will send Jesus Christ with power to intervene in world affairs to prevent mankind from using its incredible technology to totally annihilate all humanity! We shall have peace at last, and prosperity. And the incredible potential of the human mind will be redirected into the way of love and give, instead of today's way of competition and selfishness. What a wonderful world that will be.