Electronic Poets and ThinkersElectronic Poets and Thinkers

"Ah!" said one expert, when he came to this chapter, "this is where the frivolous part begins."

Scientists who take themselves and their work seriously consider everything beyond today's stock of exactly verified facts as flippant and trivial. Specialists in electronic computers, who in all probability still have their Golden Age ahead of them, are particularly prone to speculation. The things we read in their literature sometimes sound as credible as a report on an imminent landing on the planet Jupiter. (We wonder occasionally why scientists express skepticism when asked to give their opinion on science fiction.) At any rate there is no reason why we should not do a little speculation ourselves. But we shall take care to stay within the bounds of probability. And we shall always let you know in good time when our stories consist of facts and how much are - for the time being - pipe dreams or wishful thinking.

What you are now going to read sounds singularly irrational, and it seems in addition to have a tinge of science fiction. Still it is a scientific product, made by methods that have been well tried out over the last few years:

I
all snow is cold
and not every angel is white
and not every snow is silent
and no peace is cold
and no angel is bright
and every peace is silent

II
no peace is white
or the angel is white
or a Christmas tree is cold
and not every peace is beautiful
and a child is gentle

III
every santa claus is silent
or not every child is silent
or the forest is cold
and no forest is beautiful
or no angel is beautiful
or the sleigh is silent
or the child is white

IV
the snow is cold
and every peace is deep
and no Christmas tree is gentle
or every candle is white
or a peace is cold
or not every candle is pure
and an angel is pure
and every peace is silent
or every peace is white
or the child is silent

V
an angel is everywhere

This poem appeared in the Christmas number of a popular magazine for young people in 1959. What do you think of it? Opinions among the readers of the poem were divided. Letters to the editor expressed praise for the avant-garde poet or disapproval of the "Christmas gibberish." The editor wrote, at the same time as he printed a selection of readers' letters, no more and no less than that the poem was not the work of a poet at all, but of an electronic computer, type "ZUSE Z 22."

We shall tell you later how the machine managed to enter the ranks of the versifiers. But, first, we would like to show you how the programmers get their computers to perform such feats. They follow the route leading from the calculating machine to the "thinking machine." ("Thinking machine" is a term that is used even by scientists today, now and again, for an electronic data processor.)

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Kybernetik - Was ist das?

First printed in Germany: 1963

 

Cybernetic Computer and Electronic Brain


The fascinating story of how computers work in clear, non-mathematical language