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´╗┐Title: Self Portrait
Author: Wolfe, Bernard
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 "Self Portrait" ***

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                             Self Portrait

                           By BERNARD WOLFE

                    Illustrated by MARTIN SCHNEIDER

           [Transcriber's Note: This etext was produced from
                 Galaxy Science Fiction November 1951.
         Extensive research did not uncover any evidence that
         the U.S. copyright on this publication was renewed.]

               In the credo of this inspiringly selfless
        cyberneticist, nothing was too good for his colleagues
                  in science. Much too good for them!

_October 5, 1959_

Well, here I am at Princeton. IFACS is quite a place, _quite_ a place,
but the atmosphere's darned informal. My colleagues seem to be mostly
youngish fellows dressed in sloppy dungarees, sweatshirts (the kind
Einstein made so famous) and moccasins, and when they're not puttering
in the labs they're likely to be lolling on the grass, lounging in
front of the fire in commons, or slouching around in conference rooms
chalking up equations on a blackboard. No way of telling, of course,
but a lot of these collegiate-looking chaps must be in the MS end,
whatever that is. You'd think fellows in something secret like that
would dress and behave with a little more dignity.

Guess I was a little previous in packing my soup-and-fish. Soon as I
was shown to my room in the bachelor dorms, I dug it out and hung it
way back in the closet, out of sight. When in Rome, etc. Later that day
I discovered they carry dungarees in the Co-op; luckily, they had the
pre-faded kind.

       *       *       *       *       *

_October 6, 1959_

Met the boss this morning--hardly out of his thirties, crew-cut,
wearing a flannel hunting shirt and dirty saddleshoes. I was glad I'd
thought to change into my dungarees before the interview.

"Parks," he said, "you can count yourself a very fortunate young man.
You've come to the most important address in America, not excluding the
Pentagon. In the world, probably. To get you oriented, suppose I sketch
in some of the background of the place."

That would be most helpful, I said. I wondered, though, if he was as
naive as he sounded. Did he think I'd been working in cybernetics labs
for going on six years without hearing enough rumors about IFACS to
make me dizzy? Especially about the MS end of IFACS?

"Maybe you know," he went on, "that in the days of Oppenheimer and
Einstein, this place was called the Institute for Advanced Studies.
It was run pretty loosely then--in addition to the mathematicians and
physicists, they had all sorts of queer ducks hanging around--poets,
egyptologists, numismatists, medievalists, herbalists, God alone knows
what all. By 1955, however, so many cybernetics labs had sprung up
around the country that we needed some central coordinating agency,
so Washington arranged for us to take over here. Naturally, as soon
as we arrived, we eased out the poets and egyptologists, brought in
our own people, and changed the name to the Institute for Advanced
_Cybernetics_ Studies. We've got some pretty keen projects going now,
_pret_-ty keen."

I said I'd bet, and did he have any idea which project I would fit into?

"Sure thing," he said. "You're going to take charge of a very important
lab. The Pro lab." I guess he saw my puzzled look. "Pro--that's short
for prosthetics, artificial limbs. You know, it's really a scandal.
With our present level of technology, we should have artificial limbs
which in many ways are even better than the originals, but actually
we're still making do with modifications of the same primitive, clumsy
pegs and hooks they were using a thousand years ago. I'm counting on
you to get things hopping in that department. It's a real challenge."

I said it sure was a challenge, and of course I'd do my level best to
meet it. Still, I couldn't help feeling a bit disappointed. Around
cybernetics circles, I hinted, you heard a lot of talk about the
hush-hush MS work that was going on at IFACS and it sounded so exciting
that, well, a fellow sort of hoped he might get into _that_ end of

"Look here, Parks," the boss said. He seemed a little peeved.
"Cybernetics is teamwork, and the first rule of any team is that not
everybody can be quarterback. Each man has a specific job on our team,
one thing he's best suited for, and what _you're_ best suited for,
obviously, is the Pro lab. We've followed your work closely these last
few years, and we were quite impressed by the way you handled those
photo-electric-cell insects. You pulled off a brilliant engineering
stunt, you know, when you induced nervous breakdown in your robot
moths and bedbugs, and proved that the oscillations they developed
corresponded to those which the human animal develops in intention
tremor and Parkinson's disease. A keen bit of cybernetic thinking,
that. _Very_ keen."

It was just luck, I told him modestly.

"Nonsense," the boss insisted. "You're first and foremost a talented
neuro man, and that's exactly what we need in the Pro department.
There, you see, the problem is primarily one of duplicating a nervous
mechanism in the metal, of bridging the gap between the neuronic and
electronic. So buckle down, and if you hear any more gossip about MS,
forget it fast--it's not a proper subject of conversation for you. The
loyalty oath you signed is very specific about the trouble you can get
into with loose talk. Remember that."

I said I certainly would, and thanks a whole lot for the advice.

Damn! Everybody knows MS is the thing to get into. It gives you real
standing in the field if it gets around that you're an MS man. I had my
heart set on getting into MS.

       *       *       *       *       *

_October 6, 1959_

It never rains, etc.: now it turns out that Len Ellsom's here, and
_he's_ in MS! Found out about it in a funny way. Two mornings a week,
it seems, the staff members get into their skiing and hunting clothes
and tramp into the woods to cut logs for their fireplaces. Well, this
morning I went with them, and as we were walking along the trail
Goldweiser, my assistant, told me the idea behind these expeditions.

