A Logic Named Joe
by Murray Leinster
It was on the third day of August that Joe come off the assembly line, and on the fifth Laurine come into town, an’ that afternoon I saved civilization. That’s what I figure, anyhow. Laurine is a blonde that I was crazy about once—and crazy is the word—and Joe is a logic that I have stored away down in the cellar right now. I had to pay for him because I said I busted him, and sometimes I think about turning him on and sometimes I think about taking an ax to him. Sooner or later I’m gonna do one or the other. I kinda hope it’s the ax. I could use a coupla million dollars—sure!—an’ Joe’d tell me how to get or make ’em. He can do plenty! But so far I’ve been scared to take a chance. After all, I figure I really saved civilization by turnin’ him off.
The way Laurine fits in is that she makes cold shivers run up an’ down my spine when I think about her. You see, I’ve got a wife which I acquired after I had parted from Laurine with much romantic despair. She is a reasonable good wife, and I have some kids which are hell-cats but I value ’em. If I have sense enough to leave well enough alone, sooner or later I will retire on a pension an’ Social Security an’ spend the rest of my life fishin’ contented an’ lyin’ about what a great guy I used to be. But there’s Joe. I’m worried about Joe.
I’m a maintenance man for the Logics Company. My job is servicing logics, and I admit modestly that I am pretty good. I was servicing televisions before that guy Carson invented his trick circuit that will select any of ’steenteen million other circuits—in theory there ain’t no limit—and before the Logics Company hooked it into the tank-and-integrator set-up they were usin’ ’em as business-machine service. They added a vision screen for speed —an’ they found out they’d made logics. They were surprised an’ pleased. They’re still findin’ out what logics will do, but everybody’s got ’em.
I got Joe, after Laurine nearly got me. You know the logics setup. You got a logic in your house. It looks like a vision receiver used to, only it’s got keys instead of dials and you punch the keys for what you wanna get. It’s hooked in to the tank, which has the Carson Circuit all fixed up with relays. Say you punch “
Logics are all right, though. They changed civilization, the highbrows tell us. All on accounta the Carson Circuit. And Joe shoulda been a perfectly normal logic, keeping some family or other from wearin’ out its brains doin’ the kids’ homework for ’em. But somethin’ went wrong in the assembly line. It was somethin’ so small that precision gauges didn’t measure it, but it made Joe a individual. Maybe he didn’t know it at first. Or maybe, bein’ logical, he figured out that if he was to show he was different from other logics they’d scrap him. Which woulda been a brilliant idea. But anyhow, he come off the assembly-line, an’ he went through the regular tests without anybody screamin’ shrilly on findin’ out what he was. And he went right on out an’ was duly installed in the home of Mr. Thaddeus Korlanovitch at 119 East Seventh Street, second floor front. So far, everything was serene.
The installation happened late Saturday night. Sunday morning the Korlanovitch kids turned him on an’ seen the Kiddie Shows. Around noon their parents peeled ’em away from him an’ piled ’em in the car. Then they come back in the house for the lunch they’d forgot an’ one of the kids sneaked back an’ they found him punchin’ keys for the Kiddie Shows of the week before. They dragged him out an’ went off. But they left Joe turned on.
That was noon. Nothin’ happened until two in the afternoon. It was the calm before the storm. Laurine wasn’t in town yet, but she was comin’. I picture Joe sittin’ there all by himself, buzzing meditative. Maybe he run Kiddie Shows in the empty apartment for awhile. But I think he went kinda remote-control exploring in the tank. There ain’t any fact that can be said to be a fact that ain’t on a data plate in some tank somewhere—unless it’s one the technicians are diggin’ out an’ puttin’ on a data plate now. Joe had plenty of material to work on. An’ he musta started workin’ right off the bat.
Joe ain’t vicious, you understand. He ain’t like one of these ambitious robots you read about that make up their minds the human race is inefficient and has got to be wiped out an’ replaced by thinkin’ machines. Joe’s just got ambition. If you were a machine, you’d wanna work right, wouldn’t you? That’s Joe. He wants to work right. An’ he’s a logic. An’ logics can do a Iotta things that ain’t been found out yet. So Joe, discoverin’ the fact, begun to feel restless. He selects some things us dumb humans ain’t thought of yet, an’ begins to arrange so logics will be called on to do ’em.
That’s all. That’s everything. But, brother, it’s enough!
Things are kinda quiet in the Maintenance Department about two in the afternoon. We are playing pinochle. Then one of the guys remembers he has to call up his wife. He goes to one of the bank of logics in Maintenance and punches the keys for his house. The screen sputters. Then a flash comes on the screen.
“Announcing new and improved logics service! Your logic is now equipped to give you not only consultive but directive service. If you want to do something and don’t know how to do it—ask your logic!”
There’s a pause. A kinda expectant pause. Then, as if reluctantly, his connection comes through. His wife answers an’ gives him hell for somethin’ or other. He takes it an’ snaps off.
“Whadda you know?” he says when he comes back. He tells us about the flash. “We shoulda been warned about that. There’s gonna be a lotta complaints. Suppose a fella asks how to get ridda his wife an’ the censor circuits block the question?”
Somebody melds a hundred aces an’ says:
“Why not punch for it an’ see what happens?”
It’s a gag, o’ course. But the guy goes over. He punches keys. In theory, a censor block is gonna come on an’ the screen will say severely, “Public Policy Forbids This Service.” You hafta have censor blocks or the kiddies will be askin’ detailed questions about things they’re too young to know. And there are other reasons. As you will see.
This fella punches, “How can I get rid of my wife?” Just for the fun of it. The screen is blank for half a second. Then comes a flash. “Service question: Is she blonde or brunette?” He hollers to us an’ we come look. He punches, “Blonde.” There’s another brief pause. Then the screen says, “Hexymetacryloaminoacetine is a constituent of green shoe polish. Take home a frozen meal including dried-pea soup. Color the soup with green shoe polish. It will appear to be green-pea soup. Hexymetacryloaminoacetine is a selective poison which is fatal to blond females but not to brunettes or males of any coloring. This fact has not been brought out by human experiment, but is a product of logics service. You cannot be convicted of murder. It is improbable that you will be suspected.”
The screen goes blank, and we stare at each other. It’s bound to be right. A logic workin’ the Carson Circuit can no more make a mistake than any other kinda computin’ machine. I call the tank in a hurry.
“Hey, you guys!” I yell. “Somethin’s happened! Logics are givin’ detailed instructions for wife-murder! Check your censor-circuits—but quick!”
That was close, I think. But little do I know. At that precise instant, over on Monroe Avenue, a drunk starts to punch for somethin’ on a logic. The screen says “Announcing new and improved logics service! If you want to do something and don’t know how to do it—ask your logic!” And the drunk says, owlish, “I’ll do it!” So he cancels his first punching and fumbles around and says: “How can I keep my wife from finding out I’ve been drinking?” And the screen says, prompt: “Buy a bottle of Franine hair shampoo. It is harmless but contains a detergent which will neutralize ethyl alcohol immediately. Take one teaspoonful for each jigger of hundred-proof you have consumed.”
This guy was plenty plastered—just plastered enough to stagger next door and obey instructions. An’ five minutes later he was cold sober and writing down the information so he couldn’t forget it. It was new, and it was big! He got rich offa that memo! He patented “