Although the southern-accent style of writing took some getting used to, this short story contained some truly-prophetic ideas. The narrator’s initial description of ‘logics’ matches a description of computers and the internet to a T. He said that in order to view what SNAFU (a TV station in the story) is telecasting, you punch ‘station SNAFU’ into the logic, and it will pop up on your screen. When I read this, I was immediately reminded of something I did a few days ago. I got on a computer, typed nbc.com in the address bar, and watched several episodes of an NBC show that I like. Today’s technology is basically identical to what was described in this 1948 story! When he said that entering ‘Sally Hancock’s Phone’ would hook you up with the ‘logic’ in her house, I was immediately reminded of Skype. He goes on to mention that you could search for who won today’s race, the weather forecast, or other news events, and they would appear on the screen as well. Does this sound like CNN.com to anyone else but me? All of these aspects of the story are spot-on in terms of modern technology.
Equally amazing is that the narrator describes the internet network almost perfectly. He says that all of the information (facts and recorded telecasts) is stored in ‘tanks,’ and all of the tanks in the country are hooked up to each other. If you want to see or hear something, you just search for it, and you get it. This is pretty much what modern internet servers do – when you search for something over the internet, the request goes to an internet server, which provides information back to your computer. I am beyond belief that this story was written in 1946! It’s almost too accurate – to the point of suspicion.
One interesting thing that I wanted to point out is that, in the story, everyone is aware that ‘logics’ haven’t reached their full potential and that they can do a lot of things that haven’t been discovered yet. This is interesting because in every other science fiction story that I’ve read/watched, technology has pretty much reached its full potential within the story. For example, in Star Wars, although there are six movies, nothing really changes – in terms of technology – throughout them (if anything, technology is better in the first three episodes than in four, five, or six). It seems as if technology has reached its full potential and has stopped. Yet in this story, it is left open that ‘logics’ can accomplish much more than is known. This caught my attention because that’s the world we live in today. There is no known limit to what computers can do. They’ve existed less than a century, and already they provide countless benefits. But what will it be like in a few hundred years?
To continue with the story, I laughed when I read the part where the maintenance guy activates the logic, and the screen pops up and says “Announcing new and improved logics service!” The reason I laughed is that I can’t tell you how many times I’ve seen something similar pop up onto my computer screen after a software update. I am blown away that the story is so detailed that it includes ‘updates!’
On the other hand, there are some things about this story that aren’t accurate today. Computers are very precise machines, and, as far as I know, artificial intelligence has to be carefully programmed. It doesn’t just happen accidentally. The ‘logic’ that just happened to have a mind of its own doesn’t really make sense. Also, computers don’t currently know everything. They only know what they are programmed to know, which is limited to what man has discovered. However, I am hesitant to say that this wasn’t prophetic, because maybe it just isn’t prophetic yet. Computers are still relatively young. Maybe one day computers will know everything about everything. Then, people will be amazed at this story even more than I am (which is a lot).
Going back to correctness, another accurate part of the story was the fact that computers lack judgment and common sense. The logics couldn’t differentiate between a good question and a bad question, so they just answered everything. This is similar to modern-day expert systems, which, for example, allowed fighter jets, before they were re-programmed, to drop bombs while the aircraft was upside down. It lacked common sense and judgment. This is yet-another incredibly accurate aspect of this story.
Overall, this story was astounding in terms of how prophetic it has proven to be. I’m sure that the author had no idea this technology would materialize in the future. It was probably just some creative fantasy that he thought would make an interesting story. It leads me to wonder what other “science-fiction” stories will be possible one day.