Stand on Zanzibar: The Hugo Award-Winning Novel
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Plug cue: “SCANALYZER is the one single, the ONLY study of the news in depth that’s processed by General Technics’ famed computer Shalmaneser, who sees all, hears all, knows all save only that which YOU, Mr. and Mrs. Everywhere, wish to keep to yourselves.”
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Shalmaneser is a Micryogenic ® computer bathed in liquid helium
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(DITTO Use it! The mental process involved is exactly analogous to the bandwidth-saving technique employed for your phone. If you’ve seen the scene you’ve seen the scene and there’s too much new information for you to waste time looking it over more than once. Use “ditto”. Use it!—The Hipcrime Vocab by Chad C. Mulligan)
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“One fraction of a second, please—participant breakin coming up. Remember that only SCANALYZER’s participant breakin service is processed by General Technics’ Shalmaneser, the more correct response in the shorter quantum of time…”
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(IMPOSSIBLE Means: 1 I wouldn’t like it and when it happens I won’t approve; 2 I can’t be bothered; 3 God can’t be bothered. Meaning 3 may perhaps be valid but the others are 101% whaledreck.—The Hipcrime Vocab by Chad C. Mulligan)
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(RUMOUR Believe all you hear. Your world may not be a better one than the one the blocks live in but it’ll be a sight more vivid.—The Hipcrime Vocab by Chad C. Mulligan)
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(HIPCRIME You committed one when you opened this book. Keep it up. It’s our only hope.—The Hipcrime Vocab by Chad C. Mulligan)
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Stal remained in two minds. His eyes darted across the equipment laid out below. There was eighty or ninety feet of it, at least—cables, piping, keyboards, readins and readouts, state-of-action banks, shelving loaded with gleaming metal oddments. “It’s pretty big even if it doesn’t use a whole skyscraper,” someone called. Another drecky plantee, doubtless. Stal refrained from objecting when Zink scuffed his feet noisily. “Wrong,” the guide said, and swivelled a spotlight head-high beside him. The beam leapfrogged over machinery and people and came to rest on an unimpressive frustrum of dull white metal. “That,” he said solemnly, “is Shalmaneser.” “That thing?” the plantee exclaimed dutifully. “That thing. Eighteen inches high, diameter at the base eleven inches, and it’s the world’s largest computer thanks to GT’s unique patented and registered system known as Micryogenics. In fact it’s the first computer estimated to fall in the megabrain range!”
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“See where I’m focusing the light now? That’s the SCANALYZER input. We feed all the news from every major beam agency through that readin unit. Shalmaneser is the means whereby Engrelay Satelserv can tell us where we are in the happening world.” “Yes, but surely you don’t operate Shalmaneser just for that,” another plantee said loudly, making Stal squirm in his shirjack. “Of course not. Shalmaneser’s main task is to achieve the impossible again, a routine undertaking here at GT.” The guide paused for effect. “It has been shown theoretically that with a logical system as complex as Shalmaneser consciousness, self-awareness, will eventually be generated if enough information is fed it. And we can proudly claim that there have already been signs—”
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(COINCIDENCE You weren’t paying attention to the other half of what was going on.—The Hipcrime Vocab by Chad C. Mulligan)
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(HUMAN BEING You’re one. At least, if you aren’t, you know you’re a Martian or a trained dolphin or Shalmaneser. If you want me to tell you more than that, you’re out of luck. There’s nothing more anybody can tell you.
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(NEGRO Member of a subgroup of the human race who hails, or whose ancestors hailed, from a chunk of land nicknamed—not by its residents—Africa. Superior to the Caucasian in that negroes did not invent nuclear weapons, the automobile, Christianity, nerve gas, the concentration camp, military epidemics, or the megalopolis.—The Hipcrime Vocab by Chad C. Mulligan)
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(PATRIOTISM A great British writer once said that if he had to choose between betraying his country and betraying a friend he hoped he would have the decency to betray his country. Amen, brothers and sisters! Amen!
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he didn’t doubt that they would have submitted the facts to Shalmaneser and received an assessment that was very close to the truth.
