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Computer Quotes (127 quotes)


... in real life mistakes are likely to be irrevocable. Computer simulation, however, makes it economically practical to make mistakes on purpose. If you are astute, therefore, you can learn much more than they cost. Furthermore, if you are at all discreet, no one but you need ever know you made a mistake.
With co-author John Osborn, in Natural Automata and Useful Simulations edited by H. H. Pattee et al. (1966).
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Dilbert: Wow! According to my computer simulation, it should be possible to create new life forms from common household chemicals
Dogbert: This raises some thorny issues.
Dilbert: You mean legal, ethical and religious issues?
Dogbert: I was thinking about parking spaces.
Dilbert comic strip (31 May 1989).
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A computer lets you make more mistakes faster than any invention in human history—with the possible exceptions of handguns and tequila.
…...
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A fear of intellectual inadequacy, of powerlessness before the tireless electronic wizards, has given rise to dozens of science-fiction fantasies of computer takeovers. ... Other scientists too are apprehensive. D. Raj Reddy, a computer scientist at Pittsburgh’s Carnegie-Mellon University, fears that universally available microcomputers could turn into formidable weapons. Among other things, says Reddy, sophisticated computers in the wrong hands could begin subverting a society by tampering with people’s relationships with their own computers—instructing the other computers to cut off telephone, bank and other services, for example.
Magazine
An early prediction of DDoS (Distributed Denial of Service), viruses and worms like Stuxnet. As stated, without further citation, in 'The Age of Miracle Chips', Time (20 Feb 1978), 44. The article introduces a special section on 'The Computer Society.' Please contact Webmaster if you know a primary source.
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A human being should be able to change a diaper, plan an invasion, butcher a hog, conn a ship, design a building, write a sonnet, balance accounts, build a wall, set a bone, comfort the dying, take orders, give orders, cooperate, act alone, solve equations, analyze a new problem, pitch manure, program a computer, cook a tasty meal, fight efficiently, die gallantly. Specialization is for insects.
In Time Enough for Love: The Lives of Lazarus Long (1973), 265.
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A multidisciplinary study group ... estimated that it would be 1980 before developments in artificial intelligence make it possible for machines alone to do much thinking or problem solving of military significance. That would leave, say, five years to develop man-computer symbiosis and 15 years to use it. The 15 may be 10 or 500, but those years should be intellectually the most creative and exciting in the history of mankind.
From article 'Man-Computer Symbiosis', in IRE Transactions on Human Factors in Electronics (Mar 1960), Vol. HFE-1, 4-11.
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All sorts of computer errors are now turning up. You'd be surprised to know the number of doctors who claim they are treating pregnant men.
Anonymous
Official of the Quebec Health Insurance Board, on Use of Computers in Quebec Province's Comprehensive Medical-care system. F. 19, 4:5. In Barbara Bennett and Linda Amster, Who Said What (and When, and Where, and How) in 1971: December-June, 1971 (1972), Vol. 1, 38. (Later sources cite Isaac Asimov.)
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All stable processes we shall predict. All unstable processes we shall control.
Describing John von Neumann's aspiration for the application of computers sufficiently large to solve the problems of meteorology, despite the sensitivity of the weather to small perturbations.
Infinite in All Directions (2004), 182. Dyson wrote his recollection of a talk given by Neumann at Princeton around 1950. The words are not a direct quotation, merely Dyson's description of Neumann's idea.
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Among the current discussions, the impact of new and sophisticated methods in the study of the past occupies an important place. The new 'scientific' or 'cliometric' history—born of the marriage contracted between historical problems and advanced statistical analysis, with economic theory as bridesmaid and the computer as best man—has made tremendous advances in the last generation.
Co-author with Geoffrey Rudolph Elton (1921-94), British historian. Which Road to the Past? Two Views of History (1983), 2.
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Artificial intelligence is based on the assumption that the mind can be described as some kind of formal system manipulating symbols that stand for things in the world. Thus it doesn't matter what the brain is made of, or what it uses for tokens in the great game of thinking. Using an equivalent set of tokens and rules, we can do thinking with a digital computer, just as we can play chess using cups, salt and pepper shakers, knives, forks, and spoons. Using the right software, one system (the mind) can be mapped onto the other (the computer).
Machinery of the Mind: Inside the New Science of Artificial Intelligence (1986), 250.
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Besides electrical engineering theory of the transmission of messages, there is a larger field [cybernetics] which includes not only the study of language but the study of messages as a means of controlling machinery and society, the development of computing machines and other such automata, certain reflections upon psychology and the nervous system, and a tentative new theory of scientific method.
In Cybernetics (1948).
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Computer science is no more about computers than astronomy is about telescopes, biology is about microscopes or chemistry is about beakers and test tubes. Science is not about tools. It is about how we use them, and what we find out when we do.
In G. Michael Schneider, Judith L. Gersting, Sara Baase, An invitation to Computer Science: Java version (2000), 2.
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Computer science … jobs should be way more interesting than even going to Wall Street or being a lawyer--or, I can argue, than anything but perhaps biology, and there it’s just a tie.
From interview (24 May 2004) in Scientific American (Jun 2004), 45.
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Computers and rocket ships are examples of invention, not of understanding. … All that is needed to build machines is the knowledge that when one thing happens, another thing happens as a result. It’s an accumulation of simple patterns. A dog can learn patterns. There is no “why” in those examples. We don’t understand why electricity travels. We don’t know why light travels at a constant speed forever. All we can do is observe and record patterns.
In God's Debris: A Thought Experiment (2004), 22.
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Computers are better than we are at arithmetic, not because computers are so good at it, but because we are so bad at it.
Epigraph in Isaac Asimov’s Book of Science and Nature Quotations (1988), 51.
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Computers are better than we are at arithmetic, not because computers are so good at it, but because we are so bad at it.
