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The year 2000 bomb: is it hype?

The millennium computer "time bomb" could cause mayhem in everything from laptop computers to air traffic control. Robert Fenner considers the scale of the problem and whether it has been exaggerated by those who could benefit.

Many years ago, an engineer explained to me the difference between human and computer behaviour. “If you give ?1 to young John and ask him to go and buy a loaf of bread, he will go to the shop, buy the loaf and bring it back to you with the change. If you could ask a computer to do the same thing, it would go to the shop, buy the loaf and wait there.”

Sadly, artificial intelligence has not progressed a great deal since then. It is true that many software programmes can now draw inferences from context and act…

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