When the word 'computer' entered the general vocabulary in the 1950s, the most advanced example filled a reasonable sized room. Three decades of rapid technological revolution have resulted in the acceptance of computers in nearly every office, school and home. A corresponding dramatic rise in the status of 'information' has promoted the people who manipulate it from the status of office clerks to information scientists.
Despite the wonderful claims for the abilities of the computer and the hallowed tones of 'computerese', Theodore Roszak dares to suggest that perhaps, like the unfortunate emperor, the computer has been overdressed with false claims made by those with something to gain by it – elements in our society that are making some of the most morally questionable uses of computer power. Roszak challenges the reader to ask:
"Is our capacity to think creatively being undermined by the very 'information' that is supposed to help us? Is information processing being confused with science or even beginning to replace thought? And are we in danger of blurring the distinction between what machines do when they process information and what minds do when they think?"
He explains why humankind's primary beliefs, in equality, justice and in God are not computable; why great scientific theories and fundamental 'master ideas' cannot be developed by computers; and why bad ideas cannot even be refuted by them.
Roszak is no contemporary Luddite – this book was written on a word processor – but he is deeply concerned that we have all been sold a misleading and potentially harmful vision of the computerised society.