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(HISTORY Papa Hegel he say that all we learn from history is that we learn nothing from history. I know people who can’t even learn from what happened this morning. Hegel must have been taking the long view.—The Hipcrime Vocab by Chad C. Mulligan)
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(ART A Friend of mine in Tulsa, Okla., when I was about eleven years old. I’d be interested to hear from him. There are so many pseudos around taking his name in vain.—The Hipcrime Vocab by Chad C. Mulligan)
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Put it this way: suppose there were a mindless idiot on your block (and until GT produces proof that Shalmaneser really can develop intelligence I shall go on regarding computers of whatever breed as idiots savants),
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the folk imagination has occasional curious insights and one of them has been repeated for uncountable millennia. From Andromeda chained on her rock to the maidens offered up to the dragon St. George slew, the theme of destroying the most precious, the most valuable, the least replaceable of our kinfolk recurs and recurs in legend. It tells us with a wisdom that we do not possess as individuals but certainly possess collectively that when we go to war we are ruining ourselves.
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“If SCANALYZER carried it the news must have been processed by Shalmaneser so it’s at least possible. Unless they carried it in the rumour slot, was that it?”
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“You referred to Shalmaneser as ‘he’,” Chad said. “Why?” “The people at GT do it all the time,” Elihu muttered. “Sounds as though he’s becoming one of the family. Norman, is there any truth in this propaganda about making Shalmaneser genuinely intelligent?” Norman made a palm-up gesture to pantomime ignorance. “There’s a non-stop argument over whether his reactions are simple reflex any longer. But it’s out of my range, I’m afraid.” “I think,” Chad grunted, “that if he really is intelligent nobody will recognise the fact. Because we aren’t.”
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“You will have seen from our briefing summary that the predicted turnover of this operation is comparable to that of a national budget and the scheme will not be completed until 2060. Despite the scale of it, however, evaluation of even the most minor details has proved to be possible and all information in your briefing has been thoroughly explored by Shalmaneser as a hypothetical case. Without his favourable verdict we’d not have presented the report.”
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(LEADERSHIP A form of self-preservation exhibited by people with autodestructive imaginations in order to ensure that when it comes to the crunch it’ll be someone else’s bones which go crack and not their own.—The Hipcrime Vocab by Chad C. Mulligan)
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“Which is the real time—his or ours?” Norman had not intended the question to emerge in audible form. It was sparked by the sight of the enormous pile of printouts from Shalmaneser that had been delivered overnight to his office, and by recollection of the way they would have been produced. No conceivable printing device—not even the light-writers which had no moving parts except the fine beam from a miniature laser that inscribed words on photo-sensitive paper—could keep up with Shalmaneser’s nanosecond mental processes; the entire problem posed to him would have been solved, or at any rate evaluated, then shunted to a temporary storage bank while he got on with the next task his masters imposed, and the conversion of it into comprehensible language would have taken fifty or a hundred times as long.
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He picked up the first clipped-together section of printouts and riffled the pale green pages. Pale green signified that Shalmaneser had processed the information there contained as a hypothesis; when they keyed in the real-world assumptions the printouts would be on light pink sheets.
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the helpless stupid Odysseus of the twenty-first century, who must also be Odin blind in one eye so as not to let his right hand know what his left was doing. Odinzeus, wielder of thunderbolts, how could he aim correctly without parallax? “No individual has the whole picture, or even enough of it to make trustworthy judgments on his own initiative.” Shalmaneser, master of infinite knowledge, lead me through the valley of the shadow of death and I shall fear no evil …
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“Shalmaneser, pizzle-teaser, Had a wife and couldn’t please her. Go and tell the big computer (Mary’s) lover doesn’t suit her.”—Children’s singing game reported from Syracuse, N.Y., November 2009 “A randy young wench named Teresa Tried her charms out upon Shalmaneser For the first time quite frigid She, not he, grew rigid, And the scientists couldn’t unfreeze her.”—Graffito from University Hall of Residence Auckland, New Zealand; variants common throughout English-speaking world “They surely are condemned to Hell Who rule their lives by greed and lust And Satan waits for those as well Who in machines repose their trust.”—Hymn composed for Tenth International Rally of the Family of Divine Daughters i wish codders i had cool detachment like chilledchildchilled how are you feelium in the liquid helium HERE WE GO ROUND THE HUNGARY FLUSH Meg a brain computer SHALL MAN EASE HER OR WOULD YOU ADVISE AGAINST IT don’t—From GRAUNCH:: prosoversepix
