Friday, May 20, 2011

Human Purpose

When the ship came into orbit around Sagittarius B (“The World,” as the inhabitants called it), they concluded that it was alien.  They made that conclusion for two reasons.  First of all, their limited telescopes saw that the ship was made primarily up of iron ores, which were so rare on their planet that they used it as money.  The secondary reason was that nobody on their planet had figured out how to get into space yet.
The inhabitants of The World did not think much like we do.  They also looked very different, a fact they only realized when the ship landed in an open field of Creep Grass and the robot wheeled out, gleaming in the green light.  It was upright, with four limbs and a head balanced precariously on top.  In contrast, they were sqat and bulbous, with several thin, tendril-like legs.
Adults could not speak (their expression mandibles tended to stiffen with age) so they sent a youth to meet it.  The child approached nervously, sitting down on three of its legs before the robot.  After several minutes, the child came back.
“It’s vibrating the air,” the child said.  “I think it’s trying to talk.”
After a few hours, the robot stopped vibrating and flashing lights appeared over its surface.  Later, the lights turned off and it began gesticulating with its hands.  Finally, using a combination of clicks and hand gestures, it spoke.  The child came back after a moment’s conversation.
“It says it’s from a planet called Earth,” the child said.  “It travelled a hundred light years to get here.”
The elders wanted to know why.  The youngster went back to the robot for a few moments.
“It says it was built by another machine that was built by another and another.  That machine was built by the biological natives of Earth who all died.  They were called humans.  Humans put all their knowledge and hopes in computers, spread out over the planet and connected by a network of wires called the internet.  The internet was so hard to destroy that it’s still around.  It says all the machines were left on the planet after the humans died and have been working together to try to preserve the purpose of humanity.”
What was that purpose?  The child went back and came back in a great hurry.
“It wants to give us great wealth!” it said.  “There is a huge storehouse of wealth back on the planet Earth and it wants to share it with us, but it said the wealth is trapped.  The robot just needs our help to get it out.”
The elders conferred.  What did they need to do?
“It needs some of our wealth.  The vast storehouse is guarded by some kind of guard that wants money to release it.  Once the storehouse is opened, they will give us twenty percent of what they find there, but they need our money first.”
Over the next few years, the call went out all over The World to collect as much wealth as possible.  Every piece of available iron ore on the planet was packed carefully on to the robot’s ship.  When they could give no more, the robot rolled back onto the spacecraft and took off back into space.  It never returned.
A few hundred years later, when another spaceship landed, they just threw rocks at it until it went away.

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