On page 146 of “The Computer Boys”, Ensmenger alludes to “the new theocracy” as a pejorative term for computer personnel. This analogy seems much richer and deeper than it is addressed in the article. The parallels are numerous between the power structure of a late-1960s tech corporation and almost any premodern society with strong religious structure.
The very earliest societies – ancient China and Egypt, for example – got around the problem of religious and political powers by declaring their emperor or pharaoh to be a living god. He thus became the ultimate head of both power structures by divine right, and exercised direct control over both of them. However, in societies where the king was not considered a god – or the CEO didn’t know the first thing about computers – a power imbalance is created. In post-medieval Europe, although the king did rule by divine right, he was definitely not divine himself. There was a separation of powers, between the Church and the State, but the separation was incomplete, and each side struggled for more control over the fate of nations. The clergy had specialized skills and knowledge that lay people could not possess, much like the knowledge imparted during extensive technical education to a computer programmer.
Since they had power over men’s souls, which was the most important part of humanity, they saw themselves as the true power in the world. The kings, however, had political power based on station and bureaucracy, much like the managing structure of a corporation, and saw themselves as in control. There are several major flaws with this analogy; while in the real life example power shifted back and forth between the sides, corporate management always maintained a tight hold over the other source of power in their structure. Also, the power locus in a corporation doesn’t affect the lives of nearly as many people as that of a nation. Despite its problems, the comparison is far more interesting than Ensmenger gives it credit for.