Horizon was ‘computer says no’ on a vast scale

With AI looming, the Post Office scandal is a reminder that all automation must be backed up by accountable humans

The Times

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Narrated by Hugo Rifkind

‘Computer says no.” Remember? This was Little Britain, back in 2004. David Walliams is in drag as Carol, a bored bank worker behind a screen. Matt Lucas comes in, looking for a loan: £2,000? Carol taps at her keyboard. “Computer says no,” she says. Lucas suggests less. Carol types again. “Computer says no.” Lucas looks nonplussed. “Can I,” he asks, “have a word with the manager?” Tap, tap. “Computer says no.”

That was also the year, funnily enough, that the sub-postmaster Alan Bates first approached the magazine Computer Weekly suggesting they might wish to take a look at the various inhuman travesties the Post Office’s Horizon system, made by Fujitsu, was inflicting upon his peers.

Even 20 years on, it is hard to