For a while now I have been reading more about the history of computing (in the USA and in particular Silicon Valley). It started with the sublime article “The Tinkerings of Robert Noyce” by Tom Wolfe in Esquire magazine and followed by the revelatory – to me at least – Rolling Stone article “SPACEWAR” by Stewart Brand. Next up was the wonderful book “Troublemakers” which covered Silicon Valley from 1969 to 1984.
The reason I’m interested in this is because the more I find out about the history of computing, the more I realise that the world that we live in today was conceived several decades ago. Ideas that we think of as modern originated back then.
What they predicted back then, we are enmeshed in today.
The story “A Logic Named Joe” features in “Machines That Think”, a science fiction short story anthology from 1984.
The story is just 17 pages long but I was astounded. This story from 72 years ago appears to predict the internet, artificial intelligence and some of the less salubrious social consequences of having the world’s information at our fingertips.
The introduction talks about the importance of the story due to the way it predicted widespread ownership of computers, made possible by the reduction in size and cost of the machines. In fact, the world the story was describing had not yet arrived in 1984 – it was too early to comment on the story and truly understand how predictive it would become.