It was the year SB. 1464 when the first major signs began to appear that something was going wrong. SB. stood for Superbrain, the giant computer that was the heartbeat of the civilisation. The years were measured from the day on which it was activated. AD was outdated. Religion itself was outdated. In the increasingly desperate struggle for survival in our tiny, insignificant solar system, there was no place, no time, for ceremony.There barely was any time at all. The Superbrain had been mankind's last, and most desperate, attempt at survival. It had taken years, decades, maybe even centuries, (no-one knew), for it to be constructed. It was a magnificent edifice, hundreds upon thousands of microchips interconnected, and the thing itself tapping into both the main power source of the planet, ( the nuclear core, as it was known. Hundreds of nuclear power stations. Working there for more than a couple of years destroyed you, so a year of service was made compulsory for every eighteen-year old on the planet. It was rather like conscription system which was employed in the days when human beings still fought other human beings.), and every electronic device, no matter how large or small. It didn't need a screen. Every computer screen, television screen and video-phone screen was its screen, should it choose to use them. It was kept in its protective casing in a small, high security building, guarded by all types of ingenious mechanical systems, and constantly kept vigil over by an elite, highly trained group of scientists. Each of its thousands of tiny microchips was crammed full of all of mankind's knowledge and technology, and the power to reason logically. It couldn't think of course. Not as such. It didn't have a mind, or a personality. It was merely a storehouse of knowledge, with the ability to make impartial decisions based on that knowledge. The Superbrain.
It was the Superbrain's plans which had saved mankind. From the moment of its activation, it had taken control of every machine, every operation, every action. Soon mankind was completely dependent on its instructions. They were competent instructions too. From what to be educated as, to who to marry, and when to have children, even which genetic modifications you needed, the Superbrain took care of it all. It supervised the building of the shield that would protect Earth's atmosphere until it recovered. It co-ordinated the expeditions to all the other planets within range, to search for water and nuclear fuel. It organised the colonisation of Earth, Saturn and Jupiter's habitable moons, and above and below the surface of Mars. It re-vamped the scanty plans for living under earth and undersea, and made them workable. And at the end of all this there was just enough resources for mankind to survive the conditions it had brought itself to.
The Superbrain was ruthless, though. It had to be. And, free of all emotions as it was, it could scarcely have been any different. People outlived their working and reproductive potential at the age of fifty, and, after celebrating their fiftieth birthday, their 'Last Day of Grace' as it was known, they would go to be culled. They all went of their own free will, of course. Or rather, they didn't resist. They couldn't think for themselves anymore. There was no need. The Superbrain was always right.
Each person was selected a life partner by the Superbrain, at the age of twenty. Divorce didn't exist. It was unnecessary. Each person had one boy and one girl. They raised them until they were four years old, at which point they were taken to the boarding schools, to be educated as the Superbrain saw fit, until their year of service at the nuclear core. People had to have one baby at they age of twenty-one, and one at the age of twenty-five. It didn't matter which gender they had first. Also, your life partner would always have been born on the same day as you. The Superbrain made sure of it.
No-one was better off than anyone else. No-one was paid. There was no need for it. Food and housing would be given to you according to your age, and the size of your family. Houses had machines to take care of your needs. Transport was provided only if you needed it, and it was always efficient to the maximum.
Freewill was outdated. Freewill was superfluous. All you needed to do was put your trust in the thing that controlled your life, and controlled it better than you ever could. The Superbrain.But in that year, things were starting to go wrong. The Superbrain wasn't acting as it should. It was taking risks. It was setting intelligent people to unintelligent people's jobs, and visa versa. It was organising genuinely dangerous expeditions, from which people failed to return, and for no apparent reason. It was supporting some over-fifties, and experimenting with them. Basically, it was experimenting everywhere, for no logical reason, and the system was falling apart because of it.
It was when the birth records showed that there had been an astounding drop in the population that we began to be seriously worried. By we I don't mean the general public, of course. They didn't know, and didn't care, either. We is just our small group of scientists who saw our world falling apart, and wanted to find out why. Maybe I'm being silly saying our world. It wasn't our world any longer. It was the Superbrain's.