Epigraph in Isaac Asimov’s Book of Science and Nature Quotations (1988), 51.
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Computers are composed of nothing more than logic gates stretched out to the horizon in a vast numerical irrigation system.
In State of the Art: A Photographic History of the Integrated Circuit (1983), vii.
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Computers are fantastic. In a few moments they can make a mistake so great that it would take many men many months to equal it.
As quoted, without citation, in Laurence J. Peter, The Peter Prescription: How to be Creative, Confident & Competent (1972).
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Computers are incredibly fast, accurate and stupid. Human beings are incredibly slow, inaccurate and brilliant. Together they are powerful beyond imagination.
…...
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Computers are useless. They can only give you answers.
This is a commonly seen paraphrase from his comment on mechanical brains. Originally quoted as “But they are useless. They can only give you answers,” in interview article by William Fifield, 'Pablo Picasso: A Composite Interview', in The Paris Review 32 (Summer-Fall 1964), 62. Describing the interview, Fifield himself set the context as “enormous new mechanical brains or calculating machines.” (These are now called computers.) Collected in William Fifield, In Search of Genius (1982), 145. As identified on the quoteinvestigator.com website. It is the paraphrase that is now more often seen, in for example, Herman Feshbach, 'Reflections on the Microprocessor Revolution: A Physicist’s Viewpoint', in Bruce M. Adkins (ed.), Man and Technology (1983), 100.
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Computers may soon replace many people who work with their minds, but nothing yet can replace that finest physical tool of all, the human hand.
In Best of Sydney J. Harris (1976), 82.
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Could Hamlet have been written by a committee, or the “Mona Lisa” painted by a club? Could the New Testament have been composed as a conference report? Creative ideas do not spring from groups. They spring from individuals. The divine spark leaps from the finger of God to the finger of Adam, whether it takes ultimate shape in a law of physics or a law of the land, a poem or a policy, a sonata or a mechanical computer.
Baccalaureate address (9 Jun 1957), Yale University. In In the University Tradition (1957), 156.
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Earlier this week … scientists announced the completion of a task that once seemed unimaginable; and that is, the deciphering of the entire DNA sequence of the human genetic code. This amazing accomplishment is likely to affect the 21st century as profoundly as the invention of the computer or the splitting of the atom affected the 20th century. I believe that the 21st century will be the century of life sciences, and nothing makes that point more clearly than this momentous discovery. It will revolutionize medicine as we know it today.
Senate Session, Congressional Record (29 Jun 2000) Vol. 146, No 85, S6050.
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Electronic aids, particularly domestic computers, will help the inner migration, the opting out of reality. Reality is no longer going to be the stuff out there, but the stuff inside your head. It's going to be commercial and nasty at the same time, like 'Rite of Spring' in Disney's Fantasia ... our internal devils may destroy and renew us through the technological overload we've invoked.
Interview in Heavy Metal (Apr 1971). Reprinted in Re/Search, No. 8/9 (1984).
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First were mainframes, each shared by lots of people. Now we are in the personal computing era, person and machine staring uneasily at each other across the desktop. Next comes ubiquitous computing, or the age of calm technology, when technology recedes into the background of our lives.
From biography on University of California, Berkeley, website.
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Five centuries ago the printing press sparked a radical reshaping of the nature of education. By bringing a master’s words to those who could not hear a master’s voice, the technology of printing dissolved the notion that education must be reserved for those with the means to hire personal tutors. Today we are approaching a new technological revolution, one whose impact on education may be as far-reaching as that of the printing press: the emergence of powerful computers that are sufficiently inexpensive to be used by students for learning, play and exploration. It is our hope that these powerful but simple tools for creating and exploring richly interactive environments will dissolve the barriers to the production of knowledge as the printing press dissolved the barriers to its transmission.
As co-author with A.A. diSessa, from 'Preface', Turtle Geometry: The Computer as a Medium for Exploring Mathematics (1986), xiii.
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FORTRAN —’the infantile disorder’—, by now nearly 20 years old, is hopelessly inadequate for whatever computer application you have in mind today: it is now too clumsy, too risky, and too expensive to use. PL/I —’the fatal disease’— belongs more to the problem set than to the solution set. It is practically impossible to teach good programming to students that have had a prior exposure to BASIC: as potential programmers they are mentally mutilated beyond hope of regeneration. The use of COBOL cripples the mind; its teaching should, therefore, be regarded as a criminal offence. APL is a mistake, carried through to perfection. It is the language of the future for the programming techniques of the past: it creates a new generation of coding bums.
…...
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FORTRAN, ‘the infantile disorder’, by now nearly 20 years old, is hopelessly inadequate for whatever computer application you have in mind today: it is now too clumsy, too risky, and too expensive to use.
…...
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From packaging materials, through fibers, foams and surface coatings, to continuous extrusions and large-scale moldings, plastics have transformed almost every aspect of life. Without them, much of modern medicine would be impossible and the consumer electronics and computer industries would disappear. Plastic sewage and water pipes alone have made an immeasurable contribution to public health worldwide.
'Plastics—No Need To Apologize', Trends in Polymer Science (Jun 1996), 4, 172. In Paul C. Painter and Michael M. Coleman, Essentials of Polymer Science and Engineering (2008), 21.
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Human personality resembles a coral reef: a large hard/dead structure built and inhabited by tiny soft/live animals. The hard/dead part of our personality consists of habits, memories, and compulsions and will probably be explained someday by some sort of extended computer metaphor. The soft/live part of personality consists of moment-to-moment direct experience of being. This aspect of personality is familiar but somewhat ineffable and has eluded all attempts at physical explanation.
Quoted in article 'Nick Herbert', in Gale Cengage Learning, Contemporary Authors Online (2002).
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I cannot do it without Compters.
