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First Rate Research--Even a Widget has its Evil Side
on May 5, 2003
Who would have anticipated that a speedy card-sorter, the Hollerith machine, would evolve into a tool of one of the most evil schemes of all time? Yet, this patented machine, devised by a little-known man of German descent, made it possible to conduct a census in a short time period, and turned counting into a tool useful on a mass scale. Black's book is a page-burner, containing information that will surprise the reader paragraph by paragraph. In my generation, the "Do Not Spindle, Fold, or Mutilate" written on each IBM punchcard was the introduction to the computer and information age (and often the butt of jokes). A scant 25 to 30 years earlier, similar punch cards became the currency on which the Holocaust was based. A truly groundbreaking piece of research that, fortunately, has already appeared in German translation. In the days where vast amounts of personal information are being reduced to a series of ones and zeros carried electronically and stored digitally, this saga may be the harbinger of horrors much worse than were conceived by the progenitors of the 1000-year Reich. We should pay close attention to the uses of such personal information, lest humans lose complete control of their humanity. Here we find a true fable (that's an oxymoron) with much more to teach than Aesop could have imagined.