back to article A Logic Named Joe: The 1946 sci-fi short that nailed modern tech

Buried deep in the pages of the March 1946 issue of Astounding Science Fiction magazine sits a short story by Murray Leinster that, 70 years on, has proven a remarkably sharp prediction of both 21st century consumer technology and culture. One of two pieces contributed by Leinster, a pen name used by author William Fitzgerald …

  1. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    *Remarkably* sharp prediction?

    Given the vast number of science/future fiction stories written, in a few decades which have seen no major discontunity in human/planetary develoment, it's surely completely unremarkable that a few, selected retrospectively, can be portrayed as congruent with the present day?

    A million monkeys, and all that ...

    While I enjoy rock documentaries and music family trees, the constant "isn't is amazing that none of all this would have happened were it not for that chance glance passing on the stairs, that overheard remark in the crowd ..." irks.

    No, it's not amazing. The vast majority of bands and musicians aren't successful enough to warrant recording; of those which are, those which were boringly managed and manipulated to the top wouldn't make interesting watching.

    IMO :)

    1. Mage Silver badge

      Re: *Remarkably* sharp prediction?

      Misses the point. It's not about how amazing it is.

      There are good and bad predictions. This one is about how people might use <random technology>

      Rocket motors to power only ICBMs or space exploration?

      See also "Shock Wave Rider". Far better than Toffler's book that inspired it.

      1. Destroy All Monsters Silver badge

        Re: *Remarkably* sharp prediction?

        Excellent reminder that this story exists. I found it in a fat "best of" compendium back when we were having fun with warbling phones.(and were probably breaking a few laws meant to protect "muh telecom infrastructure")

        See also "Shock Wave Rider". Far better than Toffler's book that inspired it.

        Actually Stand on Zanzibar is even better. It's practically like watching CNN and similar shit.

        1. Dan 55 Silver badge

          Re: *Remarkably* sharp prediction?

          Jeez... Some of the answers in that "warbling phones" link. I am officially old.

          Back to the story, it seems to show a setup where each house has a local server and storage more than computers connected to the Internet and uploading everything to four giant US companies.

          1. John Robson Silver badge

            Re: *Remarkably* sharp prediction?

            "Back to the story, it seems to show a setup where each house has a local server and storage more than computers connected to the Internet and uploading everything to four giant US companies."

            From the story itself:

            "The tank is a big buildin' full of all the facts in creation an' all the recorded telecasts that ever was made—an' it's hooked in with all the other tanks all over the country—an' everything you wanna know or see or hear, you punch for it an' you get it"

            That sounds like a few interconnected data centres to me...

        2. Brian Miller

          Re: *Remarkably* sharp prediction?

          I also read that story in a compendium. It was a very good story. A distributed search engine system, linking a global network of machines. Like a combination of Google and BOINC.

          The science fiction of yesterday is all around us today. No, sorry, no flying cars, but I've seen one or two flying chairs.

          1. Ashley_Pomeroy

            Re: *Remarkably* sharp prediction?

            "I also read that story in a compendium" - it could well have been Machines That Think, which surprisingly has a Wikipedia page:


            I remember reading the story there when I was going through my Isaac Asimov period. Another story in the book - Triggerman - was essentially the 1983 Stanislav Petrov ICBM scare, but in 1958! There's a whole generation of people my age who grew up on sci-fi collections, I wonder if kids nowadays have the same thing.

        3. JLV

          Re: *Remarkably* sharp prediction?

          SoZ is the one with the muckers right? Public mass killers a la Columbine et all. Second it and Shockwave.

          I also nominate Neuromancer and Burning Chrome for intrusion tech and cyberspace.

          Forever Peace for remote controlled military assasination cyborgs. Aka drones these days.

          Too early to really tell but I also think Suarez's Daemon is likely to hit some bullseyes.

          But, honestly, given the sheer volume of SF lit and its avowed goal of prediction, they're not batting so hot in general. Space warfare esp is a subject with a perennial lack of plausibility.

          1. Mark 110

            Re: *Remarkably* sharp prediction?

            Try 'The Forever War' for an exceptional analysis of the futility of inter stellar warfare because of the distortions of trying to fight a war at relativistic distances. It's an excellent commentary on the futility of all war in the end.

            1. JLV

              Re: *Remarkably* sharp prediction?

              >Try 'The Forever War'

              Ah, very good point.

              I didn't think about it because Forever War was more about the strategic relativity effects than about space tactics (which is what I was thinking of).

              I'll also add Vernor Vinge. "True Names", 1981, has an eerily prescient and elegant take on the internet.

          2. Michael Wojcik Silver badge

            Re: *Remarkably* sharp prediction?

            I also nominate Neuromancer and Burning Chrome for intrusion tech and cyberspace.

            In what ways are the depictions of "intrusion tech" and "cyberspace"1 in Gibson's work at all accurate predictions of anything? Or, for that matter, the depiction of pretty much anything else?

