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The Two Faces of Tomorrow
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"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 Hoestler’s eyes were active and alert. He had said little but it was obvious that Dyer’s 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. "They’ve got everything—complete towns, landscapes, rivers, farms and lakes . . . everything as near natural as it’s 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 Earth’s 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."

Hoestler’s 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 wouldn’t be suitable as it stands because it’s been adapting to Hector’s world, which is too simple. But the basic techniques that we’ve developed with fise could be used to program the microplanet system to give it capabilities way ahead of titan. That’s 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 didn’t 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. It’s 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? There’s no guarantee that it will evolve any survival drive at all. We might wait years. And even if it didn’t, that wouldn’t 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 isn’t, 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. "I’m sorry, Ray, but I can’t see it. How would what you’re proposing get us any nearer answering questions like that?"

"We don’t 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. "Kim’s already developing exactly the techniques we need to do it We don’t 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 rapidly.

"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 we’ve had to try it on happens to be the one that manages our planet and if things screw up there won’t be any second chance. What I’m saying is, it doesn’t 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 you’ve got something, Ray," he breathed at last. "I really think you’ve 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.

 
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