Alec Nove, computers and socialism

Steve.Keen at unsw.EDU.AU Steve.Keen at unsw.EDU.AU
Wed Nov 30 16:01:41 MST 1994

To some extent, I can agree with Louis re the impact of computers. But
this needs to be tempered by some of the "dead hand of the past"
effects that occur in "computerised society" in something akin to
the way they do in human society. The current generation of computers
and software is not a clean slate; it is built on preceding generations,
when less was known, but often has to maintain compatibility with that
previous generation.

The result is a plethora of "kludges", which maybe don't require
bureaucrats to know them, but do require computer programmers. I am
aware of a large number of these which affect telecommunications systems,
for instance (most of you would probably not believe the complexity of
what happens when you lift a telephone handset!).

I am also an (ex-)programmer and database designer, and I've seen what
a good database can do to improve a production process (and what an
incompetent bureaucrat can then do to stuff it up!). But I would
caution against "computers have solved all the problems" enthusiasm--
at least for the next ten years, by when we may hopefully have overcome
the worst of the "dead hand" effect.

Steve Keen


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