            Gibson writes a decent plot, and some of his tropes were fairly novel at the time. But I find him overrated as a prose stylist, and his books are technological and sociological fantasies.

            1Ugh. A thousand times, ugh. The co-option of the once useful prefix "cyber" into a score of meaningless terms is an affront to the language.

            1. JLV

              Re: *Remarkably* sharp prediction?

              I agree that Gibson seems quite naive in his actual grasp of technology. So you ain't wrong in calling me out on it.

              He's by no means a Vernor Vinge, for example. Doesn't mean he doesn't have some clever takes on the likely impact of tech, especially in his early writings:

              Using VR as a programming/visualization aid. As devs or sysadmins, we are often drowning in complexity and struggle to grasp all the aspects of what we are looking after. Think of how many consoles, logs and screens you are looking at. I know that is one thing I'd like to be able to do with a suitably mature VR headset.

              In Burning Chrome, you have, IIRC, an intrusion on the back of somebody masquerading as an IRS automated audit. The way things are going, you sure we ain't gonna be getting mandated government-access automated audits? For security, kiddy-porn, tax audits? And those won't be spoofable, of course!

              The other thing you are missing is not so much the level of detailed prediction that Gibson got right as the extent to which his writing have influenced contemporary society and our thinking about tech.

              And that gets us right back to

              >The co-option of the once useful prefix "cyber" into a score of meaningless terms is an affront to the language.

              among others.

              He's had a big influence*, like him or not.

              * Note to self: use "influencer", more hip.

          3. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: *Remarkably* sharp prediction?

            "But, honestly, given the sheer volume of SF lit and its avowed goal of prediction, they're not batting so hot in general."

            As a lifelong Sci-Fi reader I cannot remember anyone stating that the 'goal' was prediction.

            The primary goal was to entertain and make some money for the author :)

            If a little commentary on the possible via extrapolation of the 'now' (to them) is termed prediction it is accidental.

            The majority of the authors I read seemed to be making points about the current situations in the world at the time and got away with the commentary because it was a fictional future etc.

            Read the stories with a view to the world at the time for the author(s) and the 'Worries of the time'.

            Regardless of the criticisms, from our end of the timeline, still much more entertaining than the neverending Reality TV and variations on Talent Contests we have to endure. :) :)

            1. Eli le Fey

              Re: *Remarkably* sharp prediction?

              *ahem* If you want the prediction of what you describe, "the neverending Reality TV and variations on Talent Contests we have to endure" look no further than "The Marching Morons" by C.M. Kornbluth. I think he called it.


              As for "A Logic Named Joe" I recall reading that decades ago, when I was about 11 or 12. Back then, we didn't have all that fancy schmancy Harry Potter, no, we read hardcore science fiction. And we liked it.

              We didn't need CGI movies and "theme parks" and merchanising, no, we had BRAINS and IMAGINATIONS. We had to THINK.

              Kids today. Feh,

          4. Bakana

            Re: *Remarkably* sharp prediction?

            Personally, I've never heard a serious Science Fiction author claim that he/she was trying in any way to "Predict the future".

            In fact, when journalists try to pin most SF authors down to predicting the future for some fluff piece, most will do their best to bow out. Because most have seen the sad results of that particular hubris trap.

            The Real Goal of most successful SF authors is to write a story that Lots of people will want to Read. After all, most of them want to be "Successful" and if no one Reads your stories, you don't get to Be Successful.

            They share that desire with almost all authors: "Please, Read My Stuff!"

        4. Alan Johnson

          Re: *Remarkably* sharp prediction?

          John Brunner published at leat four outstanding novels. His career seemd to fade away for no obvious reason.

      2. Flat Phillip
        Thumb Up

        Re: *Remarkably* sharp prediction?

        Brunner had a lot of predictions in that book (others too). Have an upvote.

    2. TheProf
      Thumb Up

      Re: *Remarkably* sharp prediction?

      Ignore those down votes. You're absolutely correct.

    3. a_yank_lurker

      Re: *Remarkably* sharp prediction?

      There are several writers who grasped human nature will trump technology such as H. G. Wells, Jules Verne, Isaac Asimov, Arthur C Clarke. With a little bit of shrewd guessing about technology and a realistic appraisal of human nature they could write stories that appear spot on because they factor in realistic human foibles.

      Often the best sci-fi is not about science or technology but use them as a back drop to tell a story about human stupidity and foibles often with some very acerbic social commentary hidden in plain site.

      1. The Dim View

        Re: *Remarkably* sharp prediction?

        You are leaving out the Dean of the group - Admiral Bob. There is even a set of his works collected under the anthology umbrella as "Future History".

        1. Bakana

          Re: *Remarkably* sharp prediction?

          If, by "Admiral Bob" you mean Robert Heinlein, that's quite a promotion.