"You can't get away from it," he said. "E=MC^2 is in a tree trunk
as well as in a uranium atom or a solar system. When you're hacking
away at a particular tree, though, you don't think much about such
intangibles--like any good, untheoretical lumberjack, you're a lot
more concerned with superficialities, such as which way the grain
runs, how to avoid the knots, and so on. It's very restful. So long
as a cyberneticist is sawing and chopping, he's not a sliver of
uncontaminated cerebrum contemplating the eternal slippery verities of
gravity and electromagnetism; he's just one more guy trying to slice
up one more log. Makes him feel he belongs to the human race again.
Einstein, you know, used to get the same results with a violin."

Now, I've heard talk like that before, and I don't like it. I don't
like it at all. It so happens that I feel very strongly on the subject.
I think a scientist should like what he's doing and not want to take
refuge in Nature from the Laws of Nature (which is downright illogical,
anyhow). I, for one, enjoy cutting logs precisely _because_, when my
saw rasps across a knot, I know that the innermost secret of that
knot, as of all matter in the Universe, is E=MC^2. It's my job to
_know_ it, and it's very satisfying to _know_ that I know it and that
the general run of people don't. I was about to put this thought into
words, but before I could open my mouth, somebody behind us spoke up.

"Bravo, Goldie," he said. "Let us by all means pretend that we belong
to the human race. Make way for the new cyberneticists with their old
saws. Cyberneticist, spare that tree!"

I turned around to see who could be making jokes in such bad taste
and--as I might have guessed--it was Len Ellsom. He was just as
surprised as I was.

"Well," he said, "if it isn't Ollie Parks! I thought you were out in
Cal Tech, building schizophrenic bedbugs."

After M. I. T. I _had_ spent some time out in California doing
neuro-cyber research, I explained--but what was _he_ doing here? I'd
lost track of him after he'd left Boston; the last I'd heard, he'd been
working on the giant robot brain Remington-Rand was developing for the
Air Force. I remembered seeing his picture in the paper two or three
times while he was working on the brain.

"I was with Remington a couple of years," he told me. "If I do say
so myself, we built the Air Force a real humdinger of a brain--in
addition to solving the most complex problems in ballistics, it could
whistle _Dixie_ and, in moments of stress, produce a sound not unlike
a Bronx cheer. Naturally, for my prowess in the electronic simulation
of I.Q., I was tapped for the brain department of these hallowed

"Oh?" I said. "Does that mean you're in MS?" It wasn't an easy idea to
accept, but I think I was pretty successful in keeping my tone casual.

"Ollie, my boy," he said in an exaggerated stage whisper, putting his
finger to his lips, "in the beginning was the word and the word was
mum. Leave us avoid the subject of brains in this _keen_ place. We
all have a job to do on the team." I suppose that was meant to be a
humorous imitation of the boss; Len always did fancy himself quite a

We were separated during the sawing, but he caught up with me on the
way back and said, "Let's get together soon and have a talk, Ollie.
It's been a long time."

He wants to talk about Marilyn, I suppose. Naturally. He has a guilty
conscience. I'll have to make it quite clear to him that the whole
episode is a matter of complete indifference to me. Marilyn is a closed
book in my life; he must understand that. But can you beat that? He's
right in the middle of MS! That lad certainly gets around. It's the
usual Ellsom charm, I suppose.

The usual Ellsom technique for irritating people, too. He's still
trying to get my goat; he knows how much I've always hated to be called
Ollie. Must watch Goldweiser. Thought he laughed pretty heartily at
Len's wisecracks.

       *       *       *       *       *

_October 18, 1959_

Things are shaping up in the Pro lab. Here's how I get the picture.

A year ago, the boss laid down a policy for the lab: begin with legs
because, while the neuro-motor systems in legs and arms are a lot
alike, those in legs are much simpler. If we build satisfactory legs,
the boss figures, we can then tackle arms; the main difficulties will
have been licked.

Well, last summer, in line with this approach, the Army picked out
a double amputee from the outpatient department of Walter Reed
Hospital--fellow by the name of Kujack, who lost both his legs in a
land mine explosion outside Pyongyang--and shipped him up here to be a
subject in our experiments.

When Kujack arrived, the neuro boys made a major decision. It didn't
make sense, they agreed, to keep building experimental legs directly
into the muscles and nerves of Kujack's stumps; the surgical procedure
in these cine-plastic jobs is complicated as all getout, involves a
lot of pain for the subject and, what's more to the point, means long
delays each time while the tissues heal.

Instead, they hit on the idea of integrating permanent metal and
plastic sockets into the stumps, so constructed that each new
experimental limb can be snapped into place whenever it's ready for a

By the time I took over, two weeks ago, Goldweiser had the sockets
worked out and fitted to Kujack's stumps, and the muscular and
neural tissues had knitted satisfactorily. There was only one hitch:
twenty-three limbs had been designed, and all twenty-three had been
dismal flops. That's when the boss called me in.

There's no mystery about the failures. Not to me, anyhow. Cybernetics
is simply the science of building machines that will duplicate and
improve on the organs and functions of the animal, based on what we
know about the systems of communication and control in the animal. All
right. But in any particular cybernetics project, everything depends
on just how _many_ of the functions you want to duplicate, just how
_much_ of the total organ you want to replace.

That's why the robot-brain boys can get such quick and spectacular
results, have their pictures in the papers all the time, and become
the real glamor boys of the profession. They're not asked to duplicate
the human brain in its _entirety_--all they have to do is isolate and
imitate one particular function of the brain, whether it's a simple
operation in mathematics or a certain type of elementary logic.

The robot brain called the Eniac, for example, is exactly what its
name implies--an Electronic Numerical Integrator and Computer, and
it just has to be able to integrate and compute figures faster and
more accurately than the human brain can. It doesn't have to have
daydreams and nightmares, make wisecracks, suffer from anxiety, and
all that. What's more, it doesn't even have to _look_ like a brain or
fit into the tiny space occupied by a real brain. It can be housed
in a six-story building and look like an overgrown typewriter or an
automobile dashboard or even a pogo stick. All it has to do is tell you
that two times two equals four, and tell you fast.

