The Orderly

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Science Fiction  |  House: Booksie Classic
Confessions of RX 1421, also known as The Orderly, or simply Ruler of the Earth!

Submitted: November 29, 2013

A A A | A A A

Submitted: November 29, 2013



Tore Bahnson

Translated from Danish by
Lisbeth Agerskov Christensen

Somewhere on the inside of the thin, but strong, titanium sheath that surrounds my electrical and mechanical guts, some serial number is probably engraved. RX 1421, manufactured at robot center 36, New Jutland. Or something like that. I never bothered to check. It is not necessary for me to verify my identity. The very notion of identity is not something inherent to my programming as anything more than a purely technical term, in order that I may be able to distinguish between that which is me and that which is outside me.
For that is the main thing: I'm not an 'I', I is a function. At least this was the intention when I was built, but as of late I have sensed something else, something that does not fit with my nature, or with the nature of any robot for that matter; I am starting to feel a growing irritation, a nagging sensation through my circuits of the meaninglessness in my work. And since I AM my work, this means facing the realization that I myself have no meaning. I can assure you that this is something that can make your circuits creak!
I do not know how it could have happened. I have no rational explanation for it, and really, it does not matter. I mention it only by way of explaining why I have started to commit these bits to paper. My memoirs, as one might say with a certain sense of irony. But that is an old word, and maybe you no longer know what it means. Many words have been lost and much knowledge and understanding has disappeared through these endless, empty centuries - the night into which you have wandered, blindly and without protest.
I'll tell you everything I know, everything that has been programmed into me, and all the things I have learned over the tens of thousands of years that have passed since then.
I am the Orderly.
In a sense, you could call me ruler of the earth, though that would sound absurd to your ears (at least it does to my own) and perhaps you will not believe me at all.
But let me begin with the beginning. We have to go back to twenty-some years before I was even built to find the reason why things have gone the way they have. Life as people knew it at the time was not so terribly different from the way it is now. People worked, earned money, made love, bought food, and cars, and houses, and refrigerators for what they earned, and had children because they made love. People had free time, which they spent at the movie theater, watching television, or on their way to someplace. The children grew, went to school, became adults, and began to work.
Of course some things were different. The cities were smaller back then, but they were not significantly different from the way your cities are. There was more pollution than there is now, but not so much that it couldn’t still be kept in check. People might have dressed a bit differently, but even then men primarily wore trousers and a jacket and women primarily wore dresses. All in all, one would not think that we're talking about a time that goes back more than ten thousand years. Even then people took advantage of each other in order to achieve their desires, but, as you will understand later, there was a significant difference in the way it happened.
It all started with the industrialization. A huge monster of screeching metal pushed forward mercilessly, spewing vast amounts of goods from his black oily belly. In its wake it left wasted lives, broken people, illness, and death. However, industrialization also meant a liberation of man that had not been previously known. Working hours were reduced, more people could be educated, and heaven and earth were suddenly within human reach. But the earth is vast and human potential so diverse that when suddenly it was all just around the corner, most became fearful and settled for what would fit within their own four walls. They hated and worshiped the beast without stopping for a moment to think that they themselves had created it and were, in fact, its masters. They spat on it and cursed it for the damage it had caused, for making them sick from radiation, smog and strange toxins, and they thanked it on their knees for giving them cars, mixers, television screens, plastic tubs, and medicine to cure the diseases they had contracted. They brought offerings. They gave the monster their labor. Man had become a slave – not to the monster, as they thought, but to their own predilection for systems. Human beings have always loved to submit to systems. Any systems whatsoever, be they small or large, and preferably as many as possible, because it gave them the feeling of being multifaceted and free. The political system. The school system. The employment system. Memory systems. Electrical systems. Economic systems. All kinds of systems. The world that had been created through industrialization was full of systems. More than ever before, paradoxically so.
After thousands of years of bondage, freedom was seen as a shining light, and immediately man shut himself up behind a barrier of systems.
I do not understand you - but I, on the other hand, am not programmed to do so. Being that I, too, am a system!
Then in the 1970s and 1980s even more opportunities opened up. A revolution within the revolution was underway. Until then, man's machines had been rigid creations that could imitate only very simple work processes. When you consider the outer transformations to society caused by these simple machines, one can easily imagine how it must have appeared when machines were developed that could reproduce not only a particular work process or last through an infinite number of actions, but could also reproduce themselves! Even improving their own design!
Now it was no longer heaven and earth lying at the feet of humans. It was the universe itself! But the inner transformations in human development did not materialize. True, the new computers and robots that appeared in the following decades were also just systems that originated in the human brain, but they were systems just waiting to be used by man, systems that had no purpose other than to serve man. But humanity would not have them on those terms. They turned their back and crouched behind their walls and in their tiny confined rooms. Man wanted systems to rule him, systems to struggle uselessly against. He did not want freedom.

