The Best of Creative Computing Volume 1 (published 1976)

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The Life and Times of Multivac

graphic of page

‘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?' ‘l suggested
the breeding of a more contented
humanity. ls this a betrayal?'

has been slowly pushing the
running of the world toward
rather a skimpy minimum of
its efforts, since nothing, by
its own sense of ethics, must
stand- in the way of human
happiness and there can be
no greater increase in that
happiness than to accept Multivac."

Noreen asked, “What does
all this mean? There is still
enough in Multivac to run the
world-and us-and if this is
done at less than full efficiency, that would only add
temporary discomfort to our
slavery. Only temporary, because it won't last long.

Sooner or later, Multivac will
decide the problem is insoluble, or will solve it;  in
either case, Multivac's distraction will end. In the latter
case, slavery will become permanent irrevocable.”

'But for now Multivac is
distracted,” said Bakst,"and
we can even talk like this-most dangerously - without
its noticing. Yet I dare not
risk doing so for long, so
please understand me quickly.

“I have another mathematical game-the setting up
of networks on the model of
Multivac. I have been able to
demonstrate that no matter
how complicated and redundant the network is, there
must be at least one place
into which all the currents
can funnel under particular
circumstances. There will always be the fatal apoplectic
stroke if that one place is
interfered with since it will
induce overloading elsewhere
which will break down and
induce overloading still elsewhere - and so on, indefinitely, till all breaks


“And this is the point. Why
else have I come to Denver?

And Multivac knows it, too,
and this point is guarded
electronically and robotically
to the point where it cannot
be penetrated.”


“But Multivac is distracted,
and Multivac trusts me. I
have labored hard to gain that
trust, at the cost of losing all
of you, since only with trust
is there the possibility of
betrayal. If any of you tried
to approach closely to Multivac, it might rouse itself even
out of its present distraction.

If Multivac were not distracted, it would not allow
even me to approach. But
Multivac is distracted, and it
is I who am approaching!"

Bakst was moving toward
the converging grid in a calm
saunter and the 14 images,
keyed to him, moved along as
well. The soft susurrations
of a busy Multivac center
were all about them.

Bakst said, “Why attack
an invulnerable opponent?

Make him vulnerable first,
and then .  . ."

Bakst fought to stay claim.

but it all depended on this
now. Everything! With a sharp
yank, he uncoupled a joint. If
he had only had still more
time to make more certain.

He was not stopped-and
as he held his breath, he became aware of the ceasing
of noise, the ending of whisper, the closing down of
Multivac. If, in a moment,
that soft noise did not return,
then he had reached the right
key point, and 'no recovery
would be possible. If he were
not suddenly the focus of approaching robots-


He tumed in the continuing
silence. The robots in the
distance were working still.

None were approaching.

Before him, the images of
the I4 men and women of
Congress were still there and
each seemed to be stupefied
at the sudden, enormous thing
that had happened.

Bakst said, "Multivac is
shut down, burned out. It can't
be rebuilt.” He felt almost
drunk at the sound of what
he was saying. “I have worked
toward this since I left you.

When Hines attacked, I feared
there might be other such
efforts, that Multivac would
double its guard, that even I 
. . . I had to work quickly . . . 
I wasn't sure . . ." He was
gasping, but forced himself
steady, and said solemnly: “I
have given us our freedom."

And he paused, aware at
last of the gathering weight
of the silence. Fourteen images stared at him, without
any of them offering a word
in response.

Bakst said sharply, “You
have talked of freedom. You
have it!"

Then, uncertainly, he said,
“Isn't that what you want?"



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