When you're told to build an artificial leg that'll take the place
of a real one, the headaches begin. Your machine must not only _look_
like its living model, it must _also_ balance and support, walk, run,
hop, skip, jump, etc., etc. _Also_, it must fit into the same space.
_Also_, it must feel everything a real leg feels--touch, heat, cold,
pain, moisture, kinesthetic sensations--_as well as_ execute all the
brain-directed movements that a real leg can.

So you're not duplicating this or that function; you're reconstructing
the organ in its totality, or trying to. Your pro must have a full set
of sensory-motor communication systems, plus machines to carry out
orders, which is impossible enough to begin with.

But our job calls for even more. The pro mustn't only _equal_ the
real thing, it must be _superior_! That means creating a synthetic
neuro-muscular system that actually _improves_ on the nerves and
muscles Nature created in the original!

When our twenty-fourth experimental model turned out to be a dud last
week--it just hung from Kujack's stump, quivering like one of my robot
bedbugs, as though it had a bad case of intention tremor--Goldweiser
said something that made an impression on me.

"They don't want much from us," he said sarcastically. "They just want
us to be God."

I didn't care for his cynical attitude at all, but he had a point. Len
Ellsom just has to build a fancy adding machine to get his picture in
the papers. _I_ have to be God!

       *       *       *       *       *

_October 22, 1959_

Don't know what to make of Kujack. His attitude is peculiar. Of course,
he's very co-operative, lies back on the fitting table and doesn't
even wince when we snap on the pros, and he does his best to carry out
instructions. Still, there's something funny about the way he looks at
me. There's a kind of malicious expression in his eyes. At times, come
to think of it, he reminds me of Len.

Take this afternoon, for instance. I've just worked out an entirely
different kind of leg based on a whole new arrangement of solenoids to
duplicate the muscle systems, and I decided to give it a try. When I
was slipping the model into place, I looked up and caught Kujack's eye
for a moment. He seemed to be laughing at something, although his face
was expressionless.

"All right," I said. "Let's make a test. I understand you used to be
quite a football player. Well, just think of how you used to kick a
football and try to do it now."

He really seemed to be trying; the effort made him sweat. All that
happened, though, was that the big toe wriggled a little and the knee
buckled. Dud Number Twenty-five. I was sore, of course, especially when
I noticed that Kujack was more amused than ever.

"You seem to think something's pretty funny," I said.

"Don't get me wrong, Doc," he said, much too innocently. "It's just
that I've been thinking. Maybe you'd have more luck if you thought of
me as a bedbug."

"Where did you get that idea?"

"From Doc Ellsom. I was having some beers with him the other night.
He's got a very high opinion of you, says you build the best bedbugs in
the business."

I find it hard to believe that Len Ellsom would say anything really
nice about me. Must be his guilt about Marilyn that makes him talk that
way. I don't like his hanging around Kujack.

       *       *       *       *       *

_October 25, 1959_

The boss came along on our woodcutting expedition this morning and
volunteered to work the other end of my two-handled saw. He asked how
things were coming in the Pro lab.

"As I see it," I said, "there are two sides to the problem, the
kinesthetic and the neural. We're making definite progress on the K
side--I've worked out a new solenoid system, with some miniature motors
tied in, and I think it'll give us a leg that _moves_ damned well. I
don't know about the N side, though. It's pretty tough figuring out
how to hook the thing up electrically with the central nervous system
so that the brain can control it. Some sort of compromise system of
operation, along mechanical rather than neural lines, would be a lot

"You mean," the boss said with a smile, "that it's stumping you."

I was relieved to see him taking it so well because I know how anxious
he is to get results from the Pro lab. Since Pro is one of the few
things going on at IFACS that can be talked about, he's impatient for
us to come up with something he can release to the press. As the public
relations officer explained it to me at dinner the other night, people
get worried when they know there's something like IFACS going, but
don't get any real information about it, so the boss, naturally, wants
to relieve the public's curiosity with a good, reassuring story about
our work.

I knew I was taking an awful chance spilling the whole K-N thing to him
the way I did, but I had to lay the groundwork for a little plan I've
just begun to work on.

"By the way, sir," I said, "I ran into Len Ellsom the other day. I
didn't know he was here."

"Do you know him?" the boss said. "Good man. One of the best
brains-and-games men you'll find anywhere."

I explained that Len had gotten his degree at M.I.T. the year before I
did. From what I'd heard, I added, he'd done some important work on the
Remington-Rand ballistics computer.

"He did indeed," the boss said, "but that's not the half of it. After
that he made some major contributions to the robot chess player. As a
matter of fact, that's why he's here."

I said I hadn't heard about the chess player.

"As soon as it began to play a really good game of chess, Washington
put the whole thing under wraps for security reasons. Which is why you
won't hear any more about it from me."

I'm no Eniac, but I can occasionally put two and two together myself.
If the boss's remarks mean anything, they mean that an electronic brain
capable of playing games has been developed, and that it's led to
something important militarily. Of course! I could kick myself for not
having guessed it before.

Brains-and-games--that's what MS is all about, obviously. It had to
happen: out of the mathematical analysis of chess came a robot chess
player, and out of the chess player came some kind of mechanical brain
that's useful in military strategy. _That's_ what Len Ellsom's in the
middle of.

"Really brilliant mind," the boss said after we'd sawed for a while.
"Keen. But he's a little erratic--quirky, queer sense of humor. Isn't
that your impression?"

"Definitely," I said. "I'd be the last one in the world to say a word
against Len, but he was always a little peculiar. Very gay one moment
and very sour the next, and inclined to poke fun at things other people
take seriously. He used to write poetry."

