On the love/hate relationship of the world with computing …

Let us now turn our attention to computing science. It is hated, of course, like any other science. In order to understand the specific distaste it evokes, and along with it all the pressures exerted on it, we should be aware of all the unrealistic dreams it failed to realize, for, unrealistic as they might be, the dreams linger on. The dreams have been so many, that I must restrict myself to the major ones.

Surely, our computers would unscramble all the secret code of all our enemies and guide our missiles with unfailing precision right on their targets. Robots would take over the tedium of production, guaranteeing a positive balance of trade for all nations. Office automation would multiply the productivity of the white-collar worker, information systems would enable management to avoid waste and to make the right strategic decisions, and finally, the giant brains would not only relieve us from the tedium but also from the obligation to think about hard problems and from the painful responsibility to take difficult decisions. In short: computers were tolerated because they promised a well protected and prosperous paradise for the lazy, the incompetent, and the cowardly.

– Dijkstra, 1989 (EWD #1041)

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