Even more relevent today, the 60's SF novel COLOSSUS is a dark, wonderfully realized intellectual horror story, as well as a much-deserved slap at both technocrats who feel that the problems of human nature can and will be solved by devices completely lacking in human nature, and fuzzy-brained, romantic, philosophical purists who believe they can draw a line between themselves and The System (which, in this case, is named Colossus-Guardian), "dropping out" and heading for the hills when things go bad. In COLOSSUS, Jones offers no slick way out; he has provided no hills for the isolationists or the technocrats to head for. Both of these philosophies, which seem to have metamorphosized and grown in popularity in the last generation, fall victim to the same kind of fantasy: personal responsibility for the human condition can be shirked by the individual and transferred to someone -- in this case, something -- else.
Jones's novel takes the position that! the worst thing that can happen to you is to have an idle wish granted. In the 1960's, it was World Peace and the end of the Political Cold War; today it is World Harmony and the end of Racial and Ethnic Strife -- a different board, but the same game, and the same players and pieces. By transferring all personal responsibility for the fate of mankind to a highly powerful, completely logical computer-complex, humanity finds out that in giving up its responsibilty for the problems of hunger, war, crime and the rest of the perpetual litany of complaints, it has also given up its power to effect and control the solutions to those problems. The Draconian computer straps Humanity down on a Procrustian bed, and dispassionately proceeds to stretch and cut with the insensitive logic (and dark humor bordering on political and social obscenity) of a fairy-tale ogre.
Existentialists -- Sartre, Ortega y Gasset, Camus and others -- argue that what makes man MAN is the ability to make! himself, to respond to the brute facts of the world in way! s not determined by the past, or ones own lock-step habits and past traditions. In the 60's, humanity faced destruction, not because of the mechanical weapons built by competing super-powers, but by the mechanical behavior of the humans (from president or premier down to soldier or storeclerk) comprising those powers. Thirty years later, mankind marches to a different but no less mechanical drummer, individual people giving up their personal judgment in favor of membership in racial, ethnic and cultural enclaves, governed by unyielding rules and codes and principles. Not only are these rules of "human" behavior as predetermined and rigid and inflexible as anything a computer could come up with, they even take away the one freedom offered by the Cold War: defection; membership in socio-political groups these days is predetermined as well. Perhaps, with the right programming, it is time for Colossus -- who is not merely a physical machine, but the embodiment of th! e harshest philosophy of life imaginable -- to come back and "get things organized". We are as tempted by cruel and inhuman solutions today as we were a generation ago. But before making this choice -- the last choice one can ever make is to give up one's duty to make choices -- today's generation should read this book. And stop. And think. For itself.