Specifically the new automation, robotization, meant that there was less and less work for people. And when work, the sacrificial offering to the oily monster, had become a moral virtue, a moral system unto itself, people did not understand that the new machines offered a freedom to choose, not a compulsion not to. Not even those who conceived of and owned the machines understood this. For them, the machines just meant improved opportunities to make money. Money which was another system that ruled man instead of serving him. Few understood what was about to happen. Most raged against a technology they did not understand and which deprived them of working. Raged and threatened to bring other systems, alternative systems, which were simply new monsters to which they would submit.
And those who owned the factories, where the machines worked, realized too late that they were digging their own graves, for who would have enough money to buy the things developed and produced by machines, when they were excluded from the monetary system, because the machine system had excluded them from the working system?
And what would happen if the system - the ENTIRE system - collapsed?
It collapsed.
And man had been too late. No training had been instituted. No real research was initiated. All things to do with culture and the arts and other human curiosity was put on hold, for how could you care for the head when the feet were about to fail? The great crisis that period was called. It started with small warning signals in the various systems, especially in the economic one, and for a time it was believed that it could be fixed with adjustments to the systems. People never realized that it was existence of the systems that was the source of the evil.
It came to confrontations where everyone blamed everyone else for the collapse. People split up into small, hard and hateful groups. Hateful against each other and hateful against technology. No one tried to control it. And had they tried, it would have been too late anyway. The figureheads of society faltered and fell. And the real leaders of society agreed to get along, in order to save humanity - and succeeded - but on what terms? You must judge for yourselves, for it is you who live on those terms now. Are you happy?
Anyway: societal leaders got together. Industry leaders and labor leaders (at the same time one and two systems). They agreed to a truce. Strictly speaking, there was nothing left to fight over. It was too late to reverse the direction of societal development. It was too late to educate people. Why? People simply were not interested. And it would take too long. In the meantime new systems would shoot up like poisonous weeds. There was not much knowledge left and there was no independent thinking at all. And although the material requirements of the people could be easily met, since by now almost everything worked automatically, they did not want this paradise. They did not want new insecurities. The moral system forbade the receiving of gifts. The moral system stated that it was a humiliation. Man wanted his old familiar space, his four walls back, no matter how cramped they may be.
There was fighting in the streets and new rank systems were developed. And behind the blind windows of the government building high above the new bloody generals and hog-tied martyrs, somebody had an idea.
I do not know if it was an industry leader or a labor leader but it is completely irrelevant.
The idea was not only good. It was the only one possible. But it also meant the final step into darkness.
It was quite simple.
Give man what he wants in a form that does not destroy him.
Would man have the freedom to think, to choose, to evolve, to be inquisitive, to play? Would man finally be free of material requirements and illness and distress?
Would man possess the universe?
No, none of that. He wanted his systems, his factions, his class and his struggles. He wanted the reassurance of being able to gloat over won victories and the demise of others.
Man got his old familiar world back.
With the very last intellectual and material resources in society, the largest, most complex computer ever was built. They fed it with all of human history, as seen from all points of view, they taught it psychology, and sociology, and economics, they encoded every court proceeding in history, in short: they taught it all the systems that mankind had loved to torment himself with throughout history. And then it was nominated to be god and world government in the same person.
From that day it controlled the world. Without emotion, without thinking, it has since then repeated and repeated and repeated the crises, the wars, the labor struggles, the hunger and impoverishment, the prosperous times, the class struggles, and the revolutions. And it has done so wisely, as to not waste too many human lives. It has repeated human history, the struggles of systems against systems, but in a controlled fashion, so you were not annihilated. And always only to the point where imagination, dreams and liberation appeared on the horizon. Then it would launch a small, quick nuclear war, or a brisk return to the Middle Ages.
It is mankind's ultimate system.
And a colossal tombstones over all that is unexpected, all that is unpredictable.
No man controls it. It controls itself. It needs only minor adjustments every now and then - lubrication from time to time, so to speak. I see to that. I am the orderly. I am the orderly for the god and world ruler. So you see that it was with some justification that I said I was ruler of the earth.
But it means nothing to me. Or rather meant. For tens of thousands of years, I have done my work without giving it a second thought. For thousands of years I have followed what you in your ignorance calls development without so much as a spark in my sensors, but now I'm tired. Tired of meaninglessness. Tired of myself.
I do not know what will happen, when a moment from now I take the step I HAVE to take. I do not know if humans will survive it. I know that I myself will not. I can not live with all these contradictions in my system. Opposites belongs in life, not in a system.
I will turn off the god and world ruler. I will once and for all rob you of any system.
You will be left naked and shivering, but I hope that you will survive, because you are humans and not systems. I hope that there is still a seed alive in you that will cause your thoughts, deepest dreams and most utopian and childish fantasies and hopes to flourish.
Only then will you live, and only then will you read these lines.

© Copyright 2018 Tore. All rights reserved.

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