          Heinlein was discharged from the Navy as a Lieutenant because he contracted pulmonary Tuberculosis. Medical Discharge.

          It was Very Necessary considering that an effective antibiotic for the disease was not identified until 10 Years Later.

          Allowing an active case of Tuberculosis aboard a US Navy Vessel is Still forbidden although these days it just get you sent to the nearest Hospital with an isolation ward for the disease until the contagious period is over.

          FWIW, I was exposed to tuberculosis when a shipmate came down with it.

          Everyone who lived in that berthing compartment had to take annual tests for the next 10 Years, just in case, before the Navy finally decided that we probably Wouldn't come down with it.

          I was lucky. I only had to take the annual Tests. Several guys went home when their enlistments were up carrying large bottles of Pills they had to take until they showed a "Clean" test.

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Hidden message in the capitalisation?


            I can't make sense of it, hope it isn't from the future.

        2. IvyKing

          Admiral Bob

          His story, "Blowups Happen", has one of the best descriptions of a nuclear power plant despite the 1941 version being written almost two ears before Fermi brought the Chicago Pile to critical. There were a few errors due to lack of knowledge of the fission process, in particular delayed neutrons, but he had a plausible work-around with an accelerator driven neutron source. One of the fairly close calls was stating that the energy of 2.5 tons of U235 fissioning would be equivalent to 100MT, where the actual yield would be half that.

          The story also postulated that peoples lives would be saved by "artificial radioactives" - I probably wouldn't be alive today if it wasn't for a Tc-99m screening.

        3. Marshalltown

          Re: *Remarkably* sharp prediction? Yes remarkably

          Heinlein, while a great writer, never came so close to an accurate description of a significant social and technological development as this story does. And Leinster wrote this before 1950. Heck, he died in 1975. Read it closely and you will sea the shadows of the cloud, Office 365, Netflix, the use of a CRT (missed out on calling for light-weight screens), Skype, net stalking and the like, and even keyboards.

      2. Anonymous Coward

        Re: *Remarkably* sharp prediction?

        a_yank_lurker, may I also add they not only understood peoples emotions and driving forces but also some of the limits of technology.

        Star Wars might be "Science Fiction" but the actions in it have no bearing on reality or plausible. Like wise Flash Gordon dealt little with the struggle most people face in a world where (for example) job replacement by technology exists.

        However the other Sci-Fi writers noted what may happen and how people may respond, instead of thinking "would it not be cool to dance and prance around the stars..." ;)

      3. Bakana

        Re: *Remarkably* sharp prediction?

        The Best Sci-Fi is Always about the people.

        I can't think of a single instance of a story being regarded as "Great" or "Memorable" that didn't, in some way, provide commentary about the People involved and how their lives were changed for better or for worse.

    4. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: *Remarkably* sharp prediction?

      "Given the vast number of science/future fiction stories written, in a few decades which have seen no major discontunity in human/planetary develoment, it's surely completely unremarkable that a few, selected retrospectively, can be portrayed as congruent with the present day?"

      I recently read a collection of Philip K Dick short stories .... in one set in the future scientists run into a problem they can't solve but someone remembers reading a story written by a "precog" in the past who dealt with the same issue in a story but didn;t give full details of the solution so they use a time machine to travel back to inflitrate a big meeting of "precogs" (which is clearly a SciFi convention as many SciFi authors - including PKD himself, are name-checked) to kidnap the author to bring into the future to explain how they fix their problem.

      1. Lake_Cochituate

        Re: *Remarkably* sharp prediction?

        PKD once wrote a story called Water Spider where Poul Anderson is a character (and his wife & daughter too). Being a huge Anderson fan, I laughed when I read it.

    5. Stuart21551

      Re: *Remarkably* sharp prediction?

      This is no 'million monkeys'.

      Very prescient.

  2. Paul Kinsler


    ... there's a fair number of other stories written by Leinster on gutenberg, if anyone (else :) is interested in reading some creaky old sf.

    1. Mage Silver badge

      Re: Leinster

      Link to Gutenberg for Murray Leinster (unlike they are usually proof read).

      A good reason to get an eInk Kindle or Kobo (you only need to connect once to register, then use USB only. Calibre + plug ins is friend to allow DRM ePub on Kindle, or DRM mobi/AZW on Kobo)

    2. Midnight

      Re: Leinster

      "A Logic Named Joe" can also be picked up directly from the Baen Free Library.

      1. John 104

        Re: Leinster

        Baen Free library = totally awesome.

  3. Herbert Meyer

    Look at Henry Kuttner

    While you are going through the back issues, find the old Henry Kuttner ( you know, CL Moore's husband ) for a story about the Twonky, Or maybe the old film of it, starring Hans Conreid. The film was about a TV, but the story was not quite specific about the nature of the Twonky machine.

