The Best of Creative Computing Volume 2 (published 1977)

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The Government Dinosaur (remedies to slow, large governments, governing by computer)
by Charles Winn

graphic of page



Charles Winn 
530 McAlway Road
Charlotte, N. C. 28211

Over the years we have witnessed the growth and development of what could best
be described as the governmental dinosaur – a large unwieldy critter, who
though well-meaning. Thinks slowly, moves awkwardly, reacts tardily, and is best
with many ailments and infirmities. Like its animal form it may well ultimately
become so ineffective and weighed down as to collapse into death and extinction.
This governmental monstrosity has assumed duties and responsibilities out of all
proportion to its intrinsic talents and abilities. It was designed or put
together piecemeal to serve in slower less demanding times and has had new and
challenging obligations thrust upon it. 

Human comprehension and reaction at the governmental and legislative levels is
incapable of coping with the multitude or complexity of rapidly changing facts,
figures, and demands. New discoveries, advanced technologies, and other newly
revealed knowledge moves at such a rapid pace that it defies human assimilation
and coordination by those who require these benefits and insights most.
Government, like the great retarded beast, stumbles and staggers its way along
– trampling many underfoot, wavering from a proper course, over or under
compensating, and becoming more lost and confused. The mere size of the organism
renders it ineffectual. The multitudinous bureaus, departments, offices,
agencies, and divisions grow like cancerous cells in wild profusion. When they
do function or respond it is not always in conjunction and cooperation between
these segments is a nightmare activity. 

Other investigators and writers have examined and ably described the wild
inconsistencies and glaring deficiencies of this tremendous organization. We are
all familiar with some of the errors. Shortcomings and the ineffectiveness of
the government as it exist today. It is no one individual's fault that these
conditions prevail, but does this ignorant beast in its present form warrant our
trust and confidence? Does it even begin to efficiently serve the potential and
actual needs of the American populace?

This beast is not peculiar to only the United States, but has its counterparts
in other countries. In fact, there the colossus may be even more ponderous,
awkward, and intractable. Our chief concern however, is with remedies,
improvements, and innovations. This process shouldn't require revolution in
anything but our thinking and our solutions. 

Initially, we might try a massive undertaking – the creation of the largest,
most efficient computer yet conceived or assembled – a computer capable of
retaining, assimilating, and processing information relating to all phases of
governmental concern or interest. The machine would require a sizeable complex
of experts to insure its proper function. Initially, to insure the accuracy of
data, statistics, and information gathered, there would have to be a virtually
fool-proof systems organization to gather such data and a board of experts from
various fields and disciplines, men above suspicion or reproach and of sterling
character, to make final judgments' on what material was to be programmed and to
oversee those that physically entered information into the machine. The margin
for error would most certainly be less than it is under present random

The machine could be programmed to temporarily reject material that was
inconsistent with or deviant from information already retained. This material,
in turn, could be reviewed by the board to ascertain its accuracy before
resubmission. Computer experts and designers could build the necessary safety
procedures and safeguards into the machine at its inception to prevent tampering
and misuse. 

This computer might well be dubbed Uncle Sam and could be relied on for
accuracy, rationale, and impartiality. The machine may not be infallible, but
would be infinitely superior to the mass confusion and human error that exist
today. It could provide the president and his cabinet, the Congress, and other
essential government figures with up-to-date and comprehensive information on
which decisions could be partially based. The extent to which this information
would be acted upon could be determined by experience and performance. Uncle Sam
would obviate much of reliance placed upon outside lobbyists, who are almost
always selfishly motivated and self-appointed experts whose information is
often, at best, questionable. Uncle Sam could offset and reduce much of the
mediocrity, partiality, and outright chicanery that now exists in the government

If these machines can be relied upon to deliver expensive and complicated space
vehicles to obscure destinations with unerring accuracy and exactitude, they
could certainly be channeled to the task of eliminating much of the human
weakness and shortcomings, the boondoggery, and all of the prolonged hassling
that they generate in government affairs. The legislative and administrative
systems have

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