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You will never find anyone to admit that he or she has substituted a machine for the living divine presence, yet that is exactly what has happened to the bulk of our population. They speak of the evaluations which computers print out for them in the hushed, reverent tones which our ancestors reserved for Holy Writ, and now that General Technics has made its arrogant claim about this new piece of hardware, nicknamed ‘Shalmaneser’, we can foresee the day when everyone will have surrendered his responsibility as a thinking being to a machine which he has been deluded into respecting as more intelligent than himself. That is, unless we with God’s help manage to reverse the trend.”—From an earlier sermon by the luckless bishop whom Henry Butcher sabotaged “Okay, Shalmaneser—you tell me what I ought to do!”—Colloquial usage throughout N. America (SHALMANESER That real cool piece of hardware up at the GT tower. They say he’s apt to evolve to true consciousness one day. Also they say he’s as intelligent as a thousand of us put together, which isn’t really saying much, because when you put a thousand of us together look how stupidly we behave.—The Hipcrime Vocab by Chad C. Mulligan)
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Mr. & Mrs. Everywhere had been shown visiting Shalmaneser one hundred and thirty-seven times, more than was accorded to any other activity except freefly-suiting. Orbiting on Triptine, Bennie Noakes was prouder of the fact that his imagination had produced Shalmaneser than he was of any other event he had dreamed up. Factually: he was a Micryogenic ® device of the family collectively referred to as the Thecapex group (THEoretical CAPacity EXceeds—human brain, understood) and of that family’s fourth generation, his predecessors having been the pilot model Jeroboam, the commercially available Rehoboam of which over a thousand were in operation, and the breadboard layout Nebuchadnezzar which turned out to have so many bugs in it they discontinued the project and cannibalised the parts.
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The number of technical problems which had had to be solved before he could be put into operation beggared description; the final programme for the schematics required fourteen hours’ continuous operation of six Rehoboams linked in series, a capacity which the publicity department calculated would be adequate to provide a thousand-year solution for the orbits of the Solar System correct to twenty decimal places. And at that, using so much capacity for so long on a single task brought the chance of a sixfold simultaneous error to the thirty per cent level, so there was one chance in three that when they built the final version and switched it on something would have gone irremediably wrong. Indeed, some of the original design team had recently been heard to express the heretical view that something had gone wrong with the schematics. By this time, they claimed, it should have been established beyond doubt that Shalmaneser was conscious in the human sense, possessed of an ego, a personality and a will. Others, more sanguine, declared that proof of such awareness already existed, and evidenced certain quite unforeseen reactions the machine had displayed in solving complex tasks. The psychologists, called in to settle the argument, left again with headshakes, divided into two equally opposed camps. Some said the problem was insoluble, and referred back to the ancient puzzle: given a room divided in two by an opaque curtain, and a voice coming from the other side, how do you discover whether the voice belongs to a cleverly programmed computer or a human being? Their rivals maintained that in their eagerness to see mechanical consciousness the designers had set up a self-fulfilling prophecy—had, in effect, programmed the schematics so as to give the impression of consciousness when information was processed in the system. The public at large was quite unconcerned about the debate between the experts. For them, Shalmaneser was a legend, a myth, a folk hero, and a celebrity; with all that, he didn’t need to be conscious as well.
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“Shal, what’s your view? Are you or aren’t you a conscious entity?” The problem took so long to analyse—a record three-quarters of a minute—that the inquirer was growing alarmed when the response emerged. “It appears impossible for you to determine whether the answer I give to that question is true or false. If I reply affirmatively there does not seem to be any method whereby you can ascertain the accuracy of the statement by referring it to external events.” Relieved to have had even such a disappointing answer after the worrying delay, the questioner said fliply, “So who do we ask if you can’t tell us—God?” “If you can contact Him,” Shalmaneser said, “of course.”
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Shalmaneser had reviewed the various hypothetical outcomes and given his quasi-divine opinion.
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There’s no substitute for real-life experience even in the age of Shalmaneser.” “Of course not,” Foster-Stern muttered grumpily from the other side of the car. “Computers like Shalmaneser don’t deal in realities. Something like ninety-five per cent of what goes through that frozen brain of his is hypothetical.”
