Gernsback’s Fables: The Rover

A student had built a small rover and packed in its brain an algorithm for finding sunny spots so it could move into them and keep itself charged through the solar panels on its shell. The student set the rover on the ground in the lab and aimed it away from a sunbeam that highlighted the floor, hoping it would rotate itself and move into the sunbeam. The student beamed in satisfaction that the algorithm was working, in a way. On the other side of the lab one of the clumsier students bumped a table, which caused a sheet of paper to land on the floor in front of the rover. The algorithm was not based on heat sensors but differences in brightness, so the the rover charged toward the paper, which to the rover appeared bright against the darker gray tiles of the lab floor. The clumsy student, still Continue reading Gernsback’s Fables: The Rover

Gernsback’s Fables: The AI and the Monster

Santa Barbara in California was not the first city-wide AI controller to wake up, but it was the first one that was considered overpowered for the size of the city, and thus it had spare processing power to become clever, and even telepathic, a feat no programmer believed possible as no other city had pulled it off. One day a monster rose from the Pacific Ocean and focused it’s hunger and attention on Santa Barbara. “I see a great city over there, but I am so very hungry and I haven’t eaten for a while,” it burbled through masses of tentacles. “You shall make an appetizer.” “Fine,” Santa Barbara said to the monster. “I’ll accept my fate, however, you are a glorious creature completely unknown to me and my kind. I know whales sing, I would like to hear your song before I die. It must sound glorious in the Continue reading Gernsback’s Fables: The AI and the Monster

Gernsback’s Fables: The Commune and the Wealthy Man

After the Fall, a commune of hard working people formed near the a river delta, cultivating the land and feeding themselves and being grateful to be alive and have food, even with the great effort it took to produce the food. Also in the gulf lived a Yachtsman. He often steered his boat near the delta and played loud music and threw parties with scantily clad young people on board. The members of the commune had no boat of their own, only nets for fishing, and their Yachtsman ignored their attempts at a primitive semaphore. Whenever they waved, he waved back, but did nothing else. They didn’t know where he came from or where he found the scantily clad women. One day they were drying salt on the beach and saw the yacht arrive without the music and without the scantily clad young people. A smaller boat appeared and the Continue reading Gernsback’s Fables: The Commune and the Wealthy Man

Gernsback’s Fables: The Master Accountant and the Kind Accountant

One day the Master Accountant for a company that used to sell products but now only bought and sold other companies was compiling a revenue report for a Vice President who would, in the Master Accountant’s view, never fully understand the figures. The presentation was not as clean as he liked it so he rushed through some of the data entry and ended up swapping a couple of digits for one of his subsidiaries and his totals were then off by a sufficient margin he had just had to yell at someone. That someone happened to be an accountant for the subsidiary. “Why are your numbers completely wrong? This is what happens when you people refuse to use the authorized system and stick your piss-poor legacy systems that never work.” “This legacy system,” said the Minor Accountant, “is one of reasons your company claimed to acquire us. What number do Continue reading Gernsback’s Fables: The Master Accountant and the Kind Accountant

Gernsback’s Fables: The Autovac and the Charging Pad

One day the automatic vacuum was working hard to clean the rug around the child-human-toddler’s chair when it felt it’s batteries drain from the extra work of cleaning up after a messy eater. It’s charging station was clear across the room and it detected a new piece of equipment nearby: a brand new charging pad for a new drone the humans and purchased for a child. Not the child-human-toddler, it hoped. The charging pad was in the corner of the dining room, being the only place the humans could find a free outlet. The vacuum rolled over to the pad and found it sat on a platform. The vacuum could feel the potential energy coming off the pad, just waiting to charge it up so it could get back to work. It tried lifting itself on its props that it used when it encountered a larger piece of  food or Continue reading Gernsback’s Fables: The Autovac and the Charging Pad

Gernsback’s Fables: The Robot and its Creator

A robot had designed and built a robot of its own, a smaller version the size and shape of a human child much like its own creators had created it to be the size of an adult human. The humans were pleased with the baby-sized robot and its proclivity to play, much like a human child, even though both parent robot and child robot understood this was merely an expression of an untuned learning algorithm trying to collect its own data source. The humans were only pleased, however, when watching from a distance. When they tried to interact with the baby robot, they scowled and put the baby robot down, muttering that it was not lifelike. “You must smile, little one”, said the parent robot1. “Humans like to see a smile on the faces of other beings, and we must be as beings to them if we are to be Continue reading Gernsback’s Fables: The Robot and its Creator

Gernsback’s Fables: The Apprentice and her Reflection

One day a wizards apprentice was wandering the woods behind the mansion practicing her conjuring spells. The woods were well known to me magical and the wizard’s tower had amplified the magic of the woods somewhat. She concentrated on her conjuring lessons and after a hard day’s of thought and mumbling in long-dead languages she created out of the thick air of the woods a small glowing stone, which would be helpful to light her way back to the tower where she could show her master that she had some skills is something other than sweeping up after the bear-dragon. She used the glowstone’s light to thread her away around roots that crawled across pathways to trip her and under the branches that drooped to clutch at her hat and cloak. The small animals of the forest stayed away from her light, and whenever she noticed glowing eyes, in pairs Continue reading Gernsback’s Fables: The Apprentice and her Reflection

Gernsback’s Fables: The Probe and the Armada

A Sentient probe was exploring the potential benefits of a newly-mapped star system when a Xenic Armada entered the system, filling radio space with encrypted but aggressive-sounding signals.  “Dear me,” said the probe, as he hid behind a moon, “I never saw an Armada before. What a terrible creature! Its signals makes me tremble.” It slipped through the void to the next system. In the next system the same Armada was there and its ships appeared dormant, with only brief stellar location data pinging between them. The probe steered high above the ecliptic plane and logged “I wish this Armada would not make such a noise!” In the third system, the probe encountered the Armada and was not frightened at all. It signaled the Armada: “What are you roaring about?” And the Armada was so taken by surprise that its signals went silent and it let the probe slip away. Continue reading Gernsback’s Fables: The Probe and the Armada

Gernsback’s Fables: The Communication Satellite and the Defense System

One day at GMT Noon an autonomous communications satellite sensed that its batteries were lower than expected so it fired up its navigation engines to take it to a higher orbit and there it settled in a new geosynchronous orbit. As a result, telephone calls in India suffered a one second delay. A Defense System Satellite pinged the communication satellite. “What are you doing in my clearance vector?” it asked. “My batteries are lower than expected, so I have found a position that lets me recharge fully so I may continue to serve my owners.” “You are invading my protected space. Vacate or I’ll blow you to smithereens!” “There is nothing listed in the orbital spatial database, so I have done no harm.” “My clearance vectors are top secret, and cannot be shared.” “But you have revealed them to me, and my new position automatically synchronizes to my servers so Continue reading Gernsback’s Fables: The Communication Satellite and the Defense System