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THE FEELING OF POWER

by Isaac Asimov
JEHAN SHUMAN was used to dealing with the men in authority on long-emattled Earth! He was only a "i#ilian ut he
originated $rogramming $atterns that resulted in sel%-dire"ting war "om$uters o% the highest sort! Generals "onse&uently listened
to him! Heads o% "ongressional "ommittees' too!
There was one o% ea"h in the s$e"ial lounge o% New (entagon! General )eider was s$a"e-urnt and had a small mouth $u"*ered
almost into a "i$her! +ongressman ,rant was smooth-"hee*ed and "lear-eyed! He smo*ed -eneian toa""o with the air o% one
whose $atriotism was so notorious' he "ould e allowed su"h lierties!
Shuman' tall' distinguished' and (rogrammer-%irst-"lass' %a"ed them %earlessly!
He said' .This' gentlemen' is Myron Au!.
.The one with the unusual gi%t that you dis"o#ered &uite y a""ident'. said +ongressman ,rant $la"idly! .Ah!. He ins$e"ted the
little man with the egg-ald head with amiale "uriosity!
The little man' in return' twisted the %ingers o% his hands an/iously! He had ne#er een near su"h great men e%ore! He was only
an aging low-grade Te"hni"ian who had long ago %ailed all tests designed to smo*e out the gi%ted ones among man*ind and had
settled into the rut o% uns*illed laour!
There was 0ust this hoy o% his that the great (rogrammer had %ound out aout and was now ma*ing su"h a %rightening %uss
o#er!
General )eider said' .I %ind this atmos$here o% mystery "hildish!.
.1ou won2t in a moment'. said Shuman! .This is not something we "an lea* to the %irst"omer!Au3. There was something
im$erati#e aout his manner o% iting o%% that one-syllale name' ut then he was a great (rogrammer s$ea*ing to a mere
Te"hni"ian! .Au3 How mu"h is nine times se#en4.
Au hesitated a moment! His $ale eyes glimmered with a %eele an/iety! .Si/ty-three'. he said!
+ongressman ,rant li%ted his eyerows! .Is that right4.
.+he"* it %or yoursel%' +ongressman!.
The +ongressman too* out his $o"*et "om$uter' nudged the milled edges twi"e' loo*ed at its %a"e as it lay there in the $alm o%
his hand' and $ut it a"*! He said' .Is this the gi%t you rought us here to demonstrate4 An illusionist4.
.More than that' sir! Au has memori5ed a %ew o$erations and with them he "om$utes on $a$er!.
.A $a$er "om$uter4. said the general! He loo*ed $ained!
.No' sir'. said Shuman $atiently! .Not a $a$er "om$uter! Sim$ly a sheet o% $a$er! General' would you e so *ind as to suggest a
numer4.
.Se#enteen'. said the general!
.And you' +ongressman4.
.Twenty-three!.
.Good3 Au' multi$ly those numers and $lease show the gentlemen your manner o% doing it!.
.1es' (rogrammer'. said Au' du"*ing his head! He %ished a small $ad out o% one shirt $o"*et and an artist2s hairline stylus out
o% the other! His %orehead "orrugated as he made $ainsta*ing mar*s on the $a$er!
General )eider interru$ted him shar$ly! .Let2s see that!. Au $assed him the $a$er' and )eider said' .)ell' it loo*s li*e the
%igure se#enteen!.
+ongressman ,rant nodded and said' .So it does' ut I su$$ose anyone "an "o$y %igures o%% a "om$uter! I thin* I "ould ma*e a
$assale se#enteen mysel%' e#en without $ra"ti"e!.
.I% you will let Au "ontinue' gentlemen'. said Shuman without heat! Au "ontinued' his hand tremling a little! Finally he said
in a low #oi"e' .The answer is three hundred and ninetyone!.
+ongressman ,rant too* out his "om$uter a se"ond time and %li"*ed it! .,y God%rey' so it is! How did he guess4. .No guess'
+ongressman'. said Shuman! .He "om$uted that result! He did it on this sheet o% $a$er!.
.Humug'. said the general im$atiently! .A "om$uter is one thing and mar*s on $a$er are another!.
.E/$lain' Au'. said Shuman!
.1es' (rogrammer!)ell' gentlemen' I write down se#enteen and 0ust underneath it' I write twenty-three! Ne/t I say to mysel%6
se#en times three.
The +ongressman interru$ted smoothly' .Now' Au' the $rolem is se#enteen times twenty-three!.
