the computer that answered 42

04 April 2013

SAGE - an air defense command and control system of the 50ies; in order to do it they had to invent the first computer network; first real time system, first high availability/redundant system. It was obsolete when it was completed, because ICBMs were so much more dangerous than bombers, but in the process they learned to engineer complex computer systems.

largest computer ever built

… and IBM got the know how for the S360 system by doing the SAGE contract; the whole system cost 10 billion $ ; Ha, now I know why Eisenhower was so upset about the military industrial complex

Another interesting talk on the subject: The Secret History of Silicon Valley

Another observation: IBM “Watson” AI system has sucessfully competed with humans at answering questions in a trivia show; congratulations: this is of a true advancement in the sorrow state of Artificial Intelligence; Now some observers see some tangible, though indirect profit for IBM here: IBM makes a lot of money out of contracts for complex system that are paid for by tax payers money; if the firm is regarded as the body that can solve complex problems, then that alone puts IBM global solutions ahead when competing for government contracts.

Watson - public reaction

It is also interesting that those very big companies are so fond of very big government contracts. The usual economic justification for big companies is economies of scale I think that public contracts have a very high premimum, this premium is there to cover inefficiencies of big companies; Of course you need a big company to service a big contract, so there is a symbiotic relationship between big government and big corporations.