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“I suspect that GT is frustrated at the non-co-operation of our opponents.” “Or else maybe lives ninety-five per cent of her life in imagination, like Shalmaneser,” Norman said lightly. “It sounds to me like an easy recipe for bumbling through life. One can hardly accuse GT of that, though—si monumentum requiris, and all that dreck.”
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“What intelligent living creature could live ninety-five per cent of his existence on the hypothetical level? Shalmaneser is all awareness, without a subconscious except in the sense that memory banks don’t preoccupy him before they’re cued to help solve a problem to which they apply. What we shall have to do is try running him for an extended period on nothing but real-time and real-life programmes. Maybe then we’ll get what we’re after.”
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(UNFAIR Term applied to advantages enjoyed by other people which we tried to cheat them out of and didn’t manage. See also DISHONESTY, SNEAKY, UNDERHAND and JUST LUCKY I GUESS.—The Hipcrime Vocab by Chad C. Mulligan)
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(POPULATION EXPLOSION Unique in human experience, an event which happened yesterday but which everyone swears won’t happen until tomorrow.—The Hipcrime Vocab by Chad C. Mulligan)
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“When we switched Shalmaneser’s own programme for the project from ‘hypothetical’ to ‘actual’, he rejected it. And the technicians can’t find out why.” “But—!” Norman groped for words. “But Shal must have some sort of grounds for the rejection!” “Oh, the first thing they did was ask him pointblank why. He spat back everything he’d been fed about Beninia and its people and announced that it was inconsistent with the larger mass of data already in store.”
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ONE OF MANY ESSENTIALLY IDENTICAL PRINTOUTS FROM SHALMANESER PROGRAMME REJECTED Q reason for rejection ANOMALIES IN GROUND DATA Q define Q specify DATA IN FOLLOWING CATEGORIES NOT ACCEPTABLE: HISTORY COMMERCE SOCIALINTERACTION CULTURE Q accept data as given QUESTION MEANINGLESS AND INOPERABLE
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The omniscient Shalmaneser had let his faithful disciples down, and with half their minds they were afraid it might not be his fault, but theirs. Curse computers for a trick of Shaitan! Of all the times Shalmaneser might choose to fail us he picks now, now, when my life and hopes are committed to his judgment!
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“I know your books, Mr. Mulligan,” Shalmaneser said. “Also I have stored several TV interviews with you. I recognise your appearance and voice.” “I’m flattered.” Chad dropped into a chair facing the mike and the battery of cameras trained around it. “Well, I gather you don’t have much time for idle conversation, so I’ll come straight to the point. Cue: what’s wrong with the Beninia project?” “It won’t work,” Shalmaneser said. Norman stole a glance at Rex. It was impossible to tell by looking whether the man’s agitated condition was due to Chad’s nonchalance or to the knowledge that using Shalmaneser in this fashion slowed his lightning reactions to a level close to the human, wasting precious time. Giving a machine the power to talk in ordinary English had meant funnelling everything through subsidiary installations which worked at less than a thousandth of the speed of light-writers. “Cue: why not?” Chad said. “The data given to me include unacceptable anomalies.” “Cue: would it be fair to say you don’t believe in what you’ve been told about Beninia?” There was a measurable pause. Rex took half a pace forward and started to say something about anthropocentric concepts compelling Shalmaneser to search his entire memory-banks. “Yes. I don’t believe it,” the artificial voice announced. “Hmmm…” Chad plucked at his beard. “Cue: what elements of the data are unacceptable? Be maximally specific.” Another, longer pause, as Shalmaneser examined everything he had ever been told which referred to the subject and discarded all but the most essential items. “The human elements concerned with social interaction,” he said at length. “Next, the—” “Hold!” Chad snapped. Once more he tangled his fingers in his beard and tugged at it. “Cue: have you been taught the Shinka language?” “Yes.” “Cue: is its given vocabulary among the anomalies that cause you to reject the data?” “Yes.” All around, technicians began to exchange astonished stares. One or two of them dared to sketch a smile. “Cue: are the living conditions described to you as obtaining in Beninia of a kind which lead you to expect different behaviour from the people there from what you’ve been told?” “Yes.” “Cue: is the political relationship between Beninia and its neighbouring countries another of the anomalies?” “Yes.” Immediately—no delay. “Cue: is the internal political