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A Scientific Proposal

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Being a missive from Mr. Charles Babbage, Esq., to Augusta Ada King, Countess of Lovelace:

Upon consideration of the responsibility laid upon us by Her Majesty the Queen, videlicet, our commission to Fight Crime, I have concluded that the target of our efforts (which is to say, crime), may best be considered as the solution of an equation whose variables we have not yet isolated, and furthermore that we will enjoy no success with our endeavours to fight same solution unless and until we have a greater understanding of those aforementioned variables. Although I first contemplated induction from empirical analysis, understanding that by this I mean the performance of Criminal Acts so as to gather data on the topic, from which we might derive the underlying principles and render them into a form amenable to calculation by our Difference Engine, id est a mathematical model; but upon further examination it occurred to me that this might meet with disapprobation from our Royal Client, as it would only compound the problem she wishes us to eliminate. But we cannot rightly be expected to solve a system of equations involving so many unknowns without first identifying its constraints! After much cogitation, I have concluded that the only feasible approach is to obtain for our research the Source of Crime itself, for if we should succeed in acquiring this, we would surely have all the data we might possibly need; and we would, as an ancillary benefit, we would solve certain theological problems that have thus far confounded individuals who lack the advantages of our scientific equipment and methods. Should it be that our attempts to obtain said source fail, then we will still have gathered Invaluable Data, beginning with the fact that the source of crime, as commonly identified by the aforementioned theological individuals, does not in fact exist. (I may note that I set myself at this task once as a boy, and did not succeed then; but I can draw no conclusions from that, as I was woefully ignorant at the time and may have failed on account of my own shortcomings, rather than as a demonstration of Empirical Fact. But I am certain you and I can succeed, if it can be done at all.) Please inform me at once of your agreement! I have already drawn up plans, and cannot wait to begin.

Your most enthusiastic partner in fighting crime,
Charles Babbage

 

From Lovelace to Babbage:

No, we aren't summoning the Devil. Also, no more coffee for you.

Ada