In A Winter’s Tale (1623), Act 4, Scene 3. [Note: a compter is a round piece of metal used for counting - a simple computer!]
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I do not fear computers. I fear the lack of them.
As quoted, without further citation, in 'The Age of Miracle Chips', Time (20 Feb 1978), 45. The article introduces a special section on 'The Computer Society.' Please contact Webmaster if you know an earlier, primary source.
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I don't see why religion and science can't cooperate. What's wrong with using a computer to count our blessings?
In Ashton Applewhite, William R. Evans and Andrew Frothingham, And I Quote (2003), 108.
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I know few significant questions of public policy which can safely be confided to computers. In the end, the hard decisions inescapably involve imponderables of intuition, prudence, and judgment.
From Address to the Centennial Convocation of the National Academy of Sciences (22 Oct 1963), 'A Century of Scientific Conquest.' Online at The American Presidency Project.
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I regard the brain as a computer which will stop working when its components fail. There is no heaven or afterlife for broken down computers; that is a fairy story for people afraid of the dark.
'Stephen Hawking: "There is no heaven; it's a fairy story"', interview in newspaper The Guardian (15 May 2011).
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I talk to myself through the computer. I ask myself questions, leave things to be looked at again, things that you would do with a notepad. It turns out today that it’s much better today to do with a personal computer rather than a notepad.
In transcript of a video history interview with Seymour Cray by David K. Allison at the National Museum of American History, Smithsonian Institution, (9 May 1995), 30.
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I think that there is a world market for about five computers.
Quoted in C. Cerf and V. Navasky (eds.), The Experts Speak (1984), 208.
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I would like to emphasize strongly my belief that the era of computing chemists, when hundreds if not thousands of chemists will go to the computing machine instead of the laboratory for increasingly many facets of chemical information, is already at hand. There is only one obstacle, namely that someone must pay for the computing time.
'Spectroscopy, Molecular Orbitals, and Chemical Bonding', Nobel Lecture (12 Dec 1966). In Nobel Lectures: Chemistry 1963-1970 (1972), 159.
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If a train station is where the train stops, what is a work station?
Anonymous
In Andrew Davison, Humour the Computer (1995), 36.
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If arithmetical skill is the measure of intelligence, then computers have been more intelligent than all human beings all along. If the ability to play chess is the measure, then there are computers now in existence that are more intelligent than any but a very few human beings. However, if insight, intuition, creativity, the ability to view a problem as a whole and guess the answer by the “feel” of the situation, is a measure of intelligence, computers are very unintelligent indeed. Nor can we see right now how this deficiency in computers can be easily remedied, since human beings cannot program a computer to be intuitive or creative for the very good reason that we do not know what we ourselves do when we exercise these qualities.
In Machines That Think (1983).
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If patterns of ones and zeros were “like” patterns of human lives and death, if everything about an individual could be represented in a computer record by a long string of ones and zeros, then what kind of creature would be represented by a long string of lives and deaths?
Vineland (1900, 1997), 90.
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If there had been a computer in 1872 it would have predicted that by now there would be so many horse-drawn vehicles that the entire surface of the earth would be ten feet deep in horse manure.
Karl Kapp
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If you don’t know anything about computers, just remember that they are machines that do exactly what you tell them but often surprise you in the result.
The Blind Watchmaker (1996), 51.
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In a few minutes a computer can make a mistake so great that it would have taken many men many months to equal.
Anonymous
In Civilization's Quotations: Life's Ideal (2002), 315.
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In place of infinity we usually put some really big number, like 15.
Perhaps referring to the programmer’s hexadecimal counting scheme which has 16 digits (0-9 followed by digits A-F), useful in binary context as a power of 2.
Anonymous
Attributed to a Computer Science Professor on various web pages. Webmaster has found no print source for this wording and comments, but its originality makes it worthy of inclusion here. Webmaster comments: perhaps one of those infinite number of monkeys typed it! Please make contact if you know a primary print source.
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In the same sense that our judicial system presumes us to be innocent until proven guilty, a medical care system may work best if it starts with the presumption that most people are healthy. Left to themselves, computers may try to do it in the opposite way, taking it as given that some sort of direct, continual, professional intervention is required all the time, in order to maintain the health of each citizen, and we will end up spending all our money on nothing but this.
In 'Aspects of Biomedical Science Policy', The New England Journal of Medicine (12 Oct 1972), 4. Also published as Occasional Paper of the Institute of Medicine.
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It always bothers me that according to the laws as we understand them today, it takes a computing machine an infinite number of logical operations to figure out what goes on in no matter how tiny a region of space and no matter how tiny a region of time … I have often made the hypothesis that ultimately physics will not require a mathematical statement, that in the end the machinery will be revealed and the laws will turn out to be simple, like the chequer board with all its apparent complexities. But this speculation is of the same nature as those other people make—“I like it”,“I don't like it”—and it is not good to be too prejudiced about these things.
In The Character of Physical Law (1965, 2001), 57.
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It has been said that computing machines can only carry out the processes that they are instructed to do. This is certainly true in the sense that if they do something other than what they were instructed then they have just made some mistake. It is also true that the intention in constructing these machines in the first instance is to treat them as slaves, giving them only jobs which have been thought out in detail, jobs such that the user of the machine fully understands what in principle is going on all the time. Up till the present machines have only been used in this way. But is it necessary that they should always be used in such a manner? Let us suppose we have set up a machine with certain initial instruction tables, so constructed that these tables might on occasion, if good reason arose, modify those tables. One can imagine that after the machine had been operating for some time, the instructions would have altered out of all recognition, but nevertheless still be such that one would have to admit that the machine was still doing very worthwhile calculations. Possibly it might still be getting results of the type desired when the machine was first set up, but in a much more efficient manner. In such a case one would have to admit that the progress of the machine had not been foreseen when its original instructions were put in. It would be like a pupil who had learnt much from his master, but had added much more by his own work. When this happens I feel that one is obliged to regard the machine as showing intelligence.