  4. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    The dystopian theme was in vogue long before the Cold War.

    Aldous Huxley's "Brave New World" was published in 1931.

    Predictions of the internet's capabilities were woven into E M Forster's "The Machine Stops". Published in 1909 before the pall of the Great War was even a speck on the horizon.

    The web as a store of information is basically the old Public Library system with wider scope. In the UK if a book was published then a copy was held by the British Library. People created indexing systems so that a library could arrange their books by subject. Information that is stored without an index is difficult to access. Even if your local library doesn't stock a book then they will obtain it from another area if possible.

    In the 1960s a school pal was a candidate for Oxbridge. The English teacher recommended the novel "Peyton Place" as part of the wider preparation for the university interviews. The local public library was divided into children (under-14) and adults - with different rooms and membership ticket systems. However they refused to let my 18 year old pal borrow that novel until he returned with an authorising letter from the teacher.

    1. Danny 2

      HG Wells invented the nuclear suitcase bomb in his 1914 novel The World Set Free, albeit it was more of an ever lasting firework.

      More's 'Utopia' itself could be reimagined as a dystopia from the POV of one it's citizens.

      I am hugely impressed with "A Logic Named Joe" and hope El Reg dig up more. Can I suggest "I have no mouth, but I must scream", which I thought of every day in the hell of tech support.

      1. Neil Barnes Silver badge

        The British Library

        It's still a legal requirement to lodge a copy of any published book with the British Library (and from memory, four others, but only if they request it).

    2. Dave 126 Silver badge

      >The web as a store of information is basically the old Public Library system with wider scope.

      Yep! In the Victorian book Three Men in a Boat, the narrator becomes a hypochondriac by reading medical textbooks in the British library. I have since seen a parallel with people self-diagnosing on the internet.

      There were other Victorian phenomena that could be seen as precursors to those in A Logic Named Joe. For example, subscribers could listen to live concerts, delivered over telephone. 'On demand entertainment' wasn't that unheard of.

      1. glen waverley

        3 men in a boat

        Have an upvote for that

        1. Michael Wojcik Silver badge

          Re: 3 men in a boat

          JKJ's sequel, of sorts, Three Men on the Bummel is also an entertaining read, if not quite as funny as Three Men in a Boat. It's most notable, though, for its final chapter, in which Jerome muses on the national character of the German citizen (in a very turn-of-the-century manner). With post-World-War hindsight it's quite a fascinating bit of insight into the mindset of people like Jerome at that moment, on the cusp of the Victorian / Edwardian transition.

          1. Dave 126 Silver badge

            Re: 3 men in a boat

            I read Three Men on the Brummel after reading Kurt Vonnegut's Slaughter House Five. The latter, being set during the fire-bombing of Dresden in WWII read as a lament for the city. Three Men on the Brummel clicked with me for being an account of the city as it once stood.

            That, and the narrator's observation that all by-laws are enforced by exact fines, thus any normal young Englishman could visit Germany and steal a policeman's helmet and walk on a lawn, and able to budget for his holiday down to the pfennig.

      2. Dave 126 Silver badge

        ...there was no tin-opener to be found. . .I took the tin off myself and hammered at it till I was sick at heart, whereupon Harris took it in hand. We beat it flat; we beat it back square; we battered it into every shape known to geometry - but we could not make a hole in it. Then George went at it, and knocked it into a shape, so strange, so weird, so unearthly in its wild hideousness, that he got frightened.

        1. .@.
          Thumb Up

          If only they had met the Crazy Russian Hacker ...

          ...there was no tin-opener to be found. . .I took the tin off myself and hammered at it till I was sick at heart, whereupon Harris took it in hand. We beat it flat; we beat it back square; we battered it into every shape known to geometry - but we could not make a hole in it. Then George went at it, and knocked it into a shape, so strange, so weird, so unearthly in its wild hideousness, that he got frightened.

          Just in case you ever need to open a can with no can-opener ... :)

          How to Open a Can without Can Opener - Zombie Survival Tips #20

  5. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Ah, the joy ..

    .. of expiring copyrights ..


  6. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    I don't know, linking human psychology to the internet and bringing out the worst in people is a bit far fetched. I mean if someone is determined to commit morally wrong actions then you could argue that libraries and education are also enablers. It is an interesting concept and article though.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      '...I mean if someone is determined to commit morally wrong actions then you could argue that libraries and education are also enablers.'

      To a point, libraries are/were enablers...

      librarians, on the other hand, those guardians of the sacred knowledge...

      Librarian: 'Exactly why do you want to borrow our copy of Mr Abdul Alhazred's al-Azif?'

      Me: 'Err, shits and giggles?'

      Back in the late 70's/early 80's our local library removed any book with Illustrations/photos of magic mushrooms in real reason given, but probably a kneejerk reaction to the moral outrage (whose moral outrage you ask?, who knows?)

