What computers can already do makes any prophecy of future potentialities difficult: it is hard to top the fantastic. But Dr. Simon Ramo, executive vice president of the booming electronics firm of Thompson Ramo Wooldridge (TIME cover, April 29, 1957), last week took a bold peek into the future. At a U.C.L.A. lecture, Si Ramo painted a picture of the coming "age of intellectronics":
LAWYERS: "Two or three decades from now, every attorney might have an electronic connection to a huge national central repository of all the laws and commentaries upon them that he needs." Instead of searching through law libraries for precedents, says Ramo, a lawyer will consult the intellectronics system by means of a typewriter-like gadget in his office which, within seconds, will produce "any information that is available on his particular question."
DOCTORS: Doctors of the future, according to Ramo, will feed their patients' case histories into a medical intellectronics system that will correlate the information with that amassed from thousands of previous cases and then supply "the statistical probabilities of the relative effectiveness of various treatments."
BANKS: The routine chores required to keep money transactions straight, Ramo argues, are "as unsuitable for the human intellect as pulling huge stones to build the Pyramids was for human muscles. Some day, currency and coins will be only for the rural areas. If you buy a necktie or a house, your thumb before an electronic scanner will identify you, and the network will debit your account and credit the seller."
At what risk all this? Well, admits Ramo: "Occasionally, a transistor burning out in Kansas City may accidentally wipe out the fortune of someone in Philadelphia."