"I'm very glad to know that," the boss said. "Confirms my own feeling
about him."

So the boss has some doubts about Len.

       *       *       *       *       *

_October 27, 1959_

Unpleasant evening with Len. It all started after dinner when he showed
up in my room, wagged his finger at me and said, "Ollie, you've been
avoiding me. That hurts. Thought we were pals, thick and thin and till
debt and death do us part."

I saw immediately that he was drunk--he always gets his words mixed
up when he's drunk--and I tried to placate him by explaining that it
wasn't anything like that; I'd been busy.

"If we're pals," he said, "come on and have a beer with me."

There was no shaking him off, so I followed him down to his car and we
drove to this sleazy little bar in the Negro part of town. As soon as
we sat down in a booth, Len borrowed all the nickels I had, put them
in the jukebox and pressed the levers for a lot of old Louie Armstrong

"Sorry, kid," he said. "I know how you hate this real jazzy stuff, but
can't have a reunion without music, and there isn't a polka or cowboy
ballad or hillbilly stomp in the box. They lack the folksy touch on
this side of the tracks." Len has always been very snobbish about my
interest in folk music.

I asked him what he'd been doing during the day.

"Lushing it up," he said. "Getting stinking from drinking." He still
likes to use the most flamboyant slang; I consider it an infantile form
of protest against what he regards as the "genteel" manner of academic
people. "I got sort of restless this morning, so I ducked out and beat
it into New York and looked up my friend Steve Lundy in the Village.
Spent the afternoon liquidating our joint assets. Liquidating our
assets in the joints."

What, I wanted to know, was he feeling restless about?

"Restless for going on three years now." His face grew solemn, as
though he were thinking it over very carefully. "I'll amend that
statement. Hell with the Aesopian language. I've been a plain lush for
going on three years. Ever since--"

If it was something personal--I suggested.

"It is _not_ something personal," he said, mimicking me. "Guess I can
tell an old cyberneticist pal about it. Been a lush for three years
because I've been scared for three years. Been scared for three years
because three years ago I saw a machine beat a man at a game of chess."

A machine that plays chess? That was interesting, I said.

"Didn't tell you the whole truth the other day," Len mumbled. "I _did_
work on the Remington-Rand computer, sure, but I didn't come to IFACS
directly from that. In between I spent a couple years at the Bell
Telephone Labs. Claude Shannon--or, rather, to begin with there was
Norbert Wiener back at M.I.T.--it's complicated...."

"Look," I said, "are you sure you want to talk about it?"

"Stop wearing your loyalty oath on your sleeve," he said belligerently.
"Sure I want to talk about it. Greatest subject I know. Begin at
the beginning. Whole thing started back in the Thirties with those
two refugee mathematicians who used to be here at the Institute for
Advanced Studies when Einstein was around. Von Morgan and Neumanstern,
no, Von _Neu_mann and _Mor_ganstern. You remember, they did a
mathematical analysis of all the possible kinds of games, poker,
tossing pennies, chess, bridge, everything, and they wrote up their
findings in a volume you certainly know, _The Theory of Games_.

"Well, that got Wiener started. You may remember that when he founded
the science of cybernetics, he announced that on the basis of the
theory of games, it was feasible to design a robot computing machine
that would play a better than average game of chess. Right after that,
back in '49 or maybe it was '50, Claude Shannon of the Bell Labs said
Wiener wasn't just talking, and to prove it he was going to _build_
the robot chess player. Which he proceeded withforth--forthwith--to
do. Sometime in '53, I was taken off the Remington-Rand project and
assigned to Bell to work with him."

"Maybe we ought to start back," I cut in. "I've got a lot of work to

"The night is young," he said, "and you're so dutiful. Where was I? Oh
yes, Bell. At first our electronic pawn-pusher wasn't so hot--it could
beat the pants off a lousy player, but an expert just made it look
silly. But we kept improving it, see, building more and more electronic
anticipation and gambit-plotting powers into it, and finally, one great
day in '55, we thought we had all the kinks ironed out and were ready
for the big test. By this time, of course, Washington had stepped in
and taken over the whole project.

"Well, we got hold of Fortunescu, the world's champion chess player,
sat him down and turned the robot loose on him. For four hours straight
we followed the match, with a delegation of big brass from Washington,
and for four hours straight the machine trounced Fortunescu every game.
That was when I began to get scared. I went out that night and got
really loaded."

What had he been so scared about? It seemed to me he should have felt

"Listen, Ollie," he said, "for Christ's sake, stop talking like a Boy
Scout for once in your life."

If he was going to insult me--

"No insult intended. Just listen. I'm a terrible chess player. Any
five-year-old could chatemeck--checkmate--me with his brains tied
behind his back. But this machine which I built, helped build, is the
champion chess player of the world. In other words, my brain has given
birth to a brain which can do things my brain could never do. Don't you
find that terrifying?"

"Not at all," I said. "_You_ made the machine, didn't you? Therefore,
no matter what it does, it's only an extension of you. You should feel
proud to have devised a powerful new tool."

"Some tool," he sneered. He was so drunk by now that I could hardly
understand what he was saying. "The General Staff boys in Washington
were all hopped up about that little old tool, and for a plenty good
reason--they understood that mechanized warfare is only the most
complicated game the human race has invented so far, an elaborate form
of chess which uses the population of the world for pawns and the
globe for a chessboard. They saw, too, that when the game of war gets
this complex, the job of controlling and guiding it becomes too damned
involved for any number of human brains, no matter how nimble.