structure of the country also anomalous?” “Yes.” “Cue: with maximal specificity define your use of the term ‘anomalous’.” “Antonym: consistent. Synonym: inconsistent. Related concepts: congruity, identity—” “Hold!” Chad bit his lip. “Sheeting hole, that was a bad choice of approach … Ah, I think I see how I can … Shal, cue this one: does the anomaly lie in the data given to you with direct reference to Beninia, or does it only become apparent when you’re dealing with Beninia in relation to other countries?” “The latter. In the former case the anomaly is of the order which I am allowed to accept for the sake of argument.” “Whoinole is that codder, anyway?” someone asked in hearing of Norman. “Chad Mulligan,” someone whispered back, and the first speaker’s eyes grew wide. “Evaluate this, then,” Chad said, frowning tremendously and staring at nothing. “Postulate that the data given you about Beninia are true. Cue: what would be necessary to reconcile them with everything else you know? In other words, what extra assumption do you have to make in order to accept and believe in Beninia?” Rex jerked forward another half-pace like a marionette, his mouth open. All around the vault, which was now in dead silence except for the echo of Chad’s voice and the soft humming of Shalmaneser’s mental processes, Norman saw jaws drop correspondingly. Obvious! The pause, though, stretched, and stretched, until it was intolerable. One more second, Norman thought, and he was going to scream. And—“That a force of unknown nature is acting on the population and causing them to behave differently from known patterns of human reaction under comparable circumstances elsewhere.” “Shal,” Chad said softly, “such a force exists, and is at present being investigated by experts to determine its nature. I tell you three times!”
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(LOGIC The principle governing human intellection. Its nature may be deduced from examining the two following propositions, both of which are held by human beings to be true and often by the same people: “I can’t so you mustn’t,” and “I can but you mustn’t.”—The Hipcrime Vocab by Chad C. Mulligan)
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There had appeared to be a problem: where to accommodate the staff supervising the earliest stages of the Beninia project. Short of building a new suburb to Port Mey, delay had seemed inevitable until someone thought of asking Shalmaneser and from his incredible mass of data he sifted out a solution. There was an obsolete aircraft-carrier up for sale.
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Well, speaking of recruitment as we were: did you get me the people I want?” “You asked for a sheeting lot of them,” Norman grunted. “What was it you said? ‘Psychologists, anthropologists, sociologists and synthesists not hopelessly straitjacketed by adherence to an ism’—is that right?” “‘ Glutinous adherence’, to be exact. But did you get them?” “I’m still working on the synthesists,” Norman sighed. “That’s a discipline which doesn’t attract as many people as it ought to—seems people have this idea that Shalmaneser is automating them out of a job, too.
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“I’m afraid I have no very clear idea what he’s doing,” the ambassador said. “Norman, you’re nominally his boss—can you explain?” “Well, he’s conducting a tremendous social study of the country,” Norman shrugged. “He’s convinced that when he told Shalmaneser there was some unknown force operating among the people here he was speaking the truth, and he’s off looking for it.” “And when he’s found it, what’s he going to do with it?” Donald demanded in a suddenly hostile tone. Norman’s scalp crawled, and he tried to make his answer as peaceable as possible. “Well, I think you’d have to ask him about that.” “Is he going to use it to change people?” There was a blank silence. At length Elihu said, “Certainly Chad’s changed, himself, since I first met him. He struck me on first acquaintance as a loud-mouthed alcoholic, but now I know him better I think he was only embittered by rejection, and out here with a job that fully engages his attention he’s been transformed.”
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“Isn’t it typical? We train one man—one ordinary, inoffensive, retiring little man—to be an efficient killing machine and he kills the one person who stood a chance of saving us from ourselves!” “Well, I guess if we put it to Shalmaneser—” Norman began, but Chad cut him short, stamping his foot. “Norman, what in God’s name is it worth to be human, if we have to be saved from ourselves by a machine?”
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Bathed in his currents of liquid helium, self-contained, immobile, vastly well informed by every mechanical sense: Shalmaneser. Every now and again there passes through his circuits a pulse which carries the cybernetic equivalent of the phrase, “Christ, what an imagination I’ve got.”