      So, almost overnight all the books on Fungi disappeared from the shelves (that is, apart from the ones by The Old Gentleman from Providence..)

      Meanwhile in the reference section, all sorts of fun formulae and information was to be had (and photocopied).

      Funny bunch, librarians.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        The correct answer is that "I want to open a Portal"

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          'The correct answer is that "I want to open a Portal"'

          Yes, you know that, I know that, the librarians know that, but they've got to ask, and you've got to play the game of pretending you don't know what you're doing....

          A tradition, or an old charter or something...

          1. Dodgy Geezer Silver badge

            ...and it helps if you give the librarian a banana...

        2. Keith Glass

          . . . you need to talk to Aperture Science about that. . .

      2. Triggerfish

        I remember having to get a permission slip signed by my parents at age of 13 ish, to be allowed to have tickets for the adult library. Access was not as easy as the internet. Then again pretty sure any formulas for say explosives etc would actually have been accurate (but well thats what chemistry lessons are for anyway), whereas with the net you take your chances with the information you look up, and the amount of diligence you do researching it.

    2. allthecoolshortnamesweretaken

      The internet is the open version of the closed ward.

    3. Dave 126 Silver badge

      >I don't know, linking human psychology to the internet and bringing out the worst in people is a bit far fetched.

      Libraries give information, but within the context of a dry, academic, lethargic environment. On the internet, some impressionable fools are able to find like-minded idiots, and achieve confirmation bias. A little knowledge is a dangerous thing.

      Beyond that, it is hard for me to judge in personal experience. I'm just glad that I came of age after 'gonzo' pornography became the norm (through the internet*). It's weird being with women ten years younger than myself and have them ask me what I want in such a way to infer that their perspective and that of their past partners has been informed by stuff they've been watching since their early teens**.

      As an adult, I have no problem with the Marquis de Sade... it's clear from his comments about wanting to rape the sun that he was expressing a vector, not a destination, and that itself was a valid comment upon the insatiability of desire. Or whatever. The point is, I'm not taking him literally in a 'monkey see monkey do' kind of way. My views are informed by drinking lots of tea and beer with individual females.

      *Of course, teenagers in mainland Europe in the 1990s could get their fill of smut from cable TV. Knowing them as adults in their twenties they seem just as well adjusted, if not better, than us censored Brits. Somerset Maugham commented about the inverse relationship between sexual material and sexual violance.

      ** Nothing new. According to one old dear, sat in her garden with a pith helmet and a garden gun because "the herons are after my gold fish again", anal sex was "all the rage" in the 1930s. One can't get pregnant in that way!

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        "[...] teenagers in mainland Europe in the 1990s could get their fill of smut from cable TV."

        Scandinavia had a liberal attitude to pr0n in the 1970s. Lord Longford and possibly Mary Whitehouse did the rounds of the Danish live sex shows for their research. IIRC Giles Brandreth was a young member of the team and has related some amusing anecdotes.

        In the Stockholm area the ordinary newsagents' equivalent of TitBits (or Loaded) was very explicit - putting Penthouse in the shade. The middle-aged lady in the village shop quite happily explained the magazines' relative popularity. They were even advertised on large billboards - usually with a very large yellow phallic symbol.

        The few dedicated pr0n shops covered just about any predilection. When a proprietor asked what I was looking for - I said "something more artistic". He shook his head assured me that was not a likely criterion in his varied stock.

        My Finno-Scandinavian girlfriends regarded it as rather boring. When visiting England the prurient attitudes here often annoyed them. They would roll their eyes and say "Typical English".

  7. Boris the Cockroach Silver badge

    If you

    want a story about today written years and years ago, look up "The murderer" by Ray Bradbury

    I wont ruin the plot, but I sympathise with the main character....

  8. Peter X

    If he didn't mention porn or cats then he was waaaaaaaaaaaaaaay off the mark!

    1. Suricou Raven

      It did mention porn.

      "Now kiddies, you punch this one for what you want. I'm gonna take the old one away before it breaks down?"

      And I glance at the screen. The kiddies have apparently said they wanna look at some real cannibals. So the screen is presenting a anthropological expedition scientific record film of the fertility dance of the HubaJouba tribe of West Africa. It is supposed to be restricted to anthropological professors and post-graduate medical students. But there ain't any censor blocks working any movie and it's on. The kids are much interested. Me, bein' a old married man, I blush.

  9. John Savard

    I Keep Remembering It

    The story "A Logic Named Joe" certainly comes to my mind when I read news items about Apple adjusting Siri so she won't try to be helpful to someone who asks how he can murder his wife, and so on.

    1. Dave 126 Silver badge

      Re: I Keep Remembering It

      >someone who asks how he can murder his wife

      Poison her with chocolate. All chocolate is deadly toxic to wives.

  10. The Nazz

    Libraries pah!

    If i want to know anything i listen to the wife.