"In other words, my beamish Boy Scout, modern war needs just this kind
of strategy tool; the General Staff has to be mechanized along with
everything else. So the Pentagon boys set up IFACS and handed us a
top-priority cybernetics project: to build a superduper chess player
that could oversee a complicated military maneuver, maybe later a whole
campaign, maybe ultimately a whole global war.

"We're aiming at a military strategy machine which can digest reports
from all the units on all the fronts and from moment to moment, on
the basis of that steady stream of information, grind out an elastic
overall strategy and dictate concrete tactical directives to all the
units. Wiener warned this might happen, and he was right. A very nifty
tool. Never mind how far we've gotten with the thing, but I will tell
you this: I'm a lot more scared today than I was three years ago."

So _that_ was the secret of MS! The most extraordinary machine ever
devised by the human mind! It was hard to conceal the thrill of
excitement I felt, even as a relative outsider.

"Why all the jitters?" I said. "This could be the most wonderful tool
ever invented. It might eliminate war altogether."

Len was quiet for a while, gulping his beer and looking off into space.
Then he turned to me.

"Steve Lundy has a cute idea," he said. "He was telling me about it
this afternoon. He's a bum, you see, but he's got a damned good mind
and he's done a lot of reading. Among other things, he's smart enough
to see that once you've got your theory of games worked out, there's
at least the logical possibility of converting your Eniac into what
he calls a Strategy Integrator and Computer. And he's guessed, simply
from the Pentagon's hush-hush policy about it, that that's what we're
working on here at IFACS. So he holds forth on the subject of Emsiac,
and I listen."

"What's his idea?" I asked.

"He thinks Emsiac might eliminate war, too, but not in the way a
Boy Scout might think. What he says is that all the industrialized
nations must be working away like mad on Emsiac, just as they did on
the atom bomb, so let's assume that before long all the big countries
will have more or less equal MS machines. All right. A cold war gets
under way between countries A and B, and pretty soon it reaches the
showdown stage. Then both countries plug in their Emsiacs and let them
calculate the date on which hostilities should begin. If the machines
are equally efficient, they'll hit on the same date. If there's a
slight discrepancy, the two countries can work out a compromise date by

"The day arrives. A's Emsiac is set up in its capital, B's is set up
in _its_ capital. In each capital the citizens gather around their
strategy machine, the officials turn out in high hats and cut-aways,
there are speeches, pageants, choral singing, mass dancing--the ritual
can be worked out in advance. Then, at an agreed time, the crowds
retreat to a safe distance and a committee of the top cyberneticists
appears. They climb into planes, take off and--this is beautiful--drop
all their atom bombs and H-bombs on the machines. It happens
simultaneously in both countries, you see. That's the neat part of it.
The occasion is called International Mushroom Day.

"Then the cyberneticists in both countries go back to their vacuum
tubes to work on another Emsiac, and the nuclear physicists go back to
their piles to build more atom bombs, and when they're ready they have
another Mushroom Day. One Mushroom Day every few years, whenever the
diplomatic-strategic situation calls for it, and nobody even fires a
B-B gun. Scientific war. Isn't it wonderful?"

       *       *       *       *       *

By the time Len finished this peculiar speech, I'd finally managed to
get him out of the tavern and back into his car. I started to drive him
back to the Institute, my ears still vibrating with the hysterical
yelps of Armstrong's trumpet. I'll never for the life of me understand
what Len sees in that kind of music. It seems to me such an unhealthy
sort of expression.

"Lundy's being plain silly," I couldn't help saying. "What guarantee
has he got that on your Mushroom Day, Country B wouldn't make a great
display of destroying one Emsiac and one set of bombs while it had
others in hiding? It's too great a chance for A to take--she might be
throwing away all her defenses and laying herself wide open to attack."

"See what I mean?" Len muttered. "You're a Boy Scout." Then he passed
out, without saying a word about Marilyn. Hard to tell if he sees
anything of her these days. He _does_ see some pretty peculiar people,
though. I'd like to know more about this Steve Lundy.

       *       *       *       *       *

_November 2, 1959_

I've done it! Today I split up the lab into two entirely independent
operations, K and N. Did it all on my own authority, haven't breathed a
word about it to the boss yet. Here's my line of reasoning.

On the K end, we can get results, and fast: if it's just a matter
of building a pro that works like the real leg, regardless of what
_makes_ it work, it's a cinch. But if it has to be worked by the
brain, through the spinal cord, the job is just about impossible. Who
knows if we'll ever learn enough about neuro tissue to build our own
physico-chemico-electrical substitutes for it?

As I proved in my robot moths and bedbugs, I can work up electronic
circuits that seem to duplicate one particular function of animal
nerve tissue--one robot is attracted to light like a moth, the other
is repelled by light like a bedbug--but I don't know how to go about
duplicating the tissue itself in all its functions. And until we can
duplicate nerve tissue, there's no way to provide our artificial limbs
with a neuro-motor system that can be hooked up with the central
nervous system. The best I can do along those lines is ask Kujack to
kick and get a wriggle of the big toe instead.

So the perspective is clear. Mechanically, kinesthetically,
motorically, I can manufacture a hell of a fine leg. Neurally, it would
take decades, centuries maybe, to get even a reasonable facsimile of
the original--and maybe it will never happen. It's not a project I'd
care to devote my life to. If Len Ellsom had been working on that sort
of thing, he wouldn't have gotten his picture in the paper so often,
you can be sure.

So, in line with this perspective, I've divided the whole operation
into two separate labs, K-Pro and N-Pro. I'm taking charge of K-Pro
myself, since it intrigues me more and I've got these ideas about
using solenoids to get lifelike movements. With any kind of luck I'll
soon have a peach of a mechanical limb, motor-driven and with its own
built-in power plant, operated by push-button. Before Christmas, I hope.