Lecture to the London Mathematical Society, 20 February 1947. Quoted in B. E. Carpenter and R. W. Doran (eds.), A. M. Turing's Ace Report of 1946 and Other Papers (1986), 122-3.
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It is going to be necessary that everything that happens in a finite volume of space and time would have to be analyzable with a finite number of logical operations. The present theory of physics is not that way, apparently. It allows space to go down into infinitesimal distances, wavelengths to get infinitely great, terms to be summed in infinite order, and so forth; and therefore, if this proposition [that physics is computer-simulatable] is right, physical law is wrong.
International Journal of Theoretical Physics (1982), 21 Nos. 6-7, 468. Quoted in Brian Rotman, Mathematics as Sign (2000), 82.
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It is not enough that a few brilliant men can create computers to “think” for us; for the greatest thinking machine is inside each of us.
In Best of Sydney J. Harris (1976), 82.
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It would be very discouraging if somewhere down the line you could ask a computer if the Riemann hypothesis is correct and it said, “Yes, it is true, but you won’t be able to understand the proof.”
As quoted in John Horgan, 'The Death of Proof', Scientific American (Oct 1993), 269, No. 4, 103.
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It’s important for students to be put in touch with real-world problems. The curriculum should include computer science. Mathematics should include statistics. The curriculums should really adjust.
From address at a conference on Google campus, co-hosted with Common Sense Media and the Joan Ganz Cooney Center at Sesame Workshop 'Breakthrough Learning in the Digital Age'. As quoted in Technology blog report by Dan Fost, 'Google co-founder Sergey Brin wants more computers in schools', Los Angeles Times (28 Oct 2009). On latimesblogs.latimes.com website. As quoted, without citation, in Can Akdeniz, Fast MBA (2014), 280.
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Leaving aside genetic surgery applied humans, I foresee that the coming century will place in our hands two other forms of biological technology which are less dangerous but still revolutionary enough to transform the conditions of our existence. I count these new technologies as powerful allies in the attack on Bernal's three enemies. I give them the names “biological engineering” and “self-reproducing machinery.” Biological engineering means the artificial synthesis of living organisms designed to fulfil human purposes. Self-reproducing machinery means the imitation of the function and reproduction of a living organism with non-living materials, a computer-program imitating the function of DNA and a miniature factory imitating the functions of protein molecules. After we have attained a complete understanding of the principles of organization and development of a simple multicellular organism, both of these avenues of technological exploitation should be open to us.
From 3rd J.D. Bernal Lecture, Birkbeck College London (16 May 1972), The World, the Flesh and the Devil (1972), 6. Collected in The Scientist as Rebel (2006), 292. (The World, the Flesh & the Devil: An Enquiry into the Future of the Three Enemies of the Rational Soul is the title of a book by J. D Bernal, a scientist who pioneered X-ray crystallography.)
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Man is not a machine, ... although man most certainly processes information, he does not necessarily process it in the way computers do. Computers and men are not species of the same genus. .... No other organism, and certainly no computer, can be made to confront genuine human problems in human terms. ... However much intelligence computers may attain, now or in the future, theirs must always be an intelligence alien to genuine human problems and concerns.
Computer Power and Human Reason: From Judgment to Calculation, (1976) 203 and 223. Also excerpted in Ronald Chrisley (ed.), Artificial Intelligence: Critical Concepts (2000), Vol. 3, 313 and 321. Note that the second ellipsis spans 8 pages.
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Man is still the most extraordinary computer of all.
Remarks upon presenting the NASA Distinguished Service Medal to astronaut L. Gordon Cooper, in the Flower Garden, at the White House, Washington, D.C. (21 May 1963). From John T. Woolley and Gerhard Peters, The American Presidency Project [online].
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Mathematics as we practice it is much more formally complete and precise than other sciences, but it is much less formally complete and precise for its content than computer programs.
In 'On Proof and Progress in Mathematics', For the Learning of Mathematics (Feb 1995), 15, No. 1, 33. Reprinted from Bulletin of the American Mathematical Society (1994), 30, No. 2, 170.
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Mechanical Notation ... I look upon it as one of the most important additions I have made to human knowledge. It has placed the construction of machinery in the rank of a demonstrative science. The day will arrive when no school of mechanical drawing will be thought complete without teaching it.
Passages From the Life of a Philosopher (1864), 452.
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Men are noisy, narrow-band devices, but their nervous systems have very many parallel and simultaneously active channels. Relative to men, computing machines are very fast and very accurate, but they are constrained to perform only one or a few elementary operations at a time. Men are flexible, capable of “programming themselves contingently” on the basis of newly received information. Computing machines are single-minded, constrained by their “pre-programming.”
From article 'Man-Computer Symbiosis', in IRE Transactions on Human Factors in Electronics (Mar 1960), Vol. HFE-1, 4-11.
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No one who has experienced the intense involvement of computer modeling would deny that the temptation exists to use any data input that will enable one to continue playing what is perhaps the ultimate game of solitaire.
Gaia: A New Look at Life on Earth (1979), 137-8.
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One may be a mathematician of the first rank without being able to compute. It is possible to be a great computer without having the slightest idea of mathematics.
In Schriften, Zweiter Teil (1901), 223.
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Only six electronic digital computers would be required to satisfy the computing needs of the entire United States.
(1947). As quoted, without citation, as an epigraph in Jeremy M. Norman, From Gutenberg to the Internet: A Sourcebook on the History of Information Technology (2007), Vol. 2, 3.
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Our current estimates are that in January ’98, there were 30 million computers on the Net, and about 70 million users. I’m projecting somewhere between 100 million and 200 million computers by the end of December 2000, and about 300 million users by that same time.
