Many years ago I remember reading a short story about an advanced civilization at war that rediscovers how to do math mentally. The reason I remember it is the guy tells it to government officials who are delighted because it means they can put people inside bombs or missiles instead of computers, which were thought to be more valuable.

I believe this is one of those stories I read in a science fiction anthology my father brought home on one of his business trips in the sixties or seventies.

  • 4
    Dupe of a dupe. Unfortunately, none of them can be closed because of our new policy on story-ident dupes
    – Valorum
    Oct 1, 2015 at 22:00
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    @Richard Since we have an acceptance here and a "yes, this is it" comment on your first link, any reason we shouldn't mark at least one as a dupe?
    – alexwlchan
    Oct 2, 2015 at 8:28
  • @Richard do you have a link to a meta post about that policy? Oct 2, 2015 at 17:15
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    @MichaelMcGriff - Here you go. meta.scifi.stackexchange.com/questions/7065/….
    – Valorum
    Oct 2, 2015 at 17:21

1 Answer 1


"The Feeling of Power" by Isaac Asimov has appeared in many anthologies and collections. It was first published in If, February 1958, which is available at the Internet Archive. It was previously identified as the answer to this old question and this one.

In Asimov's story the rediscovered art is called "graphitics":

"On the other hand, a missile with a man or two within, controlling flight by graphitics, would be lighter, more mobile, more intelligent. It would give us a lead that might well mean the margin of victory. Besides which, gentlemen, the exigencies of war compel us to remember one thing. A man is much more dispensable than a computer. Manned missiles could be launched in numbers and under circumstances that no good general would care to undertake as far as computer-directed missiles are concerned—"

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    Wow, how unvisionary... Oct 2, 2015 at 1:42
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    @R.. I think he was trying to be more disturbing than visionary.
    – Flamma
    Oct 2, 2015 at 7:06
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    @R: This was written at a time when the top computer manufacturer at the time estimated that the global, international market for computers was 6 computers total. Some of the best scifi stories were written with the idea that computers are huge expensive things that take up a whole room or a small building or even a large city-state (The Moon is a Harsh Mistress is an example of a city sized computer).
    – slebetman
    Oct 2, 2015 at 7:15
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    @slebetman Yep. Simak's 1949 "Limiting Factor" is about an alien computer that covers an Earth-size planet 20 miles deep.
    – user14111
    Oct 2, 2015 at 8:12
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    @R.. The quote is out of context. It is from the section where they take the inventor's idea and convert it from an interesting hobby to a war system. Asimov was highlighting that computers were developed as a way of making people's lives better, but they were being militarized. Many of the big names in the early days of the computer were anti-war, so they made a big deal about it. Asimov turns it around and changes the context. This is common to scifi from the period.
    – Trisped
    Oct 2, 2015 at 20:47

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