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´╗┐Title: Joy Ride
Author: Meadows, Mark
Language: English
As this book started as an ASCII text book there are no pictures available.
Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

*** Start of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "Joy Ride" ***

This book is indexed by ISYS Web Indexing system to allow the reader find any word or number within the document.



                         Transcriber's Note:

    This etext was produced from Galaxy Science Fiction December 1954.
    Extensive research did not uncover any evidence that the U.S.
    copyright on this publication was renewed.


                               joy ride


                           By MARK MEADOWS


                     Illustrated by DICK FRANCIS


     Men or machines--something had to give--though not
     necessarily one or the other. Why not both?

       *       *       *       *       *



(HISTORIAN'S NOTE: _The following statements are extracted from
depositions taken by the Commission of Formal Inquiry appointed by the
Peloric Rehabilitation Council, a body formed as a provisional
government in the third month of the Calamity_.)


1

My name is Andrews, third assistant vice president in charge of
maintenance for Cybernetic Publishers.

It is not generally known that all the periodical publications for the
world were put out by Cybernetics. We did not conceal the monopoly
deliberately, but we found that using the names of other publishing
houses helped to give our magazines an impression of variety. Of
course, we didn't want too much variety, either; only the tried and
tested kind.

Cybernetics gained its monopoly by cutting costs of production. It had
succeeded in linking electronic calculators to photo-copying
machines. Through this combination, all kinds of texts and
illustrations could be produced automatically.

       *       *       *       *       *

Formula punch cards, fed to the calculators, produced articles and
stories of standard styles and substance. Market analysts in the
research division designed the formulas for the punch cards. An
editing machine shuffled the cards before giving them to the
calculating machines.

The shuffling produced enough variation in the final product to
suggest novelty to the reader without actually presenting anything
strange or unexpected.

Once the cards were in the machine, they set off electronic impulses
which, by a scanning process, projected photographic images of type
and illustrations to a ribbon of paper. This ribbon ran through a
battery of xerographic machines to reproduce the exact number of
copies specified by the market indicator.

Everything worked smoothly without the necessity for thought, which,
as you know, is expensive and often wasteful.

In the second week of the Calamity, one machine after another seemed
to go put of order. I couldn't tell whether the trouble was in the
cards, in the research office, or in the machines.

First, one produced something entitled "A Critique of the Bureaucratic
Culture Pattern." Then another would give out nothing but lyric poems.
A third simply printed obvious gibberish, the letters F-R-E-E-D-O-M.
And one of our oldest machines ran off a series of limericks of a
decidedly pungent flavor.

I did all I could to straighten them out. Even our cleaning compounds
were analyzed for traces of alcohol. But we weren't able to locate the
trouble. And we didn't dare shut off the power because that would have
backed up our continuous stream of pulp and paper all the way to
Canada, Alaska and Scandinavia. There didn't seem to be anything to do
but let the publications go on through to the distribution center.

Before they were returned to the pulp mills, some of the publications
reached private hands and created something of a stir, especially the
limericks. One of them went something like this: "There was a
young...." (Passage defaced.)


2

My name is Minton, traffic officer emeritus on the Extrapolated
Parkway.

The Parkway was equipped with the usual electronic controls to propel
cars magnetically, to maintain a safe distance between all cars, and
to hold them automatically in their proper lanes. The controls also
turned cars off the Parkways at the proper exit, according to the
settings on the individual automobile's direction-finder.

On the ninth day of the Calamity, the controls became erratic. Cars
ran off the highway at the wrong exits, even though their
direction-finders seemed to be in good order. Many turned around in
circles at entrances to the Parkway and failed to enter. Drivers
abandoned cars in despair and actually made their way on foot. Those
who remembered how to steer by hand, mainly persons with obsolete
cars, were able to travel by using back country roads. It was almost
like old times, when we used to have accidents.

Meanwhile, I kept getting radio calls from motorists whose cars were
trapped on the highway. They were unable to turn off anywhere, even at
the wrong exit. The magnetic propellers forced them to continue
traveling a circular route for hours. I don't know what they expected
_me_ to do about it.

They tried to say I tampered with the controls, but I had no such
orders. There was nothing in the Traffic Officer's Manual to cover
this situation, so I naturally did nothing.

