Science in Christian Perspective

Letter to the Editor

The Computer Revolution

From: JASA 19 (June 1967): 60.

A few comments on Dr. L. H. Williams' article "A Christian View of the Computer Revolution", (Vol. 8, No. 2, June 1966).

In principal the digital computer is a simple device, yet it would not be an unreasonable modification in the use of words to describe its capability as "mental capacity." We must, however, recognize that a human who could do no more would be properly classed as an imbecile. The computer can compare two symbols and say they are alike or differ. If in numeric mode it identifies the larger. It can add a positive or negative one to any given number. It might have emory capacity for a few hundred or millions of symbols.

We might say that a computer is an imbecile but an incredibly fast one with perfect recall.

Man has been able to use it to solve such problems as extracting a root to any power only because man has been able to reduce such problems to an iterative sequence of additions and comparisons. It is man's ability to reduce complex problems to simple iterative sequences that makes the computer a valuable tool. In iteration, because of its speed and accuracy it can significantly out-perform man.

There is no more reason for man to fear the computer as "unfair competition" than there was for him in the past to fear that the animal beasts of burden and later the machine would put him out of work. Both are capable of out-performing man within narrow limits and, at times have given some new problems of re adjustment. Those men have prepared themselves  to take advantage of their  unique capabilities have never suffered from this competition. Man's unique versatility has always ensured his usefulness.

It seems to me that any Christian should have complete confidence that "being made in God's image" absolutely guarantees against our obsolescence if we will make use of our God-given talents. To consider any tool man can develop as capable of obsoleting man is to dishonor God in whose image man is made.

That man has been able to develop a computer means that we are closer to the day when machines will be the adequate slaves of men. Yet with perfect machine slaves, man has great need for service from his fellow man.

When man seeks to honor God and serve his fellow man, the computer is another effective tool to improve that service. it will never justify man's compensation for non-service.

Frank Kapple,
Assistant Professor of Economics,
Wheaton College,