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The Last Movie Quote [Jul. 30th, 2006|11:20 am]
Most of the quotes were tagged surprisingly quickly, even when I just posted a minor line. The one that no one recognized is from an old movie, Fail-Safe (1964). It's the serious counterpart to Dr. Strangelove. (To the point that there were some lawsuits between the studios.) This one is a drama that would be unremarkable except for the powerful acting (check it out if you like Henry Fonda or Walter Matthau) and keen photographic direction.

Here's the exchange from which I took the quote. They're discussing what appears to be a Central Air Command computer failure which may have inadvertently ordered a nuclear strike. Mr. Knapp is the electronics contractor, Mr. Swenson is the Secretary of Defense, Prof. Groeteschell is a hawkish government advisor, and Colonel Cascio is an Air Force commander who suspects sabotage.

KNAPP: The more complex an electronic system gets, the more accident-prone it is. Sooner or later it breaks down.

SWENSON: What breaks down?

KNAPP: A transistor blows... a condenser burns out... sometimes they just get tired, like people.

GROETESCHELL: Mr Knapp overlooks one factor. The machines are supervised by humans. Even if the machine fails, the human being can always correct the mistake.

KNAPP: I wish you were right. But the fact is, the machines work so fast, they are so intricate, the mistakes they make are so subtle, that very often a human being can't know whether the machine is lying or telling the truth.

CASCIO: Maybe this time there wasn't any failure. Maybe the Russians have come up with a way to mask the real position of Group Six.

Personally, I like the quote just because it brings to mind some principles still used in modern computer programming about systems design and risk management.

[User Picture]From: porsupah
2006-07-30 06:44 pm (UTC)
It's ringing a faint bell, but I'm not sure whether I've seen it.. with folks like that, though, I'd like to see it sometime.

A very good point, though - there's a great deal of trust involved in the operation of any modern computer, whether controlling missiles, or just sat on one's desk. (How do you know any given application really is only doing what it claims?)

Speaking of computer-based movies with greater-known counterparts, I just happened upon Hide and Seek, which appears to be an earlier Canadian effort along the lines of War Games, this time set in a nuclear power station.
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