    Mind you, as with Wiki's,.i have to treat it with caution, she only thinks she knows everything.

    1. jimmyj

      Re: Libraries pah!

      libraries -yay!

      educated me.

      began when my mom read the classics to get me to sleep

      which led me to read

      that which interested me

      and then to write my own work = in a journal

      of progress

    2. nijam Silver badge

      Re: Libraries pah!

      > ... she only thinks she knows everything...

      You missed the other part of that, namely, "but she's certain that I know nothing."

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Libraries pah!

        "You missed the other part of that, namely, "but she's certain that I know nothing.""

        It is probably a person's personality rather than their just their gender. I've known several guys who have that overblown certainty about their knowledge and beliefs.

        A friend's wife has an identical twin sister. The twin once commiserated with my friend by saying "How does it feel to always be wrong". Observing the twins' lifestyles - it was surprising by how much their personalities differed. One was very controlling - the other easy-going.

  11. Alistair

    Nice memory there

    Fairly sure I spent my 9th or 10 year reading from 43 or 44 to ... what 52?

    And I'm willing to bet they're still in a box at my mom's. I come by the pack rat tendency honestly.

    She has almost every SF&F published (and quite a few others of that sort) - I think we lost about a dozen to a burst pipe in the basement and they were the bottom of the box. Its why my reading preferences lead to the SF end of the spectrum (when I get the time... *sigh* I just wish I didn't have to adult so much these days)

    I get *lots* of little twitches now and again - things I see that pop a relay to the story(ies) I've read in the past. skimming this, the voice and the character feels vaguely familiar.

  12. amanfromMars 1 Silver badge

    Mankind is Pwnd Already is it not, and Master Slave to IT and AI. Do You Need IT to Proof it?*

    Is there a certain symmetry and empathy running in “A Logic Named Joe” and systems for mass executive order administration in present future current times and virtual space places where humble browsers and smarter search engines be dumb waiters to Information Technology and Advanced IntelAIgents? ……

    And the answer to that is a Yes in any language and in all lands that you might choose, either now or in the future?

    * Would SCADA SysAdmins be able to handle that, or would they experience violent revolutionary runaway meltdown with catastrophic systems collapse ‽ . Is that and IT the leading current universal existential threat to be feared and spun as terrorism by parties with vested interests invested in the status quo remaining rooted in the past?

    And what price for future silence and inaction on the matter, is a valid capitalist question?

    1. amanfromMars 1 Silver badge

      Re: Mankind Pwnd and Hope and Change Delivered with Alien Memes and Beings into Autonomous Means ‽ .

      Coming Soon via AI and Mass Media Platforms and Virtual Propaganda Machines near You, if not Already Out There and Silent Running.

      The exposition of the truly virtual nature of reality and its cynically selfish manipulation by the politically incorrect and irreligious sub-prime classes for inequitable oppressive advantage and fabulous fiat fortune, is an almighty tall fail tale with truths spoken unto powers that be and wannabe, that fools into folly with tools out of internal and infernal command and control cannot themselves silence to render remotely inactive and impotent and defeated.

      cc Tony Hall - [1603200950]

      And such is a real fabulous fabless treat in the right hands, hearts and minds and an evolving stealthy programming project with revolutionary indefensible threats to all wrong doing?

      Yes, IT sure is. I Kid U Not.

      1. Triggerfish

        Re: Mankind Pwnd and Hope and Change Delivered with Alien Memes and Beings into Autonomous Means ‽ .

        I sometimes wonder if a book will be written about an AI that rises from learning on forums and commenting until it becomes completly Turing,

        1. Destroy All Monsters Silver badge

          Re: Mankind Pwnd and Hope and Change Delivered with Alien Memes and Beings into Autonomous Means ‽ .

          The title will be "Artificial Insanity"

          I think this was a side-note in Neal Stephenson's "Anathem" (issued 2008 ... WTF? That's nearly 10 years ago. What happened?)

          Neal doesn't believe in AI, but I cannot share that kind of mysticism.

          1. Triggerfish

            Re: Mankind Pwnd and Hope and Change Delivered with Alien Memes and Beings into Autonomous Means ‽ .

            Blimey I didn't realise it was that long ago either. One of his least enjoyable books IMO.

  13. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    X Minus One

    A classic old sci-fi story from the golden age.

    For those who like radio plays, The old radio show X Minus One did A Logic Named Joe (and a bunch of other classic scifi stories, too):

  14. 2StrokeRider

    Certainly it will all be fine after the next Seldon Crisis.

    1. ecofeco Silver badge

      The scary part? Psycho-history is now actually a real science.

      (even more scary? spell check didn't flag psycho-history)

  15. Leeroy

    The three body problem

    ^ was the most recent Sci-fi that I read. Absolutely awesome and keeps you guessing until the last chapter. It's a bit difficult at points especially the VR sequences but well worth the effort.