Anyway, I think that the trouble lay with the direction-finders in the
cars rather than with the Highway Controls. For several days
previously, a great many cars no matter how the automatic
direction-finders were set, had been known to head for water if they
weren't watched. Because of the fact that so many motorists had formed
a habit of snoozing, once the car was in motion, there were a number
of drownings. If we could have done anything to prevent them, we
probably would have, though that wasn't our job.


3

MY name is Elder, sound director for Station 40 N 180.

We had noticed nothing unusual about our broadcasts until the third
day of the Calamity. That was the first time one of our
ultra-sensitive microphones began to pick up and broadcast speeches
from unknown sources.

Our third assistant monitor was the first to notice. He called and
told me that interference was disrupting the program. A few minutes
later, he said that the sponsor's message, as broadcast, did not
conform to the copy which had been put on the tape. (To eliminate
studio errors, all our broadcast programs were first recorded on
electro-magnetic tape and edited before they were released.)

[Illustration]

We checked and found that none of the commercial messages were going
through properly. The fact is that they were broadcast very
improperly.

I tested the microphone myself and was reported as saying, "What
difference does it make?" I had used the conventional testing phrases,
"One, two, three, four," yet all three monitors swore that the other
sentence had been uttered in my voice.

We switched at once to broadcasting music exclusively as an
alternative to verbal programs, but the microphones continued to
pickup vocal interference. The voices were of many kinds and not
always distinct. They sounded sincere and the words were plain, but I
could not discern any meaning in them.

       *       *       *       *       *

For a while, until the Calamity affected wire communications, too, we
received telephone comments from our audience.

A few people complained about the confusion, but most asked us to turn
off the music and let the voices come through clearly.

One of the listeners said to us, "I haven't heard men speak their
minds so plainly since the morning Grandma wrecked Grandpa's new
helicopter."


4

My name is Wilson. I manned the remote control panel for the
Duplicator Construction Company.

As you know, we directed a battery of building machines which erected
mass housing projects. I directed only the destination of our
machines. Once I sent them to a site, they completed their work
automatically with the materials installed at our supply depot.

A single machine could prepare a site and erect a complete house in
one day. With an army of 5,000 machines, our firm had succeeded in
building as many houses as there was room for, and we had started on
the demolition of our original buildings for replacement with the
modern economy-size model. This made room for three families where one
had lived before. We started this replacement program the week before
the Calamity.

The first hint of trouble was a call from a checker to the front
office. I happened to be there when he appeared on the vid-screen and
said that one of our machines had built a Chinese pagoda. He seemed to
think it was funny.

Then we began to receive other reports. Our machines were building
grape arbors, covered bridges, cloisters, music halls, green houses,
dancing pavilions and hunting lodges.

One machine was not building at all, but had gone on a rampage,
clearing ground where we had just completed one thousand of the new
economy-size dwelling units.

The machine was dynamited by our emergency squad.


5

My name is Fisher. On the first day of the Calamity, I was a member of an
audience which had been employed by the Spectacle Commission to observe the
start of the Forty-Ton-Shovel-Cross-Continent-Ditch-Digging Contest.

This was the first time that power shovels of this size had been used
to dig a ditch more than a thousand miles long. I was very proud to be
in that audience.

The contest started on time. The shovels were marshaled and on their
marks at the city line. The Mayor fired a disarmed war rocket as the
signal to start.

And then the shovels, instead of biting into the dirt, turned at right
angles and began to chew a path through the paid audience.

This was not called for in the contract and many hired spectators ran
away in fright, but a few of us had enough professional pride to stand
by. We watched as the shovels cut an irregular path through streets,
parks and open lots in the city snapping at everything in their way
until they reached the water-front.

I thought they would stop at the docks. The leaders _did_ pause, until
all the shovels had come abreast. Then, as if they had a common
impulse, they rolled into the harbor and sank in unison.

As I later said to my wife, it was quite extraordinary.


6

My name is Danville. I was watching a colorvision program on the first
day of the Calamity.

