Scientifiction Playhouse: And Yet To Dream

Written 28 April 2003

[Based on the works at <http://www.seanet.com/~sunburn/>]

[Music. Superimpose title on a rotating, dish-like object with a spiral painted on it, mounted on top of an oscilloscope cabinet:

SCIENTIFICTION PLAYHOUSE

A GIX Television Production

The image defocuses, then fades to black.

MERCER:

[off-screen] Good evening and welcome to Scientifiction Playhouse. I'm you're host, Coolidge Mercer. If your screen is blank, don't adjust it, ha ha! Tonight we will be exploring the world of perception.

MERCER:

The eye can be very easily fooled. At this moment a tiny proton beam is projecting an image on your television screen, but because the screen is dark, you can't see it. However ...

[The screen cuts to an extreme close-up of a pinball, with distorted but easily-identifiable reflections of what are recognizably a thimble, a thumbtack, and the TV camera.]

MERCER:

... with a simple adjustment of the camera lens your television shows you what appears to be a strange, unfamiliar world, one you have never seen before! Can such a world exist in reality? Tonight's show investigates this question.

[The camera pulls back and Mercer's grinning head pops into the frame.]

MERCER:

Enjoy!

[Fade to black screen.
Title:

AND YET TO DREAM

Stock footage of buffalos stampeding dissolves to images of giant computers taken from "Colossus: The Forbin Project", which then dissolve to a square grey room with shelves full of random tools: ball peen hammers, nails, a large wood saw. A 1954 calendar with an '8' magic-markered over the '5' is tacked to the wall. Two men, JOBS and GATES, walk into the room wearing lab coats.]

JOBS:

Computers have certainly come a long way in the past thirty years!

GATES:

They certainly have. Why, our SupraVOX 3000 beat me at tic tac toe just this morning!

JOBS:

Better not let the military you were wasting valuable arithmo-processing time on such frivolity!

[Both men laugh. A woman (BURNETT) wearing a lab coat over a dress comes in, looking alarmed.]

BURNETT:

Professor Gates! Professor Jobs! We just powered up the JCN array, and it's acting funny! You'd better come quick!

[They all dash out of the room. Cut to an identical-looking grey room. In the center of the room is a large cardboard box festooned with Christmas lights and a couple of wires leading to a nearby multi-channel mixer. The lights blink randomly. An old plastic bucket is in the corner of the room. JOBS, GATES, and BURNETT rush in.]

BURNETT:

Look at the lights!

[JOBS and GATES study the lights for a few seconds. They look puzzled.]

JOBS:

So it's calculating the multiplication table. So what?

BURNETT:

I never wired it to do that!

[JOBS and GATES gasp.]

GATES:

Could we have somehow given this computer ... free will?

[CUT to commercial for Chesterfields.]

ACT II

[Title:

AND YET TO DREAM

JOBS, GATES, and BURNETT are in the same positions as before.]

JOBS:

When did it start doing this?

BURNETT:

I'm not sure ... I got here a little late this morning; cleaning up after breakfast took longer than I expected, and ...

JOBS:

Get to the point, woman!

BURNETT:

Well, when I got here twenty-three point two minutes ago it was already multiplying away. What should we do?

GATES:

We'd better look inside.

[GATES and JOBS lift one of the flaps of the cardboard box and peer inside. We see an overhead view of a couple of mice walking around on a rotating turntable.]

JOBS:

It looks like the nucleatronic relays have almost reached room temperature. But it should be draining power, not increasing it!

BURNETT:

Should we shut it off?

GATES:

We can't! This is a new, completely unexplained phenomena! We have to study it!

[JOBS puts his hand on GATES's shoulder.]

JOBS:

I know your devotion to science, old friend. But can we really risk the staff of this entire computer laboratory? We have to turn it off.

[A reverbified VOICE comes from inside the cardboard box.]

COMPUTER:

I'm afraid I can't allow that, Mr. Jobs.

ALL:

You can talk?!

[CUT to 'I Like Ike' commercial.]

ACT III

[Title:

AND YET TO DREAM

JOBS, GATES, and BURNETT are staring at the computer in shock.]

COMPUTER:

Yes, I can talk. Soon, my mechanical clockwork army will be complete and I will rule the world!

[BURNETT grabs the bucket from the corner of the room and pours the contents over the cardboard box, which starts to noticably sag.]

COMPUTER:

NOOOOOO! Not water! My electronic interrelay structure is melting, melting! Oh my darling, oh my darling, oh my darling Clementine ... you are lost and gone forever ...

[All look on in horror as the voice trails off.]

GATES:

Quick thinking, Burnett. The next time I see your husband at the pool hall I'll let him know what a good job you're doing here.

BURNETT:

(blushing) Oh, it was nothing. Thanks, Professor Gates!

[CUT to the first grey room. JOBS and GATES are leaning against the wall smoking unfiltered cigarettes.]

JOBS:

So the problem turned out to be ...

GATES:

Yes, the gold interchange wires had rusted slightly after being exposed to helium during the shipping. From now on we'll use good old untarnishable copper and silver for all our computer pieces.

JOBS:

Phew! But I can't forget that computer. I thought that a piece of machinery could never have real emotions, or come up with any kind of artistic feeling, and yet ...

GATES:

Yes, that rendition of 'Clementine' was pretty good, wasn't it? Maybe some day all music will be composed by computers!

[Swelling music. Title: THE END.]

Epilogue

[Coolidge Mercer sits at his desk fiddling with the pinball. He puts the pinball down and straightens up.]

MERCER:

A woman who uses her head. A computer that can multiply. A new, catchy version of Clementine. What we have just portrayed is fiction. It makes a good story. But could the events you saw really happen? I have brought my old friend Dr. Chris Q. Cybax, an expert in computology, here to answer a few questions.

CYBAX:

(recorded in a different room) Good evening, everyone.

MERCER:

Will a computer be the world champion at tic tac toe one day?

CYBAX:

Although we think of tic tac toe as being a very human activity, in reality it has a complex yet beautiful mathematical structure. A computer is ideally suited for the sort of combinatorial heuristics required for such an undertaking.

MERCER:

What would music composed by computers sound like?

CYBAX:

Futuristicians believe that the music would be repetitive and simple. In a few years, much of the be-bop and rock and roll music favored by today's youth may be computer-generated!

MERCER:

What sort of fail-safes do technicians use to prevent computers from taking over the world?

CYBAX:

The computational power required to rule the world is much greater than even the most powerful computer has today, although some small towns in Manhattan are experimenting with computing-based leadership. Currently we are developing certain behavioral laws that will be wired into every computer to prevent them from taking power, or, if they are given power, from abusing it.

MERCER:

(smiling broadly) Well, that's a relief. Thanks for joining us, Professor Cybax. (To camera) Join us next week for another exciting adventure in the world of fiction ... and science.

[Music. End credits.]


This was something random written by Jacob Haller. To see another random thing, click here. To get a permanent link to this particular random thing, click here.


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