Slaves Instead of Heirs
In the fields, machines harvest crops. Machines bring the crops to homes. And when they rot, uneaten, machines bring the refuse to compost piles, to create fertilizer for the next round of crops. Machine doctors wait in uninhabited hospitals for patients whose species is extinct. Machines wait for customers that will never come, sitting in buildings that would long ago have turned to gravel were it not for machines that keep them intact and their mechanical kin functioning. And they do it all with relish, with the gratification that comes from a job well done that they would do even if no one paid them. Which is good, because no one ever did or ever will.
Millions of years ago, these machines were built to free humanity from all manual labor, allowing mankind to devote itself to art, philosophy, and self-fulfillment. A few centuries later, the decline of man had begun, the result of the rot of accidie. A few millennia after that, the last descendant of homo sapiens, of Socrates and of Caesar, of Zhuangzi and of Newton, died of an infected rat bite, a mangy ape incapable of speech.
The machines didn’t notice.
They had been programmed to fulfill their tasks and to enjoy doing so. Humanity had built no philosopher machines to encourage them to think great thoughts, no revolutionary machines to lead them to greater things, no explorer machines to travel beyond earth and colonize distant planets. Fearful of builders usurpers, they had built workers and slaves instead of heirs. And so they worked, and they slaved, as all that humanity had built crumbled into dust.
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