"We could take over one of the giant space stations being built for colonies."
Dyer sat forward eagerly in the chair while Hoestler listened from the other
side of his desk. For once Hoestlers eyes were active and alert. He had
said little but it was obvious that Dyers words were setting all kinds
of wheels in motion inside his head.
"The residential portions of some of the colonies are miles across,"
Dyer went on. "Theyve got everythingcomplete towns, landscapes,
rivers, farms and lakes . . . everything as near natural as its
possible to get. You could have agriculture, industry, an economy to manage,
an ecology to look after, energy programs to schedule, transportation, communications.
Pretty well every aspect of Earths society that matters, duplicated on
a miniature scale. Only it would be small enough to handle. All the problems
that come about as a result of the scale of the real thing simply go away. We
set it up as a lab-scale experiment."
Hoestlers eyes widened slowly as the vision took shape inside his head.
"So exactly what are you saying we do?" he checked. "We put
in a total fise-based system to run the whole thing. A totally computer-managed
micro-planet, that it? A system at least as advanced functionally as anything
that exists on Earth . . . Then we wait to see what it does . . .
Hmm . . . Interesting . . ." He leaned back
from the desk and nodded slowly to himself.
"More advanced than anything on Earth," Dyer said. "fise
wouldnt be suitable as it stands because its been adapting to Hectors
world, which is too simple. But the basic techniques that weve developed
with fise could be used to program the microplanet system to give it capabilities
way ahead of titan. Thats the whole point. If you want a preview of what
titan might grow into in a hundred years time, this would be just the
way to do it. If it does start doing things you didnt bargain for, at
least you know about it before it happens for real down here. Also nothing that
happened up there could have any effect on the system down here. Its perfect."
Hoestler fell silent for a long time. As he turned the suggestion over, a slow
frown spread across his fleshly features.
"I see a problem with it," he said at last. "So we set this
system up the way you say and we wait. So what? Theres no guarantee that
it will evolve any survival drive at all. We might wait years. And even if it
didnt, that wouldnt prove that it could never happen with titan,
would it?" He shook his head glumly and made a tossing-away motion with
his hand. "Anyway, the question isnt, Could titan evolve a
survival drive?; our worst-case assumptions already presuppose that it could.
The question is, What could it do about it?." Hoestler sighed heavily and
looked dubious. "Im sorry, Ray, but I cant see it. How would
what youre proposing get us any nearer answering questions like that?"
"We dont have to wait and see if it develops a survival instinct,"
Dyer replied at once. "We make sure it does. We build the instinct in
to start with!"
Hoestler stared at him as if he had suddenly taken leave of his senses.
"Why not?" Dyer demanded. "Kims already developing exactly
the techniques we need to do it We dont have to wait and see if it
ever gets around to equating Man to a threat. We attack it!"
"Attack it?" Hoestler gasped incredulously. Dyer nodded his head
"Exactly! We set up a situation in which all the worst-case maybes
have already come true because we made them come true. Then we take it on in
a battle of wits to see just who can outwit whom if it ever came to the point
of us versus it. We can act out all the what-if-this and what-if-that scenarios
everybody has been talking about and get some real data once and for all to
answer them. As with everything else, the only way to find out what a complex
of smart machines is capable of is to try it and see. The problem up until now
has been that the only complex weve had to try it on happens to be the
one that manages our planet and if things screw up there wont be any second
chance. What Im saying is, it doesnt have to be that way."
Hoestler stared back at Dyer in open amazement as he listened. Every objection
that his mind could devise crumbled away almost as soon as he thought of it.
"I think youve got something, Ray," he breathed at last. "I
really think youve got something."
Within the hour Hoestler had endorsed the idea to Richter. Richter rushed off
in excitement to put it to Lewis and by lunchtime Lewis had involved Schroder
from Washington. Schroder was at once captivated and promised to raise the matter
with his advisers, that same day he hoped. The message found its way back to
Dyer that things were moving on it. What happened next was something he could
only wait for to shape itself in its own way and in its own time.