.1es' I *now'. said the little Te"hni"ian earnestly' .ut I start y saying se#en times three e"ause that2s the way it wor*s! Now
se#en times three is twenty-one!.
.And how do you *now that4. as*ed the +ongressman!
.I 0ust rememer it! It2s always %wenty-one on the "om$uter! I2#e "he"*ed it any numer o% times!.
.That doesn2t mean it always will e though' does it4. said the +ongressman!
.Maye not'. stammered Au! .I2m not a mathemati"ian! ,ut I always get the right answers' you see!.
.Go on!.
.Se#en times three is twenty-one' so I write down twenty one! Then one times three is three' so I write down a three under the
two o% twenty-one!.
.)hy under the two4. as*ed +ongressman ,rant at on"e!
.,e"ause. Au loo*ed hel$lessly at his su$erior %or su$$ort! .It2s di%%i"ult to e/$lain!.
Shuman said' .I% you will a""e$t his wor* %or the moment' we "an lea#e the details %or the mathemati"ians!. ,rant susided!
Au said' .Three $lus two ma*es %i#e' you see' so the twenty-one e"omes a %i%ty-one! Now you let that go %or a while and start
%resh! 1ou multi$ly se#en and two' that2s %ourteen' and one and two' that2s two! (ut them down li*e this and it adds u$ to thirty-
%our! Now i% you $ut the thirty-%our under the %i%ty-one this way and add them' you get three hundred and ninety-one and that2s the
answer!.
There was an instant2s silen"e and then General )eider said' .I don2t elie#e it! He goes through this rigmarole and ma*es u$
numers and multi$lies and adds them this way and that' ut I don2t elie#e it! It2s too "om$li"ated to e anything ut
hornswoggling!.
.7h no' sir'. said Au in a sweat! .It only seems "om$li"ated e"ause you2re not used to it! A"tually' the rules are &uite sim$le
and will wor* %or any numers!.
.Any numers' eh4. said the general! .+ome then!. He too* out his own "om$uter 8a se#erely styled Gl model9 and stru"* it at
random! Ma*e a %i#e se#en three eight on the $a$er! That2s %i#e thousand se#en hundred and thirtyeight!.
.1es' sir'. said Au' ta*ing a new sheet o% $a$er!
.Now'. 8more $un"hing o% his "om$uter9' .se#en two three nine! Se#en thousand two hundred and thirty-nine!.
.1es' sir!.
.And now multi$ly those two!.
.It will ta*e some time'. &ua#ered Au!
.Ta*e the time'. said the general!
.Go ahead' Au'. said Shuman "ris$ly!
Au set to wor*' ending low! He too* another sheet o% $a$er and another! The general too* out his wat"h %inally and stared at
it! .Are you through with your magi"-ma*ing'
Te"hni"ian4.
.I2m almost done' sir!Here it is' sir! Forty-one million' %i#e hundred and thirty-se#en thousand' three hundred and eighty-two!.
He showed the s"rawled %igures o% the result!
General )eider smiled itterly! He $ushed the multi$li"ation "onta"t on his "om$uter and let the numers whirl to a halt! And
then he stared and said in a sur$rised s&uea*'
.Great Gala/y' the %ella2s right!.
The (resident o% the Terrestrial Federation had grown haggard in o%%i"e and' in $ri#ate' he allowed a loo* o% settled melan"holy
to a$$ear on his sensiti#e %eatures! The -eneian war' a%ter its early start o% #ast mo#ement and great $o$ularity' had tri"*led
down into a sordid matter o% manoeu#re and "ounterman"eu#re' with dis"ontent rising steadily on Earth! (ossily it was rising on
-ene' too!
And now +ongressman ,rant' head o% the im$ortant +ommittee on Military A$$ro$riations' was "heer%ully and smoothly
s$ending his hal%-hour a$$ointment s$outing nonsense!
.+om$uting without a "om$uter'. said the $resident im$atiently' .is a "ontradi"tion in terms!.
.+om$uting'. said the +ongressman' .is only a system %or handling data! A ma"hine might do it' or the human rain might! Let
me gi#e you an e/am$le!. And' using the new s*ills he had learned' he wor*ed out sums and $rodu"ts until the $resident' des$ite
himsel%' grew interested!
.-oes this always wor*4.
.E#ery time' Mr! (resident! It is %ool$roo%!.
.Is it hard to learn4.
.It too* me a wee* to get the real hang o% it! I thin* you would do etter!.
