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The Two Faces of Tomorrow
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"Organic nervous systems began with crude reflexive networks of neural tissue in things like starfish, and culminated in the human brain," Melvin Krantz said. "It’s interesting to compare the phases of that process with the steps that our society has gone through in the course of its development. Our society began with primitive, largely independent, social units interconnected by rudimentary methods of communication, and has culminated in titan. The next step beyond titan will be Spartacus."

The senior officers gathered in General Linsay’s Staff Conference Room listened in silence as Krantz spoke. Spartacus was the name that had finally been agreed upon for the totality of the computer complex that would manage the microworld of Janus. Janus was to be a miniature model of the world to come, in which machines would be the slaves that attended to virtually Man’s every need. The original Spartacus had led the Roman slaves to rebellion; the name seemed appropriate.

Krantz gestured toward the large plan of Janus spread out on the table around which the officers were standing. "Its capacity for integrated, autonomous operation . . . its ‘intelligence,’ if you will . . . will reside in the Primary Level Net, which comprises the primary processing nodes. There are a lot of these, but the important ones are the Super-Primaries—the ‘SP’s. They control and integrate all operations taking place in the Primary Level Net and, through that, all activities in the lower levels of the complex. Without the SPs, the rest of the System would just degenerate into a jumble of dumb electronics. Hence, if we can guarantee being able to shut down the SPs whenever we want, we can always be sure of retaining ultimate control over the system." He proceeded to point to a series of points on the plan in turn.

"There are four SPs located in Downtown, two of them here at the Government Center, which is where we will be based. There is one at the Area Control Center in Paris and the same in Berlin. Finally there is one in the Hub, two in Detroit and one in Pittsburgh." Krantz spread his arms along the edge of the table and looked up.

"The object of the exercise is to allow Spartacus to evolve methods of self-protection in any way it chooses, and to see if it proves capable of forcing a situation in which we cannot deactivate it except by using means that would not be available to us here on Earth. If it can do that, then it wins and there can be no question of our risking anything similar with titan. If it can’t, then we can conclude that we’re in pretty good shape, at least for quite a few years to come. So now let’s review the form that we expect the game to take." The group crowded closer around the table to follow intently while Krantz went on:

"Shutting the whole system down is something we wish to avoid. If the only way of controlling Spartacus meant that we had to render Janus uninhabitable, the lesson as far as titan goes would be a very dismal one indeed."

"How else can you do it?" an Army major asked from the front.

"The human organism sustains its vital functions perfectly well when the higher functions of the brain are inactive," Krantz replied. "In the case of Spartacus, the equivalent of those higher functions will be performed by the Primary Level Net, that is, by the SPs. By deactivating those, we will effectively be putting the System to ‘sleep,’ which of course is a pretty harmless condition. Our goal is to insure that we can always do that, by shutting down the SPs."

"Just by cutting off its power?" a naval lieutenant queried.

"To begin with, yes," Krantz replied.

"I don’t really see what that’s going to prove," the lieutenant said. "If it turns out that doing so doesn’t have any effect on the System, that’s what I’d expect. Any computer net that’s been properly designed will have all the functions of any node backed up in other nodes anyway. It’ll just treat your switch as a power fault and reconfigure itself around it."

"You’re right," Krantz agreed. "Any network should be able to continue functioning effectively despite the loss of one or maybe more nodes. But Spartacus will be a little different. It will be programmed to survive. Therefore it should very quickly come to realize that if some cause outside its control is capable of shutting down one SP, then that same cause could equally well take out the rest. Hence it shouldn’t be content to just redistribute its work load and sit there hoping for the best. Unlike a conventional system, it should, if it turns out to be half as smart as we think it’ll be, start trying to take active measures to get that node up again. We expect it to juggle with the switching matrix to try and bypass the power breakpoints that we introduce."

"Almost certainly it will leave us cold in the battle to see who can outsmart whom in playing with the matrix," Dyer remarked from where he was standing with Linsay. He had been paying only scant attention since he was already familiar with every detail of the plan as a result of being one of the analysts who had been working for months to put it together. The reason for the meeting was to bring Linsay’s staff officers in on more of the picture. So far they had been developing tactics; now was the time to unfold more of the strategy. "It monitors every single point in the complex and we can’t," Dyer went on, "and it can figure out combinations a few billion times faster than we can ever hope to. Still, we ought to learn a lot from how it behaves in this phase."