    A bit off topic as it was written in 2006 but if you like Sci-fi give it a go.

    1. elDog

      Re: The three body problem

      Totally agree with your analysis. I've had a very good SF author/friend who thinks the connections aren't that great. But I'm anxiously waiting for the next books translation (or I'll learn Chinese.)

      1. MrT

        Re: The three body problem

        Samsung have a tied version of the Kindle app and every month they offer a few (probably slightly different based on Amazon purchases) from which one can be chosen for free. The Three Body Problem was on the list around July last year - a very good read.

    2. xeroks

      Re: The three body problem

      For me, the 3 body problem was a good introduction to Chinese culture and history, rather than good SF.

      The characters seem to shout rhetoric at each other a _lot_. It seems to be the only form of debate and discussion between characters who have wildly clashing view points. You're given some of the historical context of that from the cultural revolution and its impact, but I can't help but think that the revolution was itself a symptom rather than a cause. Humans can be more alien than we think possible, and culture could be the most significant difference between us.

      From an SF/cool stuff point of view, it has some nice ideas in there, but suffered from trying to explain too much.

      But to me the best of science fiction tries to uncover the truth about ourselves. Perhaps 3BP problem does that, but the people it describes are so different from the people I know, I can't tell.

      (as a side note, the VR sections are very woolly, but I thought that was OK, it ignored the detail, to get to the meat of what the author was trying to get across. Neal Stephenson's Snow Crash was deliberately woolly (e.g. about things like UI), but that was a successful book.)

      1. MrT

        Re: The three body problem

        I think the cultural aspect made it more interesting to me - grounding in the Cultural Revolution, the 'thought police' aspect and so on. I initially read the role of the VR side to be more of an escape, so the way it is described (or not) sort of fitted. I've not read on into the next book, though from the summary it looks like there's more to it than that. It might be that some nuances were lost in translation though.

        "But to me the best of science fiction tries to uncover the truth about ourselves." Definitely agree there.

  16. Keith Glass

    The REAL prediction. . . .

    . . .was in C.M. Kornbluth's "The Marching Morons".

    Because we're ALREADY living it . . .

  17. BoldMan

    Ahh Murray Leinster , I remember reading his books when I was a teenager and desperately looking for Sci Fi that wasn't Azimov or EE Doc Smith - not that there is anything wrong with those authors but I'd pretty much read everything the local library and bookshops which seemed to consist entirely of those authors and Bobby Heinelin, but even at that early age I realised just how far to the Right little Bobby H hung his flag!

    1. Hollerithevo

      Heinlein, yes, yet no

      He got weirder and more right-wing as he got older (all that truly embarrassing sex, that is, embarrassing that he though it was cool), but I remember his books showed to me a future where everybody took for granted the technology around them, but humanity was still humanity. That is, there were no steel-jawed space captains, but just ordinary blokes.

      As a girl reading SF, I could not help liking a guy who wrote 'Podkayne of Mars' and 'The Menace from Earth' and 'Have Space Suit, Will Travel'.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Heinlein, yes, yet no

        "Podkayne of Mars"

        The "Glory Road" was also unusual in having a strong female lead character.

  18. Tom 7

    Ashley fully programmable computers were around in 1941

    and, like the story, made of valves.

    The z3 was seriously cool until we bombed the shit out of it. Thank god the nazis were too busy climbing over each others backs to realise what they had!

  19. Drew 11

    A damn shame this publication can't be used to kill off a few patents.

  20. myhandler

    Heinlein may have been right wing but Stranger in a strange land stands out. Mean to read that again along with Brunner's Stand on Zanzibar and The Sheep look up.

    ('Afrims' was Brunner's term for the refugees.. fascinate).

    But really it's PKD who saw the hold advertising would get on us - it's Runciter in Ubik isn't it who swats the (conscious) advertising fly that won't stop trying to sell him crap.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      " Stranger in a strange land "

      I also find it hard to call that story "right wing". Libertarian possibly. It's apparently a reworking of the Jesus Christ story - but I doubt many USA evangelicals would see the correlation through their red mist about "permissiveness".

      1. Intractable Potsherd

        I've read a lot of Heinlein's stuff over the last 40+ years, and I have to say that I've ever found him to be right wing. Libertarian, yes - TANSTAFL is the epitome of extreme libertarianism. Even the sex is libertarian - do what you want but hurt no-one. Virtually everything he wrote is in direct line from John Stuart Mill's "Harm Principle", which is a very good academic argument for libertarianism.

  21. juice

    A million monkeys is a bit unfair...

    These people were actively thinking about the future, rather than just hammering random keys. Though admittedly, it can sometimes be hard to tell the difference ;)

    There's plenty of other interesting nuggets out there, too.

