e War“The Machine That Won the War,” by Isaac Asimov, is a story that
teaches a valuable lesson about humanity and also has an ironic twist at the
The setting is the future of Earth, and a great war had just been won
against an enemy race. Two men, Swift and Henderson, are debating over
who really won the war for Earth: the giant strategy computer known as
Multivac, or the men in charge of making the maneuvers and programming
the computer. John Henderson is an excitable man, while Lamar Swift, the
military captain, is calm but rational. While the people hailed the computer,
the two really knew who the heroes were.
Henderson explained the fact that Multivac was nothing more than a
large machine, only capable of doing what it was programmed to do. He
stated that ever since the beginning of the war, he had been hiding a secret. It
was the fact that some of its (Multivac’s) data might have been unreliable.
This conflict, as you will note later, helped win the war.
The great computer was capable of creating a direct battle plan which
Earth forces could use to attack their enemies. However, with Henderson
inputting faulty data, this caused some of the battle plans to be unreliable. His
internal conflict between himself losing his job and wanting to keep it made
him jingle with the programming until it seemed right.
This foreshadowing helps the reader to see that someone is going to
have to act upon Henderson’s faults if the war is to be won. Swift, the
military commander, received these battle plans that Henderson had ‘printed
up’ out on the front (the front being the battle front).
He, realizing that some of these plans were outrageous, had to act upon
a different form of machine. Swift’s motivation for not always acting upon
what was laid before him helped change the course of the war. He told
Henderson that when faced with the difficult decisions, he didn’t use
Multivac’s data all of the time. This conflict, making these tough decisions,
helps influence the climax. The climax of the story comes when Swift tells
Henderson he used a coin to make all of the though decisions instead of
Multivac’s data. This use of ‘situation irony’ shows us that in the worst
imaginable scenario, the outcome is actually made so simply. The lesson I
found in this story is to not always trust what you see before you, and that
human beings will forever take chances even in the riskiest of situations.
In conclusion,”The Machine That Won the War,” taught us all a valuable
lesson about how humans think, and contained a humorous, ironic ending
which stunned (or should have stunned) everyone.