Got just the right man to take over the neuro lab--Goldweiser, my
assistant. I weighed the thing from every angle before I made up my
mind, since his being Jewish makes the situation very touchy: some
people will be snide enough to say I picked him to be a potential
scapegoat. Well, Goldweiser, no matter what his origins may be, is the
best neuro man I know.

Of course, personally--although my personal feelings don't enter into
the picture at all--I _am_ just a bit leery of the fellow. Have been
ever since that first log-cutting expedition, when he began to talk in
such a peculiar way about needing to relax and then laughed so hard
at Len's jokes. That sort of talk always indicates to me a lack of
reverence for your job: if a thing's worth doing at all, etc.

Of course, I don't mean that Goldweiser's cynical attitude has anything
to do with his being Jewish; Len's got the same attitude and he's
_not_ Jewish. Still, this afternoon, when I told Goldweiser he's going
to head up the N-Pro lab, he sort of bowed and said, "That's quite a
promotion. I always did want to be God."

I didn't like that remark at all. If I'd had another neuro man as good
as he is, I'd have withdrawn the promotion immediately. It's his luck
that I'm tolerant, that's all.

       *       *       *       *       *

_November 6, 1959_

Lunch with Len today, at my invitation. Bought him several Martinis,
then brought up Lundy's name and asked who he was, he sounded

"Steve?" Len said. "I roomed with him my first year in New York."

I asked what Steve did, exactly.

"Reads, mostly. He got into the habit back in the 30s, when he was
studying philosophy at the University of Chicago. When the Civil War
broke out in Spain, he signed up with the Lincoln Brigade and went over
there to fight, but it turned out to be a bad mistake. His reading got
him in a lot of trouble, you see; he'd gotten used to asking all sorts
of questions, so when the Moscow Trials came along, he asked about
them. Then the N.K.V.D. began to pop up all over Spain, and he asked
about it.

"His comrades, he discovered, didn't like guys who kept asking
questions. In fact, a couple of Steve's friends who had also had an
inquiring streak were found dead at the front, shot in the _back_,
and Steve got the idea that he was slated for the same treatment.
It seemed that people who asked questions were called saboteurs,
Trotskyite-Fascists or something, and they kept dying at an alarming

I ordered another Martini for Len and asked how Steve had managed to
save himself.

"He beat it across the mountains into France," Len explained. "Since
then he's steered clear of causes. He goes to sea once in a while
to make a few bucks, drinks a lot, reads a lot, asks some of the
shrewdest questions I know. If he's anything you can put a label on,
I'd say he was a touch of Rousseau, a touch of Tolstoi, plenty of
Voltaire. Come to think of it, a touch of Norbert Wiener too. Wiener,
you may remember, used to ask some damned iconoclastic questions for a
cyberneticist. Steve knows Wiener's books by heart."

Steve sounded like a very colorful fellow, I suggested.

"Yep," Len said. "Marilyn used to think so." I don't think I moved a
muscle when he said it; the smile didn't leave my face. "Ollie," Len
went on, "I've been meaning to speak to you about Marilyn. Now that the
subject's come up--"

"I've forgotten all about it," I assured him.

"I still want to set you straight," he insisted. "It must have looked
funny, me moving down to New York after commencement and Marilyn giving
up her job in the lab and following two days later. But never mind
_how_ it looked. I never made a pass at her all that time in Boston,
Ollie. That's the truth. But she was a screwy, scatter-brained dame and
she decided she was stuck on me because I dabbled in poetry and hung
around with artists and such in the Village, and she thought it was all
so glamorous. I didn't have anything to do with her chasing down to New
York, no kidding. You two were sort of engaged, weren't you?"

"It really doesn't matter," I said. "You don't have to explain." I
finished my drink. "You say she knew Lundy?"

"Sure, she knew Lundy. She also knew Kram, Rossard, Broyold, Boster, De
Kroot and Hayre. She knew a whole lot of guys before she was through."

"She always was sociable."

"You don't get my meaning," Len said. "I am not talking about Marilyn's
gregarious impulses. Listen. First she threw herself at me, but I got
tired of her. Then she threw herself at Steve and _he_ got tired of
her. Damn near the whole male population of the Village got tired of
her in the next couple years."

"Those were troubled times. The war and all."

"They were troubled times," Len agreed, "and she was the source of
a fair amount of the trouble. You were well rid of her, Ollie, take
my word for it. God save us from the intense Boston female who goes
bohemian--the icicle parading as the torch."

"Just as a matter of academic curiosity," I said as we were leaving,
"what became of her?"

"I don't know for sure. During her Village phase she decided her
creative urge was hampered by compasses and T-squares, and in
between men she tried to do a bit of painting--very abstract, very
imitative-original, very hammy. I heard later that she finally gave up
the self-expression kick, moved up to the East Seventies somewhere. If
I remember, she got a job doing circuit designing on some project for

"She's probably doing well at it," I said. "She certainly knew her
drafting. You know, she helped lay out the circuits for the first robot
bedbug I ever built."

       *       *       *       *       *

_November 19, 1959_

Big step forward, if it isn't unseemly to use a phrase like that in
connection with Pro research. This afternoon we completed the first
two experimental models of my self-propelled solenoid legs, made of
transparent plastic so everything is visible--solenoids, batteries,
motors, thyratron tubes and transistors.

Kujack was waiting in the fitting room to give them their first tryout,
but when I got there I found Len sitting with him. There were several
empty beer cans on the floor and they were gabbing away a mile a minute.

Len _knows_ how I hate to see people drinking during working hours.
When I put the pros down and began to rig them for fitting, he said
conspiratorially, "Shall we tell him?"

Kujack was pretty crocked, too. "Let's tell him," he whispered back.
Strange thing about Kujack, he hardly ever says a word to me, but he
never closes his mouth when Len's around.

