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How did Computers take over the World?



'Raffiniert ist der Herr Gott aber Boshaft ist er nicht' Princeton, 1921, Einstein; 'Nature conceals her secrets in the sublimity of her law, not through cunning'. Einstein gave us us the fabric of the Universe which his General Theory of Relativity states is deformed by matter and produces gravity; his Special Theory of Relativity allows observations from differently moving objects to be compared with each other. Einstein warned President Roosevelt against nuclear weapons.


The German takeover of Europe ensured Hungarian polymaths Johnny von Neumann and Eugene Wigner, and many east Europeans were recruited to Princeton USA in the 1930s to commence working on early computers. Leibnitz in 1697 believed in universal digital coding, infinite complexity from finite rules.


ENIAC, MANIAC and then the IAS computer - became operational in 1951 - ensured that by the 1960s functional computers were being used to calculate how atomic bombs and ultimately the Hydrogen bomb could be operated safely. Codes, now called apps, proliferated to the digital universe where time does not now exist. Alan Turing and von Neumann met in the US and their input was much appreciated. 'Instead of trying to produce a program to simulate the adult mind, why not produce one which simulates the child's mind, allowing machines to make more choices or decisions.' - Turing.


In biology the instructions say, 'Do this with the next copy of THAT which comes along.' THAT is a molecular template that identifies a larger complex molecule by some smaller identifiable part, this is why living organisms are composed of microscopic cells close together easily transferring material. Computers, through coding, replicate the molecular aspect of living organisms.


Thermonuclear reactions in an atomic bomb are over in billionths of a second, while thermonuclear reactions in a star play out over billions of years, both time scales, beyond human comprehension, the amount of numerical computation is immense. von Neumann invited Schwarzschild to use his MANIAC computer for his computations. Bigelow another computer specialist stated 'It was a system of on and off binary gates. a modern general purpose computer keeps track of events.'


Hannes Alfvén in the Tale of the big Computer: A Vision, 1968 wrote about computers and their subsequent domination of life on Earth. Eventually in this story, humans took control of the network for themselves. Society was slowly reconstructed from the downed network. On recovery, man was excluded from control. This book is long forgotten. A salutary tale follows:- Data centres and server farms are proliferating in rural areas. Android phones with Bluetooth headsets are not far from neural implants, unemployment is pandemic for those not working on the machines. Facebook defines who we are, Amazon tells us what we want, Google defines what we think. 'How much human life can we absorb?' 'Google wants to be the third part of your brain!' - Google founder Sergei Brin.


Google's HQ in California gathered all available answers, inviting all possible questions, and, mapping the results. Turings 1950 comment computers being 'mansions for the souls that He creates' comes to mind.'


First generation electronic computers fostered first generation nuclear weapons, and next generation computers fostered next generation nuclear weapons, a cycle that culminated in the Internet, the microprocessor, and the multiple warhead ICBM.


Where next? Cybernetic humans?


Source: Turing's Cathedral, The Origin of the Digital Universe, Penguin, 2012


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