A B C D E F G H I J K L M N O P Q R S T U V W X Y Z
"We each live in a somewhat unique world of our own psychological content."
- Philip K. Dick
||Thinking, learning robots have a special means of communication.
|"The first warning vouchsafed to men
was the whispering of the Mentanicals.
Heretofore they had been silent save for
the slight, almost inaudible purr of functioning machinery within them, but now
they whispered among themselves
whispered, as if they were talking.
"It was an uncanny phenomenon. I
remembered the uneasiness with which
I heard it. And when I saw several of
them (house-servants of mine) whispering together, I was filled with alarm.
'Come!' I said sharply, 'stop loitering;
get your work done.' They stared at
me. That is a funny thing to say of
metal cylinders. Never before had I
inquired very closely into their construction. But now it came over me, with
a shock, that they must possess organs
of sight some method of cognizing their
environment akin to that of vision in
"It was at about this time that Bane
Borgson the creator of the multiple
mechanical-cell which had made the super-Mentanical possible wrote an article in "Science And Mechanics" which
riveted the attention of all thoughtful
people. He said, in part: 'It is scarcely
within the province of an applied scientist to become speculative, yet the startling fact that the Mentanicals have begun
to acquire a faculty not primarily given
them by their inventors the faculty of
speech, for their whispering can be
construed as nothing else implies an
evolutionary process which threatens to
place them on a par with man.
'What is thought ? The Behavorists claim it is reflex action. What is language? It is the marshalling of our reflex actions in words. Animals may
"think", remember, but lacking a vocabulary save of the most primitive kind (a
matter of laryngeal structure), their
thinking, their remembering, is on the
whole vague and fleeting, incoherent. But
Man, by means of words, has widened
the scope of his thinking, remembering,
has created philosophy, literature, poetry,
painting, has made possible civilization, the industrial era. Vocabulary
the ability to fix his reflex actions into
coherent speech has crowned him supreme among animals. But now comes
the Mentanical of his own creation,
evolving language in its turn. Without
speech the Mentanical was, to all intents
and purposes, thoughtless and obedient,
as thoughtless and obedient as trained
domestic animals. But with vocabulary
comes memory and the ability to think.
What effect will this evolving faculty
have on Man, what problems, dangers,
will it pose for him in the near future?"
"So wrote Bane Borgson, seventy
years of age, fifteen years after his invention of the multiple mechanical-cell,
and God help us ! we had not long
to wait for the Mentanicals to supply
an answer to his questions.
"I have told of the whispering of:
my servants. That was a disquieting
thing. But more disquieting still it was
to hear that whispering coming over the
radio, the telephone, to observe cylindrical Mentanicals listening, answering.
Frankenstein must have felt as I felt
in those days. During that period,
which lasted several years, things went
smoothly enough; to a great extent people became accustomed to the phenomenon and decided save for a few
men and women here and there, like
to myself that the whispering was an
idiosyncrasy of the Mentanicals, implicit
in their make-up, and that the various
scientists and thinkers who wrote and
talked with foreboding were theorists
and alarmists of the extremest type. Indeed there were certain scientists and
philosophers of reputation, who maintained them in this belief. Then came
the first blow : The Mentanical servants
ceased waiting on man!
To understand the terrible nature
X of this defection, one must understand how dependant humanity had become on the Mentanicals, In those days
human toilers were relatively few in
number, laboring under the direction of
the Mentanical superintendents and also
guards (in the bloody wars of a decade
before and the ones preceding them
the ranks of labor had been woefully decimated) ; and it was estimated that the
growth of the machine had lifted, and
was still lifting, millions of workers into
the leisure class. The dream of the
Technocrats a group of pseudo-scientists and engineers who held forth in
1932-33seemed about to be fulfilled.
"But when the Mentanicals struck, the
whole fabric of this new system swayed,
tottered. Food ceased coming into the
cities, distribution of food supplies
stopped. Not at first did starvation
tin-eaten. Men and women fetched food
from the supply depots. But in a few
weeks these depots were emptied of their
contents. Then famine threatened, not
alone in New York, Chicago, San Francisco, Montreal, but in the great cities
of Europe. The strange, the weird thing
about it all was that men were still able
to talk to one another from city to
city. Boston spoke to Los Angeles, and
Buda-Pest to Warsaw. Listeners tuned
in with receiving sets, speakers broadcasted through microphones and the
newly improved television-cabinet ; but
the grim spectre of want soon drove
them from those instruments, and, in
the end, city was cut off from city, and country was separated from country.
|Technovelgy from The Mentanicals,
by Francis Flagg.
Published by Amazing Stories in 1934
Additional resources -
This story has an explicit, early description of the robot uprising:
"Little did the people of the latter half
of the twentieth century realize the menace to humanity that resided in the continuous development of automatic machinery. There was that curious book
of Samuel Butler's, "Erehwon," which
provoked comment but was not taken
seriously. Over a period of years the
robot marched into action as a mechanical curiosity. It was not until the genius
of Bane Borgson and of a host of
lesser known scientists furnished the
machine with brain-cells and so made it
conscious of itself, as all thinking things
must become, that the Mentanicals (as
they were called) began to organize and
revolt. Man or rather a section of
mankind, a ruling and owning class had
furthered his immediate interests and
ultimate doom by placing Mentanicals in
every sphere of industrial and transportation activity. Seemingly in need of
neither rest nor recreation, they became
ideal (and cheap) workers and servants,
replacing millions of human toilers, reducing them to idleness and beggary.
The plea of many thinkers that the machines be socialized for the benefit of
all, that the control of them be collective and not individual (that is, anar-
chic) went unheeded. More and more
the masters of economic life called for
further specialization in the brain-cells
of the Mentanicals. Mentanical armies
marched against rebellious workers and
countries, and subdued them with fearful slaughter.
"But the revolt of the Mentanicals
themselves was so subtle, so insidious,
so (under the circumstance) inevitable,
that for years it went unnoticed.
EVERYTHING had been surrendered into their power or practically everything : factories, means of
communication, raising of food supplies,
policing of cities everything! When the
stupid ruling class at last awoke to a
knowledge of its danger, it was to late
to act mankind lay helpless before the
monster it had created.
Compare to Autonomous Car Intercommunication from Sally (1953) by Isaac Asimov.
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