"All right," Len said. "_You_ tell him. Tell him how we're going to
bring peace on Earth and good will toward bedbugs."

"We just figured it out," Kujack said. "What's wrong with war. It's a

"Steamrollers are very undemocratic," Len added. "Never consult people
on how they like to be flattened before flattening them. They just go
rolling along."

"Just go rolling, they go on rolling along," Kujack said. "Like Old Man

"What's the upshot?" Len demanded. "People get upshot, shot up. In all
countries, all of them without exception, they emerge from the war
spiritually flattened, a little closer to the insects--like the hero in
that Kafka story who wakes up one morning to find he's a bedbug, I mean
beetle. All because they've been steamrolled. Nobody consulted them."

"Take the case of an amputee," Kujack said. "Before the land mine
exploded, it didn't stop and say, 'Look, friend, I've got to go off;
that's my job. Choose which part you'd prefer to have blown off--arm,
leg, ear, nose, or what-have-you. Or is there somebody else around who
would relish being clipped more than you would? If so, just send him
along. I've got to do some clipping, you see, but it doesn't matter
much which part of which guy I clip, so long as I make my quota.' Did
the land mine say that? No! The victim wasn't consulted. Consequently
he can feel victimized, full of self-pity. We just worked it out."

"The whole thing," Len said. "If the population had been polled
according to democratic procedure, the paraplegia and other maimings
could have been distributed to each according to his psychological
need. See the point? Marx corrected by Freud, as Steve Lundy would
say. Distribute the injuries to each according to his need--not his
economic need, but his masochistic need. Those with a special taste
for self-damage obviously should be allowed a lion's share of it. That
way nobody could claim he'd been victimized by the steamroller or got
anything he didn't ask for. It's all on a voluntary basis, you see.

"Whole new concept of war," Kujack agreed. "Voluntary amputeeism,
voluntary paraplegia, voluntary everything else that usually happens to
people in a war. Just to get some human dignity back into the thing."

"Here's how it works," Len went on. "Country A and Country B reach the
breaking point. It's all over but the shooting. All right. So they pool
their best brains, mathematicians, actuaries, strategists, logistics
geniuses, and all. What am I saying? They pool their best _robot_
brains, their Emsiacs. In a matter of seconds they figure out, down
to the last decimal point, just how many casualties each side can be
expected to suffer in dead and wounded, and then they break down the
figures. Of the wounded, they determine just how many will lose eyes,
how many arms, how many legs, and so on down the line. Now--here's
where it gets really neat--each country, having established its
quotas in dead and wounded of all categories, can send out a call for

"Less messy that way," Kujack said. "An efficiency expert's war. War on
an actuarial basis."

"You get exactly the same results as in a shooting war," Len insisted.
"Just as many dead, wounded and psychologically messed up. But you
avoid the whole steamroller effect. A tidy war, war with dispatch,
conceived in terms of ends rather than means. The end never did justify
the means, you see; Steve Lundy says that was always the great dilemma
of politics. So with one fool sweep--fell swoop--we get rid of means

"As things stand with me," Kujack said, "if _anything_ stands with me,
I might get to feeling sore about what happened to me. But nothing
happens _to_ the volunteer amputee. He steps up to the operating
table and says, 'Just chop off one arm, Doc, the left one, please,
up to the elbow if you don't mind, and in return put me down for
one-and-two-thirds free meals daily at Longchamps and a plump blonde
every Saturday.'"

"Or whatever the exchange value for one slightly used left arm would
be," Len amended. "That would have to be worked out by the robot

By this time I had the pros fitted and the push-button controls
installed in the side pocket of Kujack's jacket.

"Maybe you'd better go now, Len," I said. I was very careful to show no
reaction to his baiting. "Kujack and I have some work to do."

"I hope you'll make him a moth instead of a bedbug," Len said as he got
up. "Kujack's just beginning to see the light. Be a shame if you give
him a negative tropism to it instead of a positive one." He turned to
Kujack, wobbling a little. "So long, kid. I'll pick you up at seven and
we'll drive into New York to have a few with Steve. He's going to be
very happy to hear we've got the whole thing figured out."

I spent two hours with Kujack, getting him used to the extremely
delicate push-button controls. I must say that, drunk or sober,
he's a very apt pupil. In less than two hours he actually walked! A
little unsteadily, to be sure, but his balance will get better as he
practices and I iron out a few more bugs, and I _don't_ mean bedbugs.

For a final test, I put a little egg cup on the floor, balanced a
football in it, and told Kujack to try a place kick. What a moment! He
booted that ball so hard, it splintered the mirror on the wall.

       *       *       *       *       *

_November 27, 1959_

Long talk with the boss. I gave it to him straight about breaking up
the lab into K-Pro and N-Pro, and about there being little chance that
Goldweiser would come up with anything much on the neuro end for a
long, long time. He was awfully let down, I could see, so I started to
talk fast about the luck I'd been having on the kinesthetic end. When
he began to perk up, I called Kujack in from the corridor and had him
demonstrate his place kick.

He's gotten awfully good at it this past week.

"If we release the story to the press," I suggested, "this might make
a fine action shot. You see, Kujack used to be one of the best kickers
in the Big Ten, and a lot of newspapermen will still remember him."
Then I sprang the biggest news of all. "During the last three days of
practice, sir, he's been consistently kicking the ball twenty, thirty
and even forty yards farther than he ever did with his own legs. Than
anybody, as a matter of fact, ever has with real legs."

"That's a wonderful angle," the boss said excitedly. "A world's record,
made with a cybernetic leg!"

