Picasso quotation about computers

Garson O'Toole adsgarsonotoole at GMAIL.COM
Wed Oct 26 19:41:56 UTC 2011

Prompted by an entertaining email from Kevin Kelly of Wired I am
exploring a quotation about computers that is attributed to Pablo
Picasso. Kelly located two versions of the saying in the 1982 book "In
Search of Genius" by William Fifield. The author attributed these
words to Picasso:

[Begin excerpts]
On page 40:
What good are computers? They can only give you answers.

On page 145:
But they are useless. They can only give you answers.
[End excerpts]

The always superb Yale Book of Quotations has a citation for the
Picasso quote in this book and lists the second version:
[Begin excerpt]
[Of computers:] They are useless. They can only give you answers.
Quoted in William Fifield, In Search of Genius (1982)
[End excerpt]

Picasso died in 1973. I have located a passage in the "A" opus of the
modernist poet Louis Zukofsky that may be a reference to words from
Pablo Picasso:

Cite: 1967 August, Poetry, "A"—18 by Louis Zukofsky, Start Page 281,
Quote Page 286, Volume 110, Number 5 (Aug., 1967), Published by:
Poetry Foundation. (JSTOR)
[Begin excerpt]
what work excepts or ends. Fiddler and fiddle
together. Man and Sheep: Odysseus with the Sacrifice:
his kid's clothes sprawled over the stone,  Pablo--
'art begs disrespect, calculators can only give answers
Bad, good: horses or sheep in a field.'
[End excerpt]

Louis Zukofsky does incorporate interesting quotations in his poetry.
For example, a very early instance of a quotation attributed to
Einstein also appeared in his 'A" opus. The poem section "A"-18 does
not contain "Picasso" just "Pablo".

Maybe "calculator" and "computer" are English translations of a word
in Spanish (or French). This ambiguous 1969 cite is the only evidence
I have located before 1982 at this point. If any list member can shed
light on this topic or find another cite it would be appreciated.


The American Dialect Society - http://www.americandialect.org

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