I am here to deflate a dream, and that is rather an ungracious, negative sort of function. People who go about deflating dreams need both to show good reason why they do it--why those dreams really are delusive--and to explain what better, more genuine aims they think should be pursued instead. I will try to do both these things, but the destructive part has to come first.
The dream that comes in question here is the hope, which George Bugliarello so forcefully expresses, that machine-assisted intelligence is the reliable, destined chariot of human progress, and, in particular, that it is our prime means of escape from our present troubles. This dream urgently needs our attention because it is so influential today. There is at present a very strong tendency to treat computer programing as a cure-all for every intellectual difficulty that arises, and immense resources, both in money and in people, are being poured into providing more of it. This has been brought home to me lately because I have three sons. All three of them have been trying for many years to find work in some enterprise that seemed to them vital, such as ending the arms race or helping the Third World or saving the environment. But nobody would pay them to do these things. In the end, all three have settled, as so many others have had to, for employment in the only field that is still always expanding--work involving computers. They have Silicon-Valley-type jobs, and for these they are quite well paid. They still try to work on the projects they really think important in such free time as they can find, but there is not much of it. They still hope eventually to bring their skills to bear on these central projects, but they see no easy way to do so.