From interview with Jonathan Yenkin, 'An Internet Pioneer Finds The View Amazing As More Trails Are Cleared', Chicago Tribune (22 Apr 1998)
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Part of the inhumanity of the computer is that, once it is competently programmed and working smoothly, it is completely honest.
In Change! (1983). Quoted in Reader's Digest (1987), 131, Nos. 783-787, 1.
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People in the computer industry use the term ‘user,’ which to them means ‘idiot.’.
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Perhaps some day in the dim future it will be possible to advance the computations faster than the weather advances and at a cost less than the saving to mankind due to the information gained. But that is a dream.
Weather Prediction by Numerical Process (1922), 66. Quoted in Peter Lynch, The Emergence of Numerical Weather Prediction (2006), vii.
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Perhaps the central problem we face in all of computer science is how we are to get to the situation where we build on top of the work of others rather than redoing so much of it in a trivially different way.
From Turing Award lecture (1968), 'One Man's View of Computer Science', collected in ACM Turing Award Lectures: The First Twenty Years, 1966 to 1985 (1987), 216. ACM is the Association for Computing Machinery. The lecture is also published in Journal of the ACM (Jan 1969), 16, No. 1, 10.
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Science has hitherto been proceeding without the guidance of any rational theory of logic, and has certainly made good progress. It is like a computer who is pursuing some method of arithmetical approximation. Even if he occasionally makes mistakes in his ciphering, yet if the process is a good one they will rectify themselves. But then he would approximate much more rapidly if he did not commit these errors; and in my opinion, the time has come when science ought to be provided with a logic. My theory satisfies me; I can see no flaw in it. According to that theory universality, necessity, exactitude, in the absolute sense of these words, are unattainable by us, and do not exist in nature. There is an ideal law to which nature approximates; but to express it would require an endless series of modifications, like the decimals expressing surd. Only when you have asked a question in so crude a shape that continuity is not involved, is a perfectly true answer attainable.
Letter to G. F. Becker, 11 June 1893. Merrill Collection, Library of Congress. Quoted in Nathan Reingold, Science in Nineteenth-Century America: A Documentary History (1966), 231-2.
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Science is in a literal sense constructive of new facts. It has no fixed body of facts passively awaiting explanation, for successful theories allow the construction of new instruments—electron microscopes and deep space probes—and the exploration of phenomena that were beyond description—the behavior of transistors, recombinant DNA, and elementary particles, for example. This is a key point in the progressive nature of science—not only are there more elegant or accurate analyses of phenomena already known, but there is also extension of the range of phenomena that exist to be described and explained.
Co-author with Michael A. Arbib, English-born professor of computer science and biomedical engineering (1940-)
Michael A. Arbib and Mary B. Hesse, The Construction of Reality (1986), 8.
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Science is what we understand well enough to explain to a computer. Art is everything else we do.
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Simple molecules combine to make powerful chemicals. Simple cells combine to make powerful life-forms. Simple electronics combine to make powerful computers. Logically, all things are created by a combination of simpler, less capable components. Therefore, a supreme being must be in our future, not our origin. What if “God” is the consciousness that will be created when enough of us are connected by the Internet?!!
Thoughts by character Dogbert in Dilbert cartoon strip (11 Feb 1996).
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Since [World War I] we have seen the atomic age, the computer age, the space age, and the bio-engineering age, each as epochal as the Bronze Age, the Iron Age, the Renaissance and the Industrial Revolution. And all these have occurred in one generation. Man has stood on the moon and looked back on the earth, that small planet now reduced to a neighbourhood. But our material achievements have exceeded the managerial capacities of our human minds and institutions.
As quoted in Colin Bingham (ed.), Wit and Wisdom: A Public Affairs Miscellany (1982), 227.
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Speaking of libraries: A big open-stack academic or public library is no small pleasure to work in. You’re, say, trying to do a piece on something in Nevada, and you go down to C Floor, deep in the earth, and out to what a miner would call a remote working face. You find 10995.497S just where the card catalog and the online computer thought it would be, but that is only the initial nick. The book you knew about has led you to others you did not know about. To the ceiling the shelves are loaded with books about Nevada. You pull them down, one at a time, and sit on the floor and look them over until you are sitting on a pile five feet high, at which point you are late home for dinner and you get up and walk away. It’s an incomparable boon to research, all that; but it is also a reason why there are almost no large open-stack libraries left in the world.
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The Analytical Engine has no pretensions whatever to originate anything. It can do whatever we know how to order it to perform. It can follow analysis; but it has no power of anticipating any analytical relations or truths. Its province is to assist us to making available what we are already acquainted with.
[Describing Charles Babbage's machine.]
In her notes as translator, following her translation of I. F. Menabrea, 'Sketch of the Analytical Engine Invented by Charles Babbage, Esq.', (from Bibliothègue Universelle de Génève (Oct 1842), No. 82) in Richard Taylor (ed.), Scientific Memoirs (1843), 3, 722.
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The automatic computing engine now being designed at N. P. L. [National Physics Laboratory] is atypical large scale electronic digital computing machine. In a single lecture it will not be possible to give much technical detail of this machine, and most of what I shall say will apply equally to any other machine of this type now being planned. From the point of view of the mathematician the property of being digital should be of greater interest than that of being electronic. That it is electronic is certainly important because these machines owe their high speed to this, and without the speed it is doubtful if financial support for their construction would be forthcoming. But this is virtually all that there is to be said on that subject. That the machine is digital however has more subtle significance. It means firstly that numbers are represented by sequences of digits which can be as long as one wishes. One can therefore work to any desired degree of accuracy. This accuracy is not obtained by more careful machining of parts, control of temperature variations, and such means, but by a slight increase in the amount of equipment in the machine.
Lecture to the London Mathematical Society, 20 February 1947. Quoted in B. E. Carpenter and R. W. Doran (eds.), A. M. Turing's Ace Report of 1946 and Other Papers (1986), 106.
