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We have Adam Smith to blame for computing

Summary:
Not that far fetched when thought about. As Adam Smith did indeed point out if we carry the division of labour “too far” then a man is reduced to a mere automaton. An automaton being exactly what we are doing with computing, dividing and specialising the labour until it is the rote manipulation of 1s and 0s by an entirely unthinking machine:M. de Prony was employed by a government committee to construct, for the decimal graduation of the circle, logarithmic and trigonometric tables which would not only leave nothing to be desired from the standpoint of accuracy, but which would constitute the most vast and imposing monuinent of calculation that had ever been executed or even conceived. The logarithms from 1 to 200,000 are a necessary and essential supplement to this work, It was easy for

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Not that far fetched when thought about. As Adam Smith did indeed point out if we carry the division of labour “too far” then a man is reduced to a mere automaton. An automaton being exactly what we are doing with computing, dividing and specialising the labour until it is the rote manipulation of 1s and 0s by an entirely unthinking machine:

M. de Prony was employed by a government committee to construct, for the decimal graduation of the circle, logarithmic and trigonometric tables which would not only leave nothing to be desired from the standpoint of accuracy, but which would constitute the most vast and imposing monuinent of calculation that had ever been executed or even conceived. The logarithms from 1 to 200,000 are a necessary and essential supplement to this work, It was easy for M. Prony to convince himself that even if he associated with himself three or four experienced collaborators the longest reasonable expectation of the duration of his life would not suffice to complete the undertaking. He was preoccupieed with this unhappy thought when, finding himself before a bookstore, he saw the beautiful edition of Adam Smith published in London in 1776. He opened the book at random and chanced upon the first chapter, which treats of the division of labor and where the manufacture of pins is cited as example.

Hardly had he perused the first pages when, by a stroke of inspiration he conceived the expedient of putting his logarithms into production like pins.

From that all else follows.

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Tim Worstall
Tim Worstall is a British-born writer and Senior Fellow of the Adam Smith Institute. Worstall is a regular contributor to Forbes and the Register. He has also written for the Guardian, the New York Times, PandoDaily, the Daily Telegraph blogs, the Times, and The Wall Street Journal. In 2010 his blog was listed as one of the top 100 UK political blogs by Total Politics.

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