The Feeling of Power

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"The Feeling of Power"
Author Isaac Asimov
Country United States
Language English
Genre(s) science fiction short story
Published in If
Publisher Quinn Publishing
Media type Magazine
Publication date February 1958

"The Feeling of Power" is a science fiction short story by Isaac Asimov. The story first appeared in the February 1958 issue of If: Worlds of Science Fiction, and was reprinted in the 1959 collection Nine Tomorrows, the 1969 retrospective Opus 100, and the 1986 collection Robot Dreams. In the introduction to Robot Visions, Asimov lists this story as one of the notable robot stories.

Plot summary[edit]

In the distant future, humans live in a computer-aided society and have forgotten the fundamentals of mathematics, including even the rudimentary skill of counting.

The Terrestrial Federation is at war with Deneb, and the war is conducted by long-range weapons controlled by computers which are expensive and hard to replace. Myron Aub, a low grade Technician, discovers how to reverse-engineer the principles of pencil-and-paper arithmetic from computers—a development which is later dubbed "Graphitics". The discovery is appropriated by the military establishment, who use it to re-invent their understanding of mathematics. They also plan to replace their computer-operated ships with lower cost, more expendable (in their opinion) manned ships to continue the war.

Aub is so upset by the appropriation of his discovery for military purposes that he commits suicide. As Aub's funeral proceeds, his supervisor realizes that even with Aub dead, the advancement of Graphitics is unstoppable. He executes simple multiplications in his mind, which gives him a great feeling of power.