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The automatic computing engine now being designed at N.P.L. [National Physics Laboratory] is atypical large scale electronic digital computing machine. In a single lecture it will not be possible to give much technical detail of this machine, and most of what I shall say will apply equally to any other machine of this type now being planned. From the point of view of the mathematician the property of being digital should be of greater interest than that of being electronic. That it is electronic is certainly important because these machines owe their high speed to this, and without the speed it is doubtful if financial support for their construction would be forthcoming. But this is virtually all that there is to be said on that subject. That the machine is digital however has more subtle significance. It means firstly that numbers are represented by sequences of digits which can be as long as one wishes. One can therefore work to any desired degree of accuracy. This accuracy is not obtained by more careful machining of parts, control of temperature variations, and such means, but by a slight increase in the amount of equipment in the machine.
Lecture to the London Mathematical Society, 20 February 1947. Quoted in B. E. Carpenter and R. W. Doran (eds.), A. M. Turing's Ace Report of 1946 and Other Papers (1986), 106.
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The best answer to the question, “Will computers ever be as smart as humans?” is probably “Yes, but only briefly”.
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The burgeoning field of computer science has shifted our view of the physical world from that of a collection of interacting material particles to one of a seething network of information. In this way of looking at nature, the laws of physics are a form of software, or algorithm, while the material world—the hardware—plays the role of a gigantic computer.
'Laying Down the Laws', New Scientist. In Clifford A. Pickover, Archimedes to Hawking: Laws of Science and the Great Minds Behind Them (2008), 183.
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The cell phone has transformed public places into giant phone-a-thons in which callers exist within narcissistic cocoons of private conversations. Like faxes, computer modems and other modern gadgets that have clogged out lives with phony urgency, cell phones represent the 20th Century’s escalation of imaginary need. We didn’t need cell phones until we had them. Clearly, cell phones cause not only a breakdown of courtesy, but the atrophy of basic skills.
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The cloning of humans is on most of the lists of things to worry about from Science, along with behaviour control, genetic engineering, transplanted heads, computer poetry and the unrestrained growth of plastic flowers.
In The Medusa and the Snail: More Notes of a Biology Watcher (1979), 51.
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The computer is a great invention. There are as many mistakes as ever, but now they're nobody's fault.
Anonymous
In E.C. McKenzie, 14,000 Quips and Quotes for Speakers, Writers, Editors, Preachers, and Teachers (1990), 338.
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The computer is important, but not to mathematics.
From interview (1981) with Donald J. Albers. In John H. Ewing and Frederick W. Gehring, Paul Halmos Celebrating 50 Years of Mathematics (1991), 3.
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The computer takes up where psychoanalysis left off. It takes the ideas of a decentered self and makes it more concrete by modeling mind as a multiprocessing machine.
The Second Self, ch. 9 (1984). Turkle was on the faculty of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology's program in Science, Technology and Society.
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The construction of an analogue computer or a supersonic airplane is simple when compared to the mixture of space and evolutionary eons represented by a cell.
In 'The Wisdom of Wilderness', Life (22 Dec 1967), 63, No. 25, 10.
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The domain, over which the language of analysis extends its sway, is, indeed, relatively limited, but within this domain it so infinitely excels ordinary language that its attempt to follow the former must be given up after a few steps. The mathematician, who knows how to think in this marvelously condensed language, is as different from the mechanical computer as heaven from earth.
In Jahresberichte der Deutschen Mathematiker Vereinigung, 13, 367. As translated in Robert Édouard Moritz, Memorabilia Mathematica; Or, The Philomath’s Quotation-Book (1914), 197.
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The engineer is concerned to travel from the abstract to the concrete. He begins with an idea and ends with an object. He journeys from theory to practice. The scientist’s job is the precise opposite. He explores nature with his telescopes or microscopes, or much more sophisticated techniques, and feeds into a computer what he finds or sees in an attempt to define mathematically its significance and relationships. He travels from the real to the symbolic, from the concrete to the abstract. The scientist and the engineer are the mirror image of each other.
In The Development of Design (1981), 19-20.
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The goal of Computer Science is to build something that will last at least until we've finished building it.
Source uncertain. Usually seen on the web, identified as Anonymous (and, rarely, attributed to Carl William Brown.) If you know a primary print source, please contact Webmaster.
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The inside of a computer is as dumb as hell but it goes like mad!
Feynman Lectures on Computation (1996), 7.
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The most conspicuous scientific and technical achievements of our age—nuclear bombs, rockets, computers—are all direct products of war.
In 'Reactions to Man’s Landing on the Moon Show Broad Variations in Opinions', The New York Times (21 Jul 1969), 6.
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The most revolutionary aspect of technology is its mobility. Anybody can learn it. It jumps easily over barriers of race and language. … The new technology of microchips and computer software is learned much faster than the old technology of coal and iron. It took three generations of misery for the older industrial countries to master the technology of coal and iron. The new industrial countries of East Asia, South Korea, and Singapore and Taiwan, mastered the new technology and made the jump from poverty to wealth in a single generation.
Infinite in All Directions: Gifford lectures given at Aberdeen, Scotland (2004), 270.
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The NeXT Computer: The hardware makes it a PC, the software makes it a workstation, the unit sales makes it a mainframe.
Anonymous
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The process of preparing programs for a digital computer is especially attractive, not only because it can be economically and scientifically rewarding, but also because it can be an aesthetic experience much like composing poetry or music.
The Art of Computer Programming (1968), Vol. 1, v.
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The protean nature of the computer is such that it can act like a machine or like a language to be shaped and exploited.
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The real danger is not that computers will begin to think like men, but that men will begin to think like computers.
As quoted, without citation, in Howard W. Eves, Return to Mathematical Circles, (1988), 63.
