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Monday, November 12, 2012

Reader's Diary #892- Isaac Asimov: The Machine That Won the War

Isaac Asimov's "The Machine That Won the War" is set inside a giant computer named Multivac, which doubles as a military headquarters. In this regard, the story clearly shows it's age. The danger of aging sci-fi to be this wildly off the mark.

But surface details aside, "The Machine That Won the War" could still resonate today, even with the varying interpretations one could make of the enigmatic parable. Basically this is a story about how the humans used a computer to finally wage a successful war against the alien Denebians. Or did they use the computer?

At least one interpretation could be that decisions, including moral decisions, ultimately come back to people and we are the machinery that will always be in control. Some might regard this as a happy message.

But it's what's not said that I found more compelling. Who were the Denebians and was there really no other way to end the conflict? Can it really be a good thing how flippantly the men went all renegade? What will be the long term consequences of all this? It would not be difficult to replace Multivac with parliament, the senate, or the house, though whether or not the few who take matters into their own hands are heroes depends on the outcome. Of course a secondary outcome that will have to be addressed as time goes on is that a positive primary outcome makes you question the whole machine in the first place.

Asimov certainly gives us a lot to ponder with this one.

(Did you write a post for Short Story Monday? If so, please leave a link in the comments below.)

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