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What is the biggest conflict in the story "The Machine that Won the War"?

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monte-carlo | High School Teacher | (Level 2) eNoter

Posted January 13, 2010 at 12:19 AM via web

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What is the biggest conflict in the story "The Machine that Won the War"?

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Karen P.L. Hardison | College Teacher | eNotes Employee

Posted January 13, 2010 at 12:51 AM (Answer #1)

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The major conflict of Isaac Asimov's The Machine that Won the War would be a variation of the "man against nature" conflict, the variation being man against machine. When the war starts, humanity is encouraged because the war will be fought by the Multivac computer. However, little does anyone know, but Henderson, knowing that computers are only as powerful as the data input compiled and programmed by humans, was keeping the secret that he altered statistics for input. At the same time, Jablonsky was keeping the secret that he altered output because he knew what bad shape the machine was in because of shortages. Swift was keeping the secret that he looked at Multivac's reports, didn't trust them, and tossed a coin to make his military command decisions.

The war was won, but who really wins the conflict? Machines need upkeep and repair, they also need reliable, objective, complete, impartial input for humans noted for their biases and blind sides. In a perfect world, maybe Multivac would win the conflict of man against machine, but in our fallible, biased universe, it looks like man trumps machine.

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