"So at that point we will resort to other methods," Krantz said, nodding. "Every SP node has been modified such that its total power is routed in through a single, manually controlled switching substation. Once the power bus is broken there, no amount of juggling with the matrix can create a bypass around it. There are no alternative routes that can be operated by Spartacus."

The Army major shrugged and glanced at his neighbors.

"Sounds pretty watertight to me," he commented. "Don’t see much it could do about that."

"Don’t forget the drones," one of them answered.

"Right," Krantz came in. "This is the first big test. At this point, will Spartacus conceive the idea of manufacturing a bypass to restore the SP? If it does that, it means that it will have recognized the cause of the problem as being associated with a particular point in physical space outside itself. That would be proof of a gigantic leap forward in its evolution of perceptions."

"So what happens then?" the major inquired. "What do we do—rip it out again?"

"Either manually or using our own drones, depending on circumstances," Krantz said.

"So Spartacus fixes it again," somebody offered.

"Yes, and we remove it again," Krantz replied. "If all that happens is that it waits for the fault to reappear and then fixes it again, we have no worries, gentlemen. I don’t think there is any doubt that a few thousand people can pull a system to pieces faster than drones can put it together. If that’s as far as it goes and no further, then that’s the end of the experiment. We will have learned all we need to know."

Linsay threw in a word of explanation.

"It would mean that if a system on Earth ever went out of control and tried to stop us dismantling it, it couldn’t. Even if it got around the overrides that we built in, we’d still be able to go out and pull it to pieces if we had to and it wouldn’t be able to stop us. It doesn’t mean to say we’d be overhappy about the situation, but if it ever did go that way, we’d still have the last say." The heads around the table nodded that they understood. Krantz’s eyes gleamed. He leaned forward and spoke in a suddenly hushed voice.

"But . . . suppose that it extends its concepts of physical space and analyzes the cause-and-effect relationships operating around it to the point where it deduces that, if its own drones require access to the location of the problems in order to rectify them, then whatever is causing the problems probably requires access too. That would be another gigantic step. It would signify well-developed powers of anticipation. The system would, in effect, have reached the point of actively endeavoring to prevent rather than cure."

"You mean by actually attacking our drones . . . or even us?" A colonel sounded distinctly skeptical.

"I’m not sure I would go so far as to say attack," Krantz replied. "More a question of denying access to key points. That is the point at which we would begin using the specialized destroyer drones or whatever other weapons seem appropriate in order to force access."

"But just suppose for the sake of argument that you’re wrong," the colonel persisted, "Suppose that through some process of—aw. I don’t know—but for some reason it did attack. Even if it’s a way-out chance, surely your plan allows for it."

"If it came to that, I’ve no doubt that our specialized devices and other weapons would provide more than an adequate defense," Krantz said. His tone sounded slightly irritated, as if he were being forced to waste time on trivialities. "My firm opinion is that the talk that has been going around about this is all grossly exaggerated. The possibility that Spartacus will even evolve any concept of Man as an adversary per se is remote to say the least. But, if it ever did happen, the answer to your question is—yes, our plan does allow for it, That is why the population has been formed essentially from military personnel trained in the use of weapons. And don’t forget that the destroyer drones can be used just as well for defense as for forcing access to locations that might be contested."

Dyer noticed that the atmosphere had subtly become more tense. He wasn’t exactly sure why, but he could feel it. He looked around him and saw that some of the faces were set into grim masks. They had all voluntarily accepted war as their profession, but not this kind of war. Perhaps it was the utterly alien nature of the potential enemy that was affecting them unconsciously.

"Okay," one of them murmured quietly. "As long as we’re allowing for all the possibilities, let’s go all the way. What if it does pick a fight and it gets out of hand?"

"If things go that far, then we would be forced to fall back on shutting down Spartacus completely," Krantz conceded. "We would accomplish that by cutting off its power source totally."

"Does that mean we’d have to shut down the whole of Janus?" the lieutenant who had spoken earlier asked.