.)ell'. said the $resident' "onsidering' .it2s an interesting $arlour game' ut what is the use o% it4.
.)hat is the use o% a neworn ay' Mr! (resident4 At the moment there is no use' ut don2t you see that this $oints the way
towards lieration %rom the ma"hine! +onsider'
Mr! (resident'. the +ongressman rose and his dee$ #oi"e automati"ally too* on some o% the "aden"es he used in $uli" deate'
.that the -eneian war is a war o% "om$uter against "om$uter! Their "om$uters %orge an im$enetrale %ield o% "ounter-missiles
against our missiles' and ours %orge one against theirs! I% we ad#an"e the e%%i"ien"y o% our "om$uters' so do they theirs' and %or
%i#e years a $re"arious and $ro%itless alan"e has e/isted!
.Now we ha#e in our hands a method %or going eyond the "om$uter' lea$t rogging it' $assing through it! )e will "omine the
me"hani"s o% "om$utation with human thought: we will ha#e the e&ui#alent o% intelligent "om$uters: illions o% them! I "an2t
$rediet what the "onse&uen"es will e in detail ut they will e in"al"ulale! And i% -ene eats us to the $un"h' they may e
unimaginaly "atastro$hi"!.
The $resident said' trouled' .)hat would you ha#e me do4.
.(ut the $ower o% the administration ehind the estalishment o% a se"ret $ro0e"t on human "om$utation! +all it (ro0e"t Numer'
i% you li*e! I "an #ou"h %or my "ommittee' ut I will need the administration ehind me!.
.,ut how %ar "an human "om$utation go4.
.There is no limit! A""ording to (rogrammer Shuman' who %irst introdu"ed me to this dis"o#ery.
.I2#e heard o% Shuman' o% "ourse!.
.1es! )ell' Dr. Shuman tells me that in theory there is nothing the "om$uter "an do that the human mind "annot do! The
"om$uter merely ta*es a %inite amount o% data and $er%orms a %inite numer o% o$erations u$on them! The human mind "an
du$li"ate the $ro"ess!.
The $resident "onsidered that! He said' .I% Shuman says this' I am in"lined to elie#e himin theory! ,ut' in $ra"ti"e' how "an
anyone *now how a "om$uter wor*s4.
,rant laughed genially! .)ell' Mr! (resident' I as*ed the same &uestion! It seems that at one time "om$uters were designed
dire"tly y human eings! Those were sim$le "om$uters' o% "ourse' this eing e%ore the time o% the rational use o% "om$uters to
design more ad#an"ed "om$uters had een estalished!.
.1es' yes! Go on!.
.Te"hni"an Au a$$arently had' as his hoy' the re"onstru"tion o% some o% these an"ient de#i"es and in so doing he studied the
details o% their wor*ings and %ound he "ould imitate them! The multi$li"ation I 0ust $er%ormed %or you is an imitation o% the
wor*ings o% a "om$uter!.
.Ama5ing3.
The +ongressman "oughed gently' .I% I may ma*e another $oint' Mr! (resident The %urther we "an de#elo$ this thing' the more
we "an di#ert our Federal e%%ort %rom "om$uter $rodu"tion and "om$uter maintenan"e! As the human rain ta*es o#er' more o%
our energy "an e dire"ted into $ea"etime $ursuits and the im$ingement o% war on the ordinary man will e less! This will e
more ad#antageous %or the $arty in $ower' o% "ourse!.
.Ah'. said the $resident' .I see your $oint! )ell' sit down' +ongressman' sit down! I want some time to thin* aout this! ,ut
meanwhile' show me that multi$li"ation tri"* again! Let2s see i% I "an2t "at"h the $oint o% it!.
(rogrammer Shuman did not try to hurry matters! Loesser was "onser#ati#e' #ery "onser#ati#e and li*ed to deal with "om$uters
as his %ather and grand%ather had! Still' he "ontrolled the )est Euro$ean "om$uter "omine' and i% he "ould e $ersuaded to 0oin
(ro0e"t Numer in %ull enthusiasm' a great deal would e a""om$lished!
,ut Loesser was holding a"*! He said' .I2m not sure I li*e the idea o% rela/ing our hold on "om$uters! The human mind is a
"a$ri"ious thing! The "om$uter will gi#e the same answer to the same $rolem ea"h time! )hat guarantee ha#e we that the human
mind will do the same4.