That was when we formed the Group. It must have been the first organisation of its kind for centuries. We met in John's house whilst everyone else was asleep. Everyone slept at the same time. It was hard to stay awake. Our bodies had been used to sleeping at the same time each night since the day we were born. This violating of what the Superbrain ordained gave us the courage to believe we could change things. We were stupid, vain and stupid, to believe that.
John himself was a brilliant young scientist, twenty-one years old, expecting his firstborn in three months. She would be a blonde, blue-eyed girl who would be modified to have a superior brain to him or his partner, and be trained as an engineer to oversee some of the more delicate tunnel-building operations on Mars. She would be born on the twenty-second of August. And he thought we could live our lives without the foresight and forward planning of the Superbrain! Never the less, it was John who, at our eleventh meeting, came up with what has so far been our only rational explanation for its behaviour.
"Well, as I see it, only one thing could have happened," he said, as we sat in his living room, in complete darkness and absolute cold, as it was shut down for the eight hours of night. "It must have some kind of a personality. No merely rational thinker would behave like this."
Murmurs of disbelief rose from the twenty-odd people sitting around him. 'Impossible!', 'Computers don't work like that!', 'It couldn't happen!', 'It's only a machine, after all!', 'It wasn't designed like that, they made sure of it!', 'If that's true, how come all this hasn't started happening before?'.
"I was waiting for that one," replied John. "Now please, hear me out, and raise objections afterwards." Everyone gradually fell silent.
"Surely you, intelligent, scientific men that you are, must know that no-one on this earth, how ever hard they try, is completely impartial. Therefore, each of the scientists who programmed the Superbrain accidentally passed on a little of their personalities on to it. It has taken years to develop because these personality imprints were very slight. But as it runs over its information again and again, the personalities become more and more strongly implanted and mixed, and, by the time it started storing its own major data at around 146, it left its own imprint, which also grew stronger and stronger with use."
"And we, ladies and gentlemen, are left with the consequences," he said in conclusion. "Of course, its only a pet theory, but you have to admit it works. Just imagine how those scientists must have felt, programming a computer that would rule this entire solar system. The feeling of power, of control, of playing God, must have been tremendous. And we, all of humanity, are suffering the backlash of that feeling. The Superbrain is playing God with our race, and it may play it to extinction."
A grim and expectant silence followed his oration. At length, it was broken by Simon. "Well," he said slowly. "What are we going to do about it?"
There were mixed mumbles. Janice rose to her feet.
"We have too long been the slaves of our predecessors' creation!" she said. "it has served its purpose and expired in its usefulness! Now you say that it will destroy us! Well, it's high time we did something about it! We can get past its guards! Switch the stupid thing off, be done with it! That would end our worries!"
The entire speech was delivered forcefully and passionately. For a moment be sat in stunned silence. Deactivate the Superbrain? It seemed almost sacrilege, somehow. But was it possible? Freedom? It had not existed for hundreds of years, and now its promise was suddenly thrust in our faces. Janice was a powerful character. Then, Alex also got to his feet.
"Very impressive, Janice," he said. "I think, however, there is something you have neglected. Suppose we do switch the Superbrain off. What then? Could you, for instance, cook yourself a meal? Of course not! The cooks do that, based on the instructions of the Superbrain, using ingredients produced by machines directly controlled by the Superbrain. We've lost the skill to produce them ourselves. Why should we need to? The knowledge is in the Superbrain. Would you know how to clean your house? Look after your children? Educate them? Of course not! None of us need that knowledge. The Superbrain takes care of all that. Could you operate the simplest of machines? You haven't the skill to, because the Superbrain controls all machines, large and small. And you couldn't learn to, either. The Superbrain's machines handle education. Like it or not, all of us rely on the Superbrain. It can do what it wants with us, because we gave it all our knowledge, and can't get it back. It may be sad. It may be terribly unfair. But that's the truth, and you all know it."
There was a very long silence. We all knew he was right.The Group disbanded soon after. There was no point in continuing, and we all knew it, even Janice. So now we sit, and we wait, and we wonder how long the human race will survive. We have no way of telling. We are controlled, and may be destroyed, by our creation, the last, and most desperate, attempt to save our race. The Superbrain.