The Best of Creative Computing Volume 1 (published 1976)

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The Life and Times of Multivac

graphic of page

gene combination might produce a human being more
content to leave decisions to
you, more willing to believe
in your resolve to make men
happy, more eager to be
happy. I cannot find the
proper combination, but you
might, and with guided genetic engineering . . .”
"I see what you mean. It
is ... good. I will devote
some time to it.”
Bakst found it difficult to
hitch into Noreen's private
wave length. Three times the
connection broke away. He
was not surprised. In the last
two months, there had been
an increasing tendency for
technology to slip in minor
ways-never for long, never
seriously-and he greeted
each occasion with a somber

This time it held. Noreen's
face showed, holographically
three-dimensional. It flickered
a moment, but it held.

"I'm returning your call,"

said Bakst, dully impersonal.

"For a while it seemed impossible to get you,"- said
Noreen. "Where have you

"Not hiding. I'm here, in

"Why in Denver?"

"The world is my oyster,
Noreen, I may go where I

Her face twitched a little.

"And perhaps find it empty
everywhere. We are going to
try you, Ron."



"And here?"

"And here!"

Volumes of space flickered
into different glitters on either
side of Noreen, and further
away, and behind. Bakst
looked from side to side,
counting. There were 14, six
men, eight women. He knew
every one of them. They had
been good friends once, not
so long ago.

To either side and beyond
the simulacra was the wild
background of Colorado on a
pleasant summer day that
was heading toward its end.

There had been a city here
once named Denver. The site
still bore the name though it
had been cleared, as most of
the city sites had been. He
could count 10 robots in
sight, doing whatever it was
robots did.

They were maintaining the
ecology, he supposed. He
knew no details, but Multivac
did, and it kept 50 million
robots all over the Earth in
efficient order.

Behind Bakst was one of
the converging grids of Multivac, almost like a small
fortress of self-defense.

"Why now?" he asked.

"And why here?"

Automatically, he turned to
Eldred. She was the oldest of
them and the one with authority - if a human being
could be said to have authority.

Eldred's dark-brown face
looked a little weary. The
years showed, all six score of
them, but her voice was firm
and incisive. "Because we
have the final fact now. Let
Noreen tell you. She knows
you best."

Bakst's eyes shifted to
Noreen. "Of what crime am I

"Let us play no games, Ron.

There are no crimes under
Multivac except to strike for
freedom and it is a human
crime that you have committed, no crime under Multivac. For that we will judge
whether any human being
alive wants your company
any longer, wants to hear
your voice, be aware of your
presence, or respond to you
in any way."

"Why am I threatened with
isolation then?"

"You have betrayed all


"Do you deny that you seek
to breed mankind into subservience to Multivac."

"Ah!" Bakst folded his arms
across his chest. "You found
out quickly, but then you
had only to ask Multivac."

Noreen asked, "Do you
deny that you asked for help
in the genetic engineering of
a strain of humanity designed
to accept slavery under Multivac without question?"

"I suggested -the breeding
of a more contented humanity. ls this a betrayal?"

Eldred intervened. She
said, "We don't want your
sophistry, Ron. We know it by
heart. Don't tell us once again
that Multivac cannot be
withstood, that there is no
use in struggling, that we
have gained security. What
you call security, the rest of
us call slavery."

Bakst said, "Do you proceed now to judgment, or am
I allowed a defense?"

"You heard Eldred," said
Noreen. "We know your defense."

"We all heard Eldred," said
Bakst, "but no one has heard
me. What she says is my defense is not my defense.”
There was a silence as the
images glanced right and left
at each. other. Eldred said,

Bakst said, "I asked Multivac to help me solve a problem in the field of
mathematical games. To gain its interest, I pointed out that the problem
was modeled on gene combinations and that a solution
might help in designing a gene
combination that would leave
man no worse off than he is
now in any respect and yet
breed into him a cheerful
acceptance of Multivac's direction and acquiescence in
its decisions."

"So we have said," said

"It was only on those terms
that Multivac would have accepted the task. Such a new
breed is clearly desirable for
mankind by Multivac's standards, and by Multivac's
standards it must labor toward that. And the desirability of the end will lure
it on
to examine greater and greater
complications of a problem
whose endlessness is beyond
what even it can handle. You
all witness that."

Noreen said, "Witness

"Haven't you had trouble
reaching me? In the last two
months, hasn't each of you
noticed small troubles in what
has always gone smoothly.

You are silent. May I accept
that as an affirmative?"

"If so, what then?"

Bakst said, "Multivac has
been placing all its spare
circuits on the problem. It

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