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The real question is not whether machines think but whether men do.
Contingencies of Reinforcement (1969), 288.
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The rigid career path of a professor at a modern university is that One Must Build the Big Research Group, recruit doctoral students more vigorously than the head football coach, bombard the federal agencies with grant applications more numerous than the pollen falling from the heavens in spring, and leave the paper writing and the research to the postdocs, research associates, and students who do all the bench work and all the computer programming. A professor is chained to his previous topics by his Big Group, his network of contacts built up laboriously over decades, and the impossibility of large funding except in areas where the grantee has grown the group from a corner of the building to an entire floor. The senior tenure-track faculty at a research university–the “silverbacks” in anthropological jargon–are bound by invisible chains stronger than the strongest steel to a narrow range of what the Prevailing Consensus agrees are Very Important Problems. The aspiring scientist is confronted with the reality that his mentors are all business managers.
In his Foreword to Cornelius Lanczos, Discourse on Fourier Series, ix-x.
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The science of calculation … becomes continually more necessary at each step of our progress, and … must ultimately govern the whole of the applications of science to the arts of life.
In 'Future Prospects', On the Economy of Machinery and Manufactures (1st ed., 1832), chap. 32, 278.
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The spectacular thing about Johnny [von Neumann] was not his power as a mathematician, which was great, or his insight and his clarity, but his rapidity; he was very, very fast. And like the modern computer, which no longer bothers to retrieve the logarithm of 11 from its memory (but, instead, computes the logarithm of 11 each time it is needed), Johnny didn’t bother to remember things. He computed them. You asked him a question, and if he didn’t know the answer, he thought for three seconds and would produce and answer.
From interview with Donald J. Albers. In John H. Ewing and Frederick W. Gehring, Paul Halmos Celebrating 50 Years of Mathematics (1991), 9.
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The strength of the computer lies in its being a logic machine. It does precisely what it is programed to do. This makes it fast and precise. It also makes it a total moron; for logic is essentially stupid.
In The Effective Executive (2006), 159.
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The thoughts of Plato and Machiavelli... don't seem quite enough armor for a world beset with splitting the atoms, urban guerrillas, nineteen varieties of psychotherapists, amplified guitars, napalm, computers, astronauts, and an atmosphere polluted simultaneously with auto exhaust and TV commercials.
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The whole of the developments and operations of analysis are now capable of being executed by machinery ... As soon as an Analytical Engine exists, it will necessarily guide the future course of science.
Passages From the Life of a Philosopher (1864), 136-137.
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Theory provides the maps that turn an uncoordinated set of experiments or computer simulations into a cumulative exploration.
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There are no standards for computer programmers and no group to certify them.
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There are wavelengths that people cannot see, there are sounds that people cannot hear, and maybe computers have thoughts that people cannot think.
Quoted by J.F. Kaiser, introducing Richard Hamming's address, 'You and Your Research', at the Bell Communications Research Colloquium Seminar, 7 Mar 1986.
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There is a popular cliché ... which says that you cannot get out of computers any more than you have put in..., that computers can only do exactly what you tell them to, and that therefore computers are never creative. This cliché is true only in a crashingly trivial sense, the same sense in which Shakespeare never wrote anything except what his first schoolteacher taught him to write—words.
In The Blind Watchmaker: Why the Evidence of Evolution Reveals a Universe Without Design (1966, 1986), 64. Excerpted in Richard Dawkins, ‘Creation and Natural Selection’. New Scientist (25 Sep 1986), 111, 38.
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There is no end of hypotheses about consciousness, particularly by philosophers. But most of these are not what we might call principled scientific theories, based on observables and related to the functions of the brain and body. Several theories of consciousness based on functionalism and on the machine model of the mind... have recently been proposed. These generally come in two flavors: one in which consciousness is assumed to be efficacious, and another in which it is considered an epiphenomenon. In the first, consciousness is likened to the executive in a computer systems program, and in the second, to a fascinating but more or less useless by-product of computation.
Bright and Brilliant Fire, On the Matters of the Mind (1992), 112.
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There ought to be something about computers and artificial intelligence [in Bartlett's Familiar Quotations]. Surely somebody somewhere said something memorable.
Quoted in Boston Globe (3 Jan1989).
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There’s my education in computers, right there; this is the whole thing, everything I took out of a book.
From talking with Howard Aiken, as quoted by author I. Bernard Cohen, in Howard Aiken: Portrait of a Computer Pioneer (2000), 66. Cohen list three particular books that Aiken said he read carefully: E. M. Horsburgh (ed.), Modem Instruments and Methods of Calculation: A Handbook of the Napier Tercentenary Exhibition (1914); D. Baxandall (ed.), Calculating Machines and Instruments: Catalogue of the Collections in the Science Museum (1926); and later, Charles Babbage, Passages from the Life of a Philosopher (1864).
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Three apples changed the world, Adam's apple, Newton's apple, and Steve's apple.
[Tweeted tribute for Steve Jobs, co-founder the Apple computer company.]
Anonymous
In Fouad Ajami, 'The Arab World's Unknown Son', Wall Street Journal (12 Oct 2011).
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To use: Apply shampoo to wet hair. Massage to lather, then rinse. Repeat.
A typical hair-washing algorithm that fails to halt—in the way that computer programmers must avoid an infinite loop.
Anonymous
In Gary William Flake, The Computational Beauty of Nature: Computer Explorations of Fractals, Chaos, Complex Systems, and Adaptation (2000), 23.
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Under pressure from the computer, the question of mind in relation to machine is becoming a central cultural preoccupation. It is becoming for us what sex was to the Victorians—threat and obsession, taboo and fascination.
In The Second Self: Computers and the Human Spirit (1984), 313.
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Want to make your computer go really fast? Throw it out a window.
Anonymous
In L. R. Parenti, Durata Del Dramma: Life Of Drama (2005), 32.
