Electronic computers were successfully developed by the forties and fifties, and used to analyze a number of difficult problems -- including the authorship of Biblical books. This was the period when the computer was seen as the ultimate miracle, and its pronouncements as infallible. In the sixties there was much commotion resulting from pronouncements of Computer Pundits who predicted things ranging from total depletion of mineral resources to absolute social collapse by the close of the seventies. Yet almost none of these things have taken place so far though we are already into the second decade of the twenty-first century.
If predictions that could be verified did not happen according to expectations, it is time to reexamine other such predictions in the light of the better information and insight that is available now. Right from the beginning one must question why such an undue importance is given to computer-based predictions ! True, even a personal computer of today can compute in one day what would take an individual a million years using pen and pencil, but this does not make the computer omniscient.
The great speed and accuracy with which computers can guzzle numbers gives them great advantage over humans when it comes to computation. This not only helps the humans in turn to solve mathematical problems fast, but also to solve problems that can be expressed in terms of mathematics or statistics. Further, mathematicians and computer programmers have made it possible to express a number of seemingly non-mathematical problems in terms of mathematics or statistics, making a computer analysis of that phenomenon possible. Thus a computer can help predict the purchasing behavior of a supermarket's customers during the next holiday season, or it can point to unusual behavior on part of credit card users, helping administrators to fine tune their over-all strategies. Yet that does not elevate a computing machine to the level of the humans because what it is doing is essentially only computation, the interpretation part being provided by the human programmers. Computer programs works as man-machine interface, but this does not eliminate the distinction between humans and machines (Pond, 1995)