Brain Replaces Human Mind

h EDP order

CSIRO Problem In Computer Network

The World News (Sydney), 24 June, 1950

By FLETCHER KNEBEL, from Washington

A mechanical brain can now test- an aeroplane before it leaves the drawing-board.

A new problem has arisen for Government executives in the US, who are dealing with the country's labour market.

It is the growing panic of people who are going to lose their jobs through the Government's latest project-the electronic brain.

Twenty-one of these robot brains are at present under construction for Federal agencies in an awesome operation that may revolutionise the science of Government, and cost it the equivalent of £5,000,000 sterling.

This is to be the "glamour year", says Dr. John H. Curtiss, of the National Bureau of Standards, for the birth of the intellectual Big Berthas. A compilation revealed more than a score of Federal bureaus and agencies either studying the possibilities of the giant thinkers or actually co-operating in their construction. Immediately they are to be used on such Government problems as census analysis, map design, warplane construction, shipbuilding and atomic energy.

Glittering vistas
Mass development of the electronic brains by the US Government, however, opens glittering Vistas in the solution of complex military strategy problems and involved tangles in the domestic economy. As labour-saving devices alone, the wonder brains may supplant tens of thousands of employees in the ranks of Washington's typewriter army. So sudden and spectacular has been the Federal plunge into development of the electronic thinkers that only a handful of officials realise the extent of the construction campaign. Six of the brains are being developed for the Navy, three for the National Bureau of Standards, one for the Census Bureau, one for the Army Map Service, three for the Air Force, two for the Atomic Energy Commission, four for the Army and one for the National Advisory Committee of Aeronautics.
With the exception of the famed "ENIAC," the US * Army's war-built brain at Aberdeen proving grounds, Maryland, all of these are to be modern high-speed electronic calculators, equipped with long-range "memories" and charged with a potential of solving problems that might thwart several generations of human brains. Compared with existing mechanical brains, they will be as the genius is to the dullard, if plans *of the builders materialise.
Furthermore, they will be much smaller and easier to handle. The"ENIAC" at Aberdeen weighs 30 tons, contains 18,000 tubes, has a front panel 100 feet long. Now building at the Bureau of. Standards in a room about the size of the average living-room is the Mighty Midget, which will have only 1200 tubes, front panel only 12 feet long and seven feet high and a "memory" cabinet not much larger than the ordinary ice-box. Yet the Mighty Midget's builders, headed by Dr. Sam Alexander, believe that it will be smarter, faster, foxier and a better memorisor than "ENIAC".
Nearing completion at Aberdeen for the Army is "EDVAC," an electronic computer with far fewer tubes than "ENIAC," but capable of heavier and faster thinking. Following that will come "ORDVAC," which will be still further improved.
£150,000 to build
Typical of the coming Federal miracle brains is the mathematical genius being constructed for the Census Bureau and to be installed at Suitland, Maryland.' This electronic brain will be able to rattle off intricate population analyses never before attempted by the Census Bureau because of the prohibitive cost. The bureau in the tabulation of the 1950 census will work 3000 calculating machines on day and nightshifts, but even this array of mechanical talent could not approach the problems to be fed into the electronic brain. It is estimated that it will cost £150,000 to build.
Into the tube thinker at Langley Field, Virginia, the National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics will feed complex aerodynamic problems that will make testing of new aero plane models unnecessary. The brain will decide whether a proposed new aeroplane will fly under desired conditions before it ever leaves the drawing board.
There is even conjecture that the Atomic Energy Commission may be able to build and test a hydrogen bomb in one of the two electronic brains being developed for that agency.