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We can found no scientific discipline, nor a hearty profession, on the technical mistakes of the Department of Defense and, mainly, one computer manufacturer.
…...
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We developed a computer program, based on tests of a quarter-scale model of the lunar module, and we ran the program through some 400 different [moon] landing conditions.
From interview with Technology Review, quoted in Douglas Martin, 'Joseph Gavin, Who Helped Put First Man on Moon, Dies at 90', New York Times (4 Nov 2010).
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What is mathematics? What is it for? What are mathematicians doing nowadays? Wasn't it all finished long ago? How many new numbers can you invent anyway? Is today’s mathematics just a matter of huge calculations, with the mathematician as a kind of zookeeper, making sure the precious computers are fed and watered? If it’s not, what is it other than the incomprehensible outpourings of superpowered brainboxes with their heads in the clouds and their feet dangling from the lofty balconies of their ivory towers?
Mathematics is all of these, and none. Mostly, it’s just different. It’s not what you expect it to be, you turn your back for a moment and it's changed. It's certainly not just a fixed body of knowledge, its growth is not confined to inventing new numbers, and its hidden tendrils pervade every aspect of modern life.
Opening paragraphs of 'Preface', From Here to Infinity (1996), vii.
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When computers (people) are networked, their power multiplies geometrically. Not only can people share all that information inside their machines, but they can reach out and instantly tap the power of other machines (people), essentially making the entire network their computer.
…...
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When I needed an apparatus to help me linger below the surface of the sea, Émile Gagnan and I used well-known scientific principles about compressed gases to invent the Aqualung; we applied science. The Aqualung is only a tool. The point of the Aqualung—of the computer, the CAT scan, the vaccine, radar, the rocket, the bomb, and all other applied science—is utility.
In Jacques Cousteau and Susan Schiefelbein, The Human, the Orchid, and the Octopus: Exploring and Conserving Our Natural World (2007), 181.
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When I was 9, my parents gave me a Commodore 64, which was fun. At the time, the opportunity to program your own computer was easier than it is today. Today there are significantly larger barriers because of the complexity built into computing.
From address at a conference on Google campus, co-hosted with Common Sense Media and the Joan Ganz Cooney Center at Sesame Workshop 'Breakthrough Learning in the Digital Age'. As quoted in Technology blog report by Dan Fost, 'Google co-founder Sergey Brin wants more computers in schools', Los Angeles Times (28 Oct 2009). On latimesblogs.latimes.com website. As quoted, without citation, in Can Akdeniz, Fast MBA (2014), 280.
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When one considers how hard it is to write a computer program even approaching the intellectual scope of a good paper, and how much greater time and effort have to be put in to make it “almost” formally correct, it is preposterous to claim that mathematics as we practice it is anywhere near formally correct.
In 'On Proof and Progress in Mathematics', For the Learning of Mathematics (Feb 1995), 15, No. 1, 33. Reprinted from Bulletin of the American Mathematical Society (1994), 30, No. 2, 170-171.
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When we had no computers, we had no programming problem either. When we had a few computers, we had a mild programming problem. Confronted with machines a million times as powerful, we are faced with a gigantic programming problem.
…...
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Which is an astronaut’s favorite key on a computer keyboard?
The space bar.
Anonymous
Origin uncertain, but in circulation at least as early as by Chris Salemka, in 'Think & Grin', Boy’s Life (Mar 1995), 61.
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With thought comprising a non-computational element, computers can never do what we human beings can.
In The Emperor's New Mind: Concerning Computers, Minds, and the Laws of Physics (1989). As quoted in Stan Franklin, Artificial Minds (1997), 99.
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WorldWideWeb: Proposal for a HyperText Project
Title of an electronic document (1990) co-authored with Robert A Caillau. In Fred R. Shapiro, The Yale Book of Quotations (2006), 57.
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You will be able to appreciate the influence of such an Engine on the future progress of science. I live in a country which is incapable of estimating it.
To an unidentified American, Burndy Library, as quoted inAnthony Hyman, Charles Babbage: Pioneer of the Computer (1985), 135.
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[For corporate computing centers:] Probably the biggest threat is people thinking that they can buy broken things and then put patches on afterward and make it secure.
As quoted in magazine article, an interview by John McCormick, 'Computer Security as a Business Enabler', Baseline (7 Jul 2007).
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[My favourite fellow of the Royal Society is the Reverend Thomas Bayes, an obscure 18th-century Kent clergyman and a brilliant mathematician who] devised a complex equation known as the Bayes theorem, which can be used to work out probability distributions. It had no practical application in his lifetime, but today, thanks to computers, is routinely used in the modelling of climate change, astrophysics and stock-market analysis.
Quoted in Max Davidson, 'Bill Bryson: Have faith, science can solve our problems', Daily Telegraph (26 Sep 2010)
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[Using a hand calculator and writing things down longhand] I was able to solve this problem because I don’t have a computer. I know what I am doing every step, and the steps go slowly enough that I can think.
As quoted in Charles Petit, 'The Curious Quester', The San Francisco Chronicle. Reprinted in The Courier-Journal (3 Mar 1991), Magazine, 33.
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…comparing the capacity of computers to the capacity of the human brain, I’ve often wondered, where does our success come from? The answer is synthesis, the ability to combine creativity and calculation, art and science, into whole that is much greater than the sum of its parts.
In How Life Imitates Chess: Making the Right Moves, from the Board to the Boardroom (2007), 4.
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Carl Sagan Thumbnail In science it often happens that scientists say, 'You know that's a really good argument; my position is mistaken,' and then they would actually change their minds and you never hear that old view from them again. They really do it. It doesn't happen as often as it should, because scientists are human and change is sometimes painful. But it happens every day. I cannot recall the last time something like that happened in politics or religion. (1987) -- Carl Sagan
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