Monday, July 22, 2013

Part 144 - The Cybernetic Brains

Swiss Army said he was leaving the trail at Highway 140 to go into Medford to purchase new shoes.  He said he had a friend in the nearby community of Fish Lake, which lay just to the west of where the PCT crossed Highway 140, who had offered to let him use his car should he ever be in the neighborhood.

Knowing that Swiss Army had a vehicle available to him, I asked him if he would be willing to take my backpack cover that I purchased in Ashland and exchange it for a larger size. He said he would be happy to.

As we walked, and to pass the time, I told Swiss Army about a story my father had written called The Cybernetic Brains.  Before relating the thumbnail sketch of the story, let me say a few words about my father.

 He was born in Salt Lake City, Utah, in 1915, and passed away at age seventy-eight in 1994; cause of death was pancreatic cancer.  I spoke at his funeral, and the following were some of my comments:


 He was a very private man, not given to great conversations, not given to conversation at all; he was not one to say anything about himself or anyone else.

My sister, Laura, and I asked dad a few years ago, to please write down his autobiography.  His response,

"If you want to know about me, read my books; that is where you'll find me, that is where you'll learn about me."

Dad wrote over twenty-five books, dozens of short stories, and numerous articles on various subject matters.  It is then to his writings, letters, manuscripts, and other correspondence that we must go, to gain insight into this quiet man.

He saved a lot of his early schoolwork - his papers and assignments from high school, their content - chemistry, physics, and math assignments, balanced by theology lessons from seminary.  His handwriting is neat, assignments are always coupled with diagrams and drawings explaining experiments he had observed, and there always appeared on the papers the teacher’s comments which usually read "Excellent."

At this early age of schooling, dad displayed a keen interest in the world around him.  This interest centered on science, scientific observation, history, archaeology, astronomy, and personal exploration.

During the 1930s, 40s, and 50s, science-fiction stories were the rage. Numerous short stories appeared each month in pulp magazines with such names as Analog, Galaxy, Fantasy, Astounding Science Fiction, Thrilling Wonder Stories.

As a boy, with no television to consume his spare time, dad became an avid reader of this material.  His imagination soared as he read about flying saucers with their alien space invaders, space travel, time machines, spaceships, and lone scientists puttering around in elaborate laboratories, discovering and inventing both death rays and lifesaving cures for diseases inflected upon earth's population by evil beings from the worlds beyond.  In 1932, at age seventeen, dad wrote his first science-fiction story and had it published.  The die was cast.

Writing science fiction was a tough way to support a wife and five children, so dad often had to find other work to help support the family.  He ended his writing career as a technical writer for Sperry-UNIVAC, now called Unisys – an information technology company.   The department dad worked in wrote manuals on how to operate radar systems.

The Cybernetic Brains

In the Future, Human Brains will be the Computers that Operate Factories

The Cybernetic Brains – I’ve struggled for decades to understand what the term actually means. Cybernetic isn’t a word used in everyday conversation, and as best as I can gather, it means the study of systems, i.e., mechanical, physical, cognitive, and social, etc.  In practical application it monitors feedback to help with self-regulating systems, i.e., home thermostats, floats in a carburetor, regulatory valves in a steam engine.  In the concept of this story, brains function much like computers and are used to regulate the output of factories, laboratories, and all types of machinery.

Time frame:  Five hundred years in the future after the great mathematician, Norbert Wiener, discovered that neurons in the brain function much like the circuitry of a computer, but are faster, take up far less space than the computer of the day with their vast assortment of vacuum tubes and wiring, and endless was their ability to multi-task.

After years of experimentation, cybernetic engineers were successful with the installation of a human brain to regulate the function of a simple factory, which lead to more complex installations, i.e., car manufacturing, until ultimately the machinery, factories, and mechanized institutions of mankind in the two Americas were fully automated through the use of cybernetic brains.  And because society was globalized, in a few decades, mechanization of the whole world was automated by cybernetic brains contained in small platinum boxes.

Brains were obtained through contracts with the primary cybernetic company – General Biotics.  The populous was not alarmed at the harvesting of brains; they were familiar with blood banks, eye banks, and the storage and transportation of body parts for medical purposes that resulted in full face transplants, as well as liver, kidney, and heart transplants.

With all manufacturing, engineering, and food processing being automated, the world’s population was now out of work, which gave rise to the magnificent Welfare State.  From cradle to grave, all of man’s needs were supplied by the state through smooth and efficient distribution centers, under the supervision of the cybernetic brains.  The first cybernetic brain had been installed in a plant seventy-five years ago, and still functioned in processing the information input and output that governed the complex functions of the facility.

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