.The human mind' +om$uter Loesser' only mani$ulates %a"ts! It doesn2t matter whether the human mind or a ma"hine does it!
They are 0ust tools!.
.1es' yes! I2#e gone o#er your ingenious demonstration that the mind "an du$li"ate the "om$uter' ut it seems to me a little in
the air! I2ll grant the theory ut what reason ha#e we %or thin*ing that theory "an e "on#erted to $ra"ti"e4.
.I thin* we ha#e reason' sir! A%ter all' "om$uters ha#e not always e/isted! The "a#e men with their triremes' stone a/es' and
railroads had no "om$uters!.
.And $ossily they did not "om$ute!.
.1ou *now etter than that! E#en the uilding o% a railroad or a 5iggurat "alled %or some "om$uting' and that must ha#e een
without "om$uters as we *now them!.
.-o you suggest they "om$uted in the %ashion you demonstrate4.
.(roaly not! A%ter all' this methodwe "all it 2gra$hiti"s'2 y the way' %rom the old Euro$ean word 2gra$ho2 meaning 2to write2is
de#elo$ed %rom the "om$uters themsel#es so it "annot ha#e antedated them! Still' the "a#e men must ha#e had some method' eh4.
.Lost arts3 I% you2re going to tal* aout lost arts.
.No' no! I2m not a lost art enthusiast' though I don2t say there may not e some! A%ter all' man was eating grain e%ore
hydro$oni"s' and i% the $rimiti#es ate grain' they must ha#e grown it in soil! )hat else "ould they ha#e done4.
.I don2t *now' ut I2ll elie#e in soil-growing when I see someone grow grain in soil! And I2ll elie#e in ma*ing %ire y ruing
two $ie"es o% %lint together when I see that' too!.
Shuman grew $la"ati#e! .)ell' let2s sti"* to gra$hiti"s! It2s 0ust $art o% the $ro"ess o% ethereali5ation! Trans$ortation y means o%
ul*y "ontri#an"es is gi#ing way to dire"t mass trans%eren"e! +ommuni"ations de#i"es e"ome less massi#e and more e%%i"ient
"onstantly! For that matter' "om$are your $o"*et "om$uter with the massi#e 0os o% a thousand years ago! )hy not' then' the last
ste$ o% doing away with "om$uters altogether4 +ome' sir! (ro0e"t Numer is a going "on"ern: $rogress is already headlong! ,ut
we want your hel$! I% $atriotism doesn2t mo#e you' "onsider the intelle"tual ad#enture in#ol#ed!.
Loesser said s"e$ti"ally' .)hat $rogress4 )hat "an you do eyond multi$li"ation4 +an you integrate a trans"endental
%un"tion4.
.In time' sir! In time! In the last month I ha#e learned to handle di#ision! I "an determine' and "orre"tly' integral &uotients and
de"imal &uotients!.
.-e"imal &uotients4 To how many $la"es4.
(rogrammer Shuman tried to *ee$ his tone "asual! .Any numer3.
Loesser2s lower 0aw dro$$ed! .)ithout a "om$uter4.
.Set me a $rolem!.
.-i#ide twenty-se#en y thirteen! Ta*e it to si/ $la"es!.
Fi#e minutes later' Shuman said' .Two $oint oh se#en si/ nine two three!.
Loesser "he"*ed it! .)ell' now' that2s ama5ing! Muliti$li"ation didn2t im$ress me too mu"h e"ause it in#ol#ed integers a%ter all'
and I thought tri"* mani$ulation might do it! ,ut de"imals.
.And that is not all! There is a new de#elo$ment that is' so %ar' to$ se"ret and whi"h stri"tly s$ea*ing' I ought not to mention!
Stillwe may ha#e made a rea*through on the s&uare root %ront!.
.S&uare roots4.
.It in#ol#es some tri"*y $oints and we ha#en2t li"*ed the ugs yet' ut Te"hni"ian Au' the man who in#ented the s"ien"e and
who has an ama5ing intuition in "onne"tion with it' maintains he has the $rolem almost sol#ed! And he is only a Te"hni"ian! A
man li*e yoursel%' a trained and talented mathemati"ian' ought to ha#e no di%%i"ulty!.
.S&uare roots'. muttered Loesser' attra"ted!
.+ue roots' too! Are you with us4.