The program was a wrestling match between a woman and a bear. The bear
was winning when the screen went dark. The announcer's voice faded and
I heard what sounded like the chatter of my neighbors. When the screen
lit up again, it showed my own home. The door opened to reveal the
hallway to the dining room, where I could see my wife sewing a patch
on my son's pants. Then I saw my daughter experimenting on fudge in
the food laboratory and my boy working on a bomb model. What surprised
me most was a picture of myself staring at myself on the screen.

This wasn't very interesting to me, so I tried some of the other
stations. No matter where I tuned in, though, I found myself looking
at a part of my own home. I wrote a letter of complaint to the
Universal Program Commission, but never even got an answer.


7

I am sorry that I do not remember my name. I have been employed a long
time in the Classified Laboratory of Theoretical Physics and have been
under security orders to speak to no one except in answer to official
queries. As I am the only scholar in my field--the polarity of the
positron--I have never been asked for information. If I had been,
perhaps I would not have forgotten my name, but I cannot be sure. I
don't know whether the replies are signed.

I could have prevented the Calamity. I tried. I risked my life in the
attempt. But at the moment when it seemed I might succeed, something
happened which I must try to explain.

First let me tell you why I knew what would happen.

My studies of minute particles led me to believe that machines might
exert some form of choice. Simply because aggregates have always
behaved predictably, I could not assume they always would. Even though
the masses of men behaved as expected, I remember that, in my
grandfather's time, individual persons frequently departed from
established courses. What the individual could do, I felt the mass or
the machine might do.

As you know, these were subversive views, running directly counter to
the cult of the Statisticians, which was based entirely on the
predictability of mass behavior.

The cult of the Statisticians was strong because it produced results.
By employing Statisticians, the contending armies in the Peripheral
Wars predicted each other's movements so accurately that they
eliminated the possibility of surprise. Thus the Statisticians
produced the military impasse which destroyed the prestige of
political leadership. From that time on, Statisticians filled the
posts of government.

The success of the Statisticians proved their undoing. They claimed
that they could create a perfect system without conflict or accident.
They fondly believed that with the feedback in the electron brain,
they could anticipate and correct all deviations in behavior, human or
mechanical.

They might have succeeded, if not for a fundamental error.

I discovered this error as soon as the plans for the fiscal century
were published. The design of the electron brain had completely
ignored the polarity of the positron. In the total fiscal complex,
this factor permits any aggregate to choose its own course. But the
error was not immediately obvious to the Statisticians. It remained
subtle and concealed until multiplied beyond control.

       *       *       *       *       *

Naturally, I prepared a report to predict to my chiefs the dangers
embedded in this plan for a perfect world. I predicted that the
machines would make their own decisions, even though most men long ago
had lost that power. I even warned them that the ancient concept of
"free will," now forbidden, would return to destroy them. These were
the facts I offered.

The report was never delivered.

I'd hardly put my seal on the document when the automatic security
guard closed in. The document was seized and I was bound gagged and
thrown onto a conveyor belt. I saw myself on the way to the eraser.
Only the polarity of the positron saved me. Desperately, on my way out
of the laboratory, I kicked a single switch.

Instead of taking me to my punishment, the conveyor belt converted
itself into a joy ride. The gag fell out. My bonds dissolved. The
Calamity had begun.

The joy ride carried me to witness many of the events reported to this
Commission. And then it tossed me directly into the center of the
office of the Chiefs. I had one more opportunity to tell my story, to
save the system.

Given a second choice, I reconsidered.

Had a perfect system been to my taste, I'd have died cheerfully to
save it. But the Calamity excited me. I relished its surprises and
adventures, even its hazards. I remember the old peasant proverb,
"When life is perfect, it is time to die." And I decided I'd rather
live.

HISTORIAN'S NOTE:_ At this point, the Commission abruptly closed its
hearings. The unnamed physicist was charged with treason and ordered
executed on the spot. His life was saved, however, by Rioters
representing the New Disorder, which, upon seizing power, decreed that
the Calamity should henceforth be called the Blessing._

_The physicist was rewarded by being made head of the government. He
served two distinguished terms as President Nameless, which was the
origin of the Presidential title of address, "Your Namelessness._"

_The Commission, of course, was sent to Erasure._

                                                   --MARK MEADOWS

       *       *       *       *       *





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