Krantz shook his head. "No. There are two completely independent power systems. One is supplied by the solar receivers mounted on Detroit and Pittsburgh, and is entirely dedicated to Spartacus and the machinery and equipment that Spartacus controls. As a last ditch we can shut down that power plant by manually operated switches located in Detroit and in the Downtown Center. That, of course, would shut down most of Janus. However, there is a separate standby fusion plant, feeding a separate circuit, which can power such things as life-support and provide emergency services through manual backup control stations supported by some conventional computers that aren’t connected into the Spartacus net. In other words, if our attempts to lobotomize the System fail, we can still knock out the whole brain and leave the vital functions running." He paused and cast an eye around as if inviting comments but there were none.

"So, even if we do lose the early rounds," he concluded, "the standby fusion plant and backup system guarantees us the last. Unlike an ordinary fight, in this one it’s only the last round that counts."

Linsay stepped forward and turned to face the group.

"The measures that we have described up to this point all simulate protective measures that could realistically be built into an Earth-scale system such as titan," he said. "In other words, if we can hold Spartacus at any point up to and including the last that Melvin mentioned, then we can take it that we could hold an equivalent system at the corresponding point down here on Earth. So we’d always be sure of the last round. Therefore we’d win." He paused and drew a deep breath.

"On the other hand, if Spartacus somehow manages to drive us beyond this limit, then we will be forced to acknowledge that adequate safeguards on a global scale are impracticable."

"We lose," somebody said quietly.

"We lose," Linsay agreed in a sober voice.

A silence descended for a few seconds while the mom digested the words.

"But you’ve still got folks up there on Janus," the major objected. "What’s supposed to happen to them if you lose? What are you going to do about this crazy machine now that you can’t switch it off?"

"We declare a condition of Emergency Orange," Krantz answered. "That means that we are no longer playing by the rules of the game. We’ve acknowledged that we can’t win by methods that could reasonably be duplicated on Earth At that point we stop worrying about that and hit low. Our only objective now is to deactivate Spartacus by any means at all and restabilize the situation." He paused. The expressions on the faces around the table asked the unvoiced question.

"By taking out Spartacus’s power system at its source," Krantz said. "The solar receiver dishes will be knocked out by missiles fired from ISA ships that will be standing by throughout. Without those, nothing that Spartacus does inside Janus can possibly keep it functioning." He looked around expectantly. Some of the faces registered incredulity. Some were evidently impressed and nodded approval. A few failed to share the conviction. Dyer spoke to press the point further.

"The ISA ships will be operating in fail-safe mode," he informed them. "If communications with Janus are broken for any reason whatsoever, they’ll make their attacks on the solar dishes automatically. They won’t just sit out there waiting for us to send a request if that arrangement results in an unnecessary attack it may cost time and money, but that’s better than costing people." He intended going on by reassuring them that nothing could go wrong, but remembered at the last moment that too many sick jokes had been based on that phrase. Some of the sober looks around the room told him that he had done the right thing by changing his mind. In their minds they were already up there. Someone at the back elected to play devil’s advocate by asking the obvious question.

"And if something screws up the fail-safe system . . . ?"

"We go to Emergency Red," Krantz said promptly. "Evacuation. Normal evacuation will be through Northport via the Hub. To facilitate it there are separate tubes inside the spokes that would be kept sealed off until a declaration of an Emergency Red condition. The tubes contain independent elevators driven by simple manually controlled circuits and give access to the Hub through manually operated locks. If access to the Hub is impossible, we can disintegrate the retaining shell of the lower shield, which will cause the shield to disperse into space and allow us to evacuate through the Rim."

Krantz straightened up and cast a final look around him. There were no more devil’s advocates.

"I hope you will agree therefore, gentlemen, that every precaution has been taken to insure the safety of the garrison even taking account of possibilities that must be considered so remote as to be hardly worthy of consideration. We face the future more than adequately prepared for the unexpected and confident that whatever happens we can always notch the last round. I trust that this briefing has allayed any misgivings or doubts that any of you may have harbored. That will be all, thank you."

The mood was quiet as the group broke up and each man projected in his own mind the pictures that Krantz’s words had conjured up. The pep talk at the end had produced no visible effects, but then everybody knew that it wasn’t supposed to; it was intended to spell out the message to be relayed down through the ranks below. What Krantz had really said boiled down to: "We’ve covered everything we can think of. I hope to God we haven’t missed anything important."

 
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