Story about a mathematics discovery that would allow people to replace computers in missiles. The government is interested as people are cheaper than computers.


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This is "The Feeling of Power" by Isaac Asimov

Humanity has forgotten mathematics

"This is not something we can leak to the firstcomer. Aub!" There was something imperative about his manner of biting off that one-syllable name, but then he was a great Programmer speaking to a mere technician. "Aub! How much is nine times seven?" Aub hesitated a moment. His pale eyes glimmered with a feeble anxiety. "Sixty-three," he said. Congressman Brant lifted his eyebrows. "Is that right?" "Check it for yourself, Congressman."

They decide to put humans into missiles

The general drove on. "At the present time our chief bottleneck is the fact that missiles are limited in intelligence. The computer controlling them can only be so large, and for that reason they can meet the changing nature of anti-missile defenses in an unsatisfactory way. Few missiles, if any, accomplish their goal, and missile warfare is coming to a dead end, for the enemy, fortunately, as well as for ourselves.

"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 . . ."

You can read the full version online here

  • Previously identified in answer to this question.
    – user14111
    Oct 2, 2014 at 22:06
  • @user14111 - You're absolutely right. VTC as dupe.
    – Valorum
    Oct 2, 2014 at 22:07

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