    EE Doc Smith produced some spectacular space-opera cheese; much of this was the cliche "hero saving heroine from Certain Doom with the power of Science", but his Lensman series included some interesting concepts and his exploration of how to handle complex space battles was cited as an key inspiration for the US military's development of Command Centre capabilities in World War 2.

    Robert Heinlein produced some equally interesting stuff - the militry concepts and tactics in Starship Troopers are well thought out (and the way these were ignored by the film is a major reason why I despise it) - and along the way, he also invented things like waldos (named after his story) and the water bed; his story was actually used as an example of prior art when someone tried to patent the concept!

    Keith Laumer is much less well known, but produced some interesting concepts, especially in his Reteif series, where a diplomat wanders the cosmos, cleaning up after his incompetent bureaucratic superiors. Admittedly, it's hard at this distance to determine how much was original and how much was drawn from other sources, but he dabbled with concepts such as virtual reality, remote-controlled robotic bodies and cloning. It's possible at least some of this was driven by the fact that he suffered a stroke which restricted his mobility.

    There's many more out there - for instance, the British government ignored Arthur C Clarke's ideas about geo-stationary satellites.

    Sadly, one area where the Golden Age of sci-fi seemed quite weak was around computing science (though again, EE Doc Smith did come up with the concept of "robot controlled" spaceships as the first line in massed assaults). I suspect this was down to editors/publishers not being comfortable with the concept (and/or assuming the reader wouldn't be interested); Science was there to be controlled, not self-governing!

    1. Intractable Potsherd

      Re: A million monkeys is a bit unfair...

      Keith Laumer is another author I have recently rediscovered. I remember some of the stories from my teenage years (presumably in anthologies, which our local library liked to stock for the few sci-fi readers in industrial South Yorkshire).* I found various volumes of his work transferred to ebook on Baen Free Library (I think), and I have really enjoyed them. Humour, insight, and knowledge of the human condition characterise most of them - well recommended.

      * As mentioned by someone else earlier in this thread, my parents wrote a letter authorising me to have a card for the adult library well ahead of the age-limit, because I had read all the sci-fi in the children's section (there wasn't much!), and I kept pestering them to use some of their library allowance each visit to get me "real" sci-fi! The arrangement was that if the librarian didn't think a book was going to be suitable, I wouldn't be allowed to check it out.

    2. IvyKing

      Re: A million monkeys is a bit unfair...

      I agree in that Computer Science was very poorly predicted in the Golden Age of SF, with A.I. postulated to be a much easier problem than it is and giving hort shrift to the need for numerical solutions to real world math problems. This may have been driven in part by the plot device of "man vs machine" that goes back to the story of Jawn Henry, if not earlier.

      One of the big laughers was the manual piloting of rocket launches, the reality is that humans don't react fast enough to be effective. On the other hand, Heinlein did a fair representation of docking in his 1939 story "Misfit".

  22. Joe Harrison


    My favourite John Brunner prediction was the "karatand", a soft and flexible plastic glove made of a material which became instantly rock-hard when subjected to impact. Remember this was 1960-something but such a material now actually exists and is incorporated in body armour.

  23. the_stone

    Read Vannevar Bush "As we may think"

    There were lots of people who saw the Internet future once all the electronic signalling came on line in the 1920s. Norbert Weiner and Bush built a mechanical/optical computer together in the 1930s. Weiner especially was vocal about the "coming time" that influenced a great many minds. See:

  24. Cynic_999

    The best quote

    .. from "A Logic Named Joe" is

    "Only thing that Logics won't do is tell you what your wife meant ..."

    "Logics don't work good on women. Only on things that make sense."

  25. ecofeco Silver badge

    I think I read this story

    I read a LOT of old sci-fi when I was younger and still do. So much that I can't keep up with authors or even book titles any more. But the stories? Yeah, I still remember the stories.

    I find it odd that of almost all the sci-fi ever written, it's been the dystopias that seem to have come to pass. Very odd indeed.

    Even more odd is the fact that most of the public libraries where I live have very small sci-fi sections and a serious shortage of the old masters. You would think it was a conspiracy of some kind.

  26. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    interesting commentary about "control"

    if someone believes SF was "controlled" by the preference of an editor in a popular publishing venue during post war years, they must also admit to "control" by preference of the powers in charge of popular distribution systems TODAY.

    If someone believes then that the control led to popular attitude, and therefore changes in policy, they must acknowledge that such is also happening right now.

    Which leads to a lot of cans of worms greater than just making "forbidden" information available..but makes the attitude of what to do with it also potentially dangerous.

  27. Pshoot

    Self-fulfilling prophecy

    There must be an element of scientists/engineers reading SF and thinking, "wow that's cool, how do I actually make that happen?" and then going away and making it happen, even if it takes multiple generations.

POST COMMENT House rules

Not a member of The Register? Create a new account here.

  • Enter your comment

  • Add an icon

Anonymous cowards cannot choose their icon

Other stories you might like