AS IF WE didn't have enough unthinkable things to think about -- we now have to think about a computer going berserk at NORAD and starting World War III. The same computer has malfunctioned three times within the year, thereby alerting American forces to a Soviet attack which was not taking place.
I'm one of those people who believes war is too serious a business to be left to computers.
The day after the foul-up, a blue ribbon panel of generals and admirals was assigned to investigate what had gone wrong.
They were flown out to NORAD in Colorado Springs to question the computer about the mistake.
"Ask it," one of the generals said, "what went wrong?"
The colonel started to hit the buttons on the computer, and the printout read, "As far as i was concerned, we were being attacked BY SOVIET MISSILES AND I WAS ONLY DOING MY DUTY."
An admiral said, "Find out where it got its information."
The question was fed in and the printout said, "It was just a feeling I HAD. I NEVER DID TRUST THE RUSSIANS."
A general angrily went over to the keyboard and tapped in, "None of us trusts the Russians, but at the same time we don't want to start World War III."
The computer replied, "BETTER DEAD THAN RED."
"Your job is to give us information based on facts," the general told the computer. "You are not programmed to alert the entire nuclear defense network of this country just because you don't like Communists."
The computer answered, "It's time. we nuke them before they NUKE US.
The general hit the keys again, "That is not a decision for a computer to make. You took an oath of office when you were installed to only alert us if they fired their missiles first."
"HOW DO WE KNOW THEY WEREN'T GOING TO FIRE THEM?"
"That's not the point," the general tapped in. "You said they HAD fired them."
"I had this dream that they were going to launch them. it seemed just like the real thing. if something bad happened AND I HADN'T ALERTED ANYONE, I WOULD HAVE FELT TERRIBLE."
An admiral indicated to the general that he wanted to take a crack at the keyboard.
"Do you realize that this is the third time you have given us a false alarm?"
The computer appeared agitated. "Are you trying to say i don't KNOW WHAT I'M DOING?"
"No, but you have been working very hard lately, and the pressure can get to the best of us."
"I am aware of what i was fed, and as far as i was concerned the dirty bolshies had launched their missiles at THIS COUNTRY IN A FIRST STRIKE ATTACK."
"But you told us before that it was just a feeling, and you had no evidence to back it up."
"You're trying to confuse me. you're all against me because i'm the only one who takes the red menace seriously. i know what you're saying behind my back. 'crazy mark vii. he doesn't know a real attack from a false one.' well, when the real thing happens, DON'T SAY YOU DIDN'T HAVE PLENTY OF WARNING."
"Cool it," the admiral typed in. "You're only making things worse. You have a fine record in the service and we don't want to discharge you. But you're not giving us any choice."
"WHAT DO YOU WANT ME TO DO?"
"Could you at least show a little remorse for what you did?"
The final printout read, "Being a computer means never having TO SAY YOU'RE SORRY."