"It should make a terrific picture," Kujack said. "I've also been
practicing a big, broad, photogenic grin." Luckily the boss didn't hear
him--by this time he was bending over the legs, studying the solenoids.

After Kujack left, the boss congratulated me. Very, _very_ warmly. It
was a most gratifying moment. We chatted for a while, making plans for
the press conference, and then finally he said, "By the way, do you
happen to know anything about your friend Ellsom? I'm worried about
him. He went off on Thanksgiving and hasn't been heard from at all ever

That was alarming, I said. When the boss asked why, I told him a
little about how Len had been acting lately, talking and drinking more
than was good for him. With all sorts of people. The boss said that
confirmed his own impressions.

I can safely say we understood each other. I sensed a very definite

       *       *       *       *       *

_November 30, 1959_

It was bound to happen, of course. As I got it from the boss, he
decided after our talk that Len's absence needed some looking into, and
he tipped off Security about it. A half dozen agents went to work on
the case and right off they headed for Steve Lundy's apartment in the
Village and, sure enough, there was Len.

Len and his friend were both blind drunk and there were all sorts of
incriminating things in the room--lots of peculiar books and pamphlets,
Lundy's identification papers from the Lincoln Brigade, an article
Lundy was writing for an anarchist-pacifist magazine about what he
calls Emsiac. Len and his friend were both arrested on the spot and a
full investigation is going on now.

The boss says that no matter whether Len is brought to trial or not,
he's all washed up. He'll never get a job on any classified cybernetics
project from now on, because it's clear enough that he violated his
loyalty oath by discussing MS all over the place.

The Security men came around to question me this morning. Afraid my
testimony didn't help Len's case any. What could I do? I had to own up
that, to my knowledge, Len had violated Security on three counts: he'd
discussed MS matters with Kujack in my presence, with Lundy (according
to what he told me), and of course with me (I am technically an
outsider, too). I also pointed out that I'd tried to make him shut up,
but there was no stopping him once he got going. Damn that Len, anyhow.
Why does he have to go and put me in this ethical spot? It shows a lack
of consideration.

These Security men can be _too_ thorough. Right off they wanted to pick
up Kujack as well.

I got hold of the boss and explained that if they took Kujack away we'd
have to call off our press conference, because it would take months to
fit and train another subject.

The boss immediately saw the injustice of the thing, stepped in and got
Security to calm down, at least until we finish our demonstration.

       *       *       *       *       *

_December 23, 1959_

What a day! The press conference this afternoon was _something_. Dozens
of reporters and photographers and newsreel men showed up, and we took
them all out to the football field for the demonstrations. First the
boss gave a little orientation talk about cybernetics being teamwork in
science, and about the difference between K-Pro and N-Pro, pointing
out that from the practical, humanitarian angle of helping the amputee,
K is a lot more important than N.

The reporters tried to get in some questions about MS, but he parried
them very good-humoredly, and he said some nice things about me, some
very nice things indeed.

Then Kujack was brought in. He really went through his paces, walking,
running, skipping, jumping and everything. It was damned impressive.
And then, to top off the show, Kujack place-kicked a football
ninety-three yards by actual measurement, a world's record, and
everybody went wild.

Afterward Kujack and I posed for the newsreels, shaking hands while the
boss stood with his arms around us. They're going to play the whole
thing up as IFACS' Christmas present to one of our gallant war heroes
(just what the boss wanted: he figures this sort of things makes IFACS
sound so much less grim to the public), and Kujack was asked to say
something in line with that idea.

"I never could kick this good with my real legs," he said, holding my
hand tight and looking straight at me. "Gosh, this is just about the
nicest Christmas present a fellow could get. Thank you, Santa."

I thought he was overdoing it a bit toward the end there, but the
newsreel men say they think it's a great sentimental touch.

Goldweiser was in the crowd, and he said, "I only hope that when _I_
prove I'm God, this many photographers will show up." That's just about
the kind of remark I'd expect from Goldweiser.

Too bad the Security men are coming for Kujack tomorrow. The boss
couldn't argue. After all, they were patient enough to wait until after
the tests and demonstration, which the boss and I agree was white of
them. It's not as if Kujack isn't deeply involved in this Ellsom-Lundy
case. As the boss says, you can tell a man by the company, etc.

       *       *       *       *       *

_December 25, 1959_

Spent the morning clipping pictures and articles from the papers; they
gave us _quite_ a spread. Late in the afternoon I went over to the
boss's house for eggnogs, and I finally got up the nerve to say what's
been on my mind for over a month now. Strike while the iron's, etc.

"I've been thinking, sir," I said, "that this solenoid system I've
worked out for Pros has other applications. For example, it could
easily be adapted to some of the tricky mechanical aspects of an
electronic calculator." I went into some of the technical details
briefly, and I could see he was interested. "I'd like very much to work
on that, now that K-Pro is licked, more or less. And if there _is_ an
opening in MS--"

"You're a go-getter," the boss said, nodding in a pleased way. He was
looking at a newspaper lying on the coffee table; on the front page was
a large picture of Kujack grinning at me and shaking my hand. "I like
that. I can't promise anything, but let me think about it."

I think I'm in!

       *       *       *       *       *

_December 27, 1959_

Sent the soup-and-fish out be cleaned and pressed. Looks like I'm going
to get some use out of it, after all. We're having a big formal New
Year's Eve party in the commons room and there's going to be square
dancing, swing-your-partner, and all of that. When I called Marilyn,
she sounded very friendly--she remembered to call me Oliver, and I was
flattered that she did--and said she'd be delighted to come. Seems
she's gotten very fond of folk dancing lately.

Gosh, it'll be good to get out of these dungarees for a while. I'm
happy to say I still look good in formals. Marilyn ought to be quite
impressed. Len always wore his like pajamas.

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