The Computer Says “Repent” (A Fable) -- By: Will D. Campbell
FM 2:1 (Fall 1984) p. 77
The Computer Says “Repent” (A Fable)
Author and Preacher, Nashville, Tennessee
Once upon a recent campus there was an endowed professorship called the Chair of the Future. The cue in establishing it had been taken from one of the world’s foremost anthropologists who suggested that each great university have such a Chair. She further suggested that the Chair should be automated. The equipment, she said, should consist of the most advanced computers technology could provide. The professor would simply feed the computer and reveal its tea leaves to the students, thus enlightening them as to what the future holds for them and the world. The people of God, having already abdicated their other responsibilities for the welfare of society, will now be relieved of apocalyptic interpretation and can give full time to such matters as aerobic dance classes, weight watchers clubs, marriage enrichment seminars, and other weighty matters of the Gospel. Even prophecy will be handled by a machine.
The first semester is over and the academic fugitive from War Games faces his class of tomorrow’s magnates with the result of months of data feeding in his hand. He has explained all along, still under the spell of outdated classical learning, that the data used for each feeding are historical in nature. The final pullout from the computer will reveal the future on the. basis of past behavior.
Into the machine had gone the results of the doctrine of manifest destiny —the roll call of the Iroquois and Sioux, the Cherokee and the Navaho, the Hopi and the Crow. In had gone the results of the ideas of racial and sexual supremacy, the roll of generations of slaves. And soldiers on both sides of a war that was to be a new birth of freedom. And in had gone the casualties of great social movements dedicated somehow to alter the legacy of original sin. The patterns of greed, conformity, and blind obedience to witless authority that would spell doom if left, like genocide, to follow their own grim logic. The rape of Mexico and the quelling of the Cuban rebellion. Two global wars fought in part over who would gain control of the greater share of what they called the Dark Continent. Vietnam, and the mining of Nicaraguan harbors. In had gone the battered child, the father’s murder spree, the execution of the mentally ill, and such contradictions as the condemnation of Nestle’s formula which would claim the lives of 50,000 babies a year in what we pridefully call Third World countries, while accepting in a cavalier fashion the termination of the lives of two million of the unborn in our own. The mindless silence of those long beyond capacity for moral discrimination. And, too, the results of the great counter ideas: tolerance, helpfulness, the notion ...
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