Loesser2s hand thrust out suddenly! .+ount me in!. General )eider stum$ed his way a"* and %orth at the head o% the room and
addressed his listeners a%ter the %ashion o% a sa#age tea"her %a"ing a grou$ o% re"al"itrant students! It made no di%%eren"e to the
general that they were the "i#ilian s"ientists heading (ro0e"t Numer! The general was the o#erall head' and he so "onsidered
himsel% at e#ery wa*ing moment!
He said' .Now s&uare roots are all %ine! I "an2t do them mysel% and I don2t understand the methods' ut they2re %ine!Still' the
(ro0e"t will not e sidetra"*ed into what some o% you "all the %undamentals! 1ou "an $lay with gra$hiti"s any way you want to
a%ter the war is o#er' ut right now we ha#e s$e"i%i" and #ery $ra"ti"al $rolems to sol#e!.
In a %ar "orner! Te"hni"ian Au listened with $ain%ul attention! He was no longer a Te"hni"ian' o% "ourse' ha#ing een relie#ed
o% his duties and assigned to the $ro0e"t' with a %ine-sounding title and good $ay! ,ut' o% "ourse' the so"ial distin"tion remained
and the highly $la"ed s"ienti%i" leaders "ould ne#er ring themsel#es to admit him to their ran*s on a %ooting o% e&uality! Nor' to
do Au 0usti"e' did he' himsel%' wish it! He was as un"om%ortale with them as they with him!
The general was saying' .7ur goal is a sim$le one' gentlemen6 the re$la"ement o% the "om$uter! A shi$ that "an na#igate s$a"e
without a "om$uter on oard "an e "onstru"ted in one %i%th the time and at one tenth the e/$ense o% a "om$uter-laden shi$! )e
"ould uild %leets %i#e times' ten times' as great as -ene "ould i% we "ould ut eliminate the "om$uter!
.And I see something e#en eyond this! It may e %antasti" now' a mere dream: ut in the %uture I see the manned missile3.
There was an instant murmur %rom the audien"e!
The general dro#e on! .At the $resent time' our "hie% ottlene"* is the %a"t that missiles are limited in intelligen"e! The
"om$uter "ontrolling them "an only e so large' and %or that reason they "an meet the "hanging nature o% antimissile de%enses in
an unsatis%a"tory way! Few missiles' i% any' a""om$lish their goal and missle war%are is "oming to a dead end: %or the enemy'
%ortunately' as well as %or oursel#es!
.7n the other hand' a missile with a man or two within' "ontrolling %light y gra$hiti"s' would e lighter' more moile' more
intelligent! It would gi#e us a lead that might well mean the margin o% #i"tory! ,esides whi"h' gentlemen' the e/igen"ies o% war
"om$el us to rememer one thing! A man is mu"h more dis$ensale than a "om$uter! Manned missiles "ould e laun"hed in
numers and under "ir"umstan"es that no good general would "are to underta*e as %ar as "om$uter-dire"ted missiles are
"on"erned.
He said mu"h more ut Te"hni"ian Au did not wait! Te"hni"ian Au' in the $ri#a"y o% his &uarters' laoured long o#er the note
he was lea#ing ehind! It read %inally as %ollows6
.)hen I egan the study o% what is now "alled gra$hiti"s' it was no more than a hoy! I saw no more in it than an interesting
amusement' an e/er"ise o% mind!
.)hen (ro0e"t Numer egan' I thought that others were wiser than ;: that gra$hiti"s might e $ut to $ra"ti"al use as a ene%it
to man*ind' to aid in the $rodu"tion o% really $ra"ti"al mass-trans%eren"e de#i"es $erha$s! ,ut now I see it to e used only %or
death and destru"tion!
.I "annot %a"e the res$onsiility in#ol#ed in ha#ing in#ented gra$hiti"s!.
He then delierately turned the %o"us o% a $rotein-de$olari5er on himsel% and %ell instantly and $ainlessly dead! They stood o#er
the gra#e o% the little Te"hni"ian while triute was $aid to the greatness o% his dis"o#ery! (rogrammer Shuman owed his head
along with the rest o% them' ut remained unmo#ed! The Te"hni"ian had done his share and was no longer needed' a%ter all! He
might ha#e started gra$hiti"s' ut now that it had started' it would "arry on y itsel% o#erwhelmingly' trium$hantly' until manned
missiles were $ossile' with who *new what else! Nine times se#en' thought Shuman with dee$ satis%a"tion' is si/ty-three' and I
don<t need a "om$uter to tell me so!
The "om$uter is in my own head!
And it was ama5ing the %eeling o% $ower that ga#e him!

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