The reign of Error: prologue


This summer I’ll continue writing my short story series ‘Alice in Numberland’, but before I do, I’d like to share with you a SF-like story I wrote several years ago. What motivated me to write it was, believe it or not, Edward Gibbon’s ‘Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire’. Gibbon’s work is pretty far from a short story (six volumes; 3500 pages), but it made me wonder: how can it be that one of the greatest empires in the world was ruled by such lunatics? Take Caligula, who made his favourite horse senator; or Nero, who set Rome on fire. Or that time when the emperor Commodus was killed by his own bodyguards who then sold the throne to the highest bidder – does it even matter who’s in charge? This blogpost contains the prologue to my story… enjoy!

“My name is CD-2. I am the second cleaning droid in a team of five on board the first manned interstellar mission that was launched from our world. Just as most other robots I can make zillions of calculations per minute. I can read, I can talk, I can even play chess. I am the first robot, however, that is programmed with a desire. The desire for cleanliness.

I am cylindrically shaped, about 50 centimeters in height, and have two horizontal, multi-functional appendages. These are probably best compared with what you would call ‘arms’. With them I can soap, sponge, brush, scrape, disinfect and deodorize. For stability, my designers have attached another horizontal appendage on the opposing side. This design has earned me the nickname ‘dinosaur’.

Most inhabitants of our world don’t really care about space travel. But for some reason they have given political power to a small group of people who do. Frankly, I was very glad to go on this mission, away from all the technophobes on our world. Often one of my kind would wake up to find an evil grin graffittied above his multi-functional appendages. Some activist had wanted to emphasize the dangers of a computerized society. “Those bots steal our jobs!” They claimed. Maybe if they’d just paint a wall instead of us, they’d get paid for it.

When I rolled down the assembly line, I was painted an eye-catching, reddish golden color. But not anymore. Now I am lying here, in a dank cave, covered in dust. How did it come to this? …”

Click here to read Chapter One of ‘Reign of Error’

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About fbenedictus

Philosopher of physics at Amsterdam University College and Utrecht University, managing editor for Foundations of Physics and international paraclimbing athlete
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7 Responses to The reign of Error: prologue

  1. Pingback: Reign of Error: Chapter Five | The Tricycle Down The Rabbit Hole

  2. Pingback: Reign of Error: Chapter Four | The Tricycle Down The Rabbit Hole

  3. Pingback: Reign of Error: Chapter Three | The Tricycle Down The Rabbit Hole

  4. Pingback: Reign of Error: Chapter One | The Tricycle Down The Rabbit Hole

  5. Jody Geiger says:

    The constrained breadth of knowledge reflected in prior administrations reminds me of research dealing with counts of the Planck Units, or at least as they would say in the field of Measurement Quantization (MQ), count bounds. Most are familiar with the Planck frequency and some may associate this count with Heisenberg’s uncertainty principle, as being the upper count bound of some physically significant increment of elapsed time. We can interpret this in two ways, as a property of the universe or as a property of elapsed time. If the prior, then rest assured, it will be a while before the universe reaches 5.878 E26 billion years old and elapsed time ceases to elapse. But this is the less likely interpretation.
    With respect to mass, the same count bound exists, which as described in the paper, ‘Measurement Quantization Describes Galactic Rotational Velocities…’, there is an upper count of Planck Masses that can be measured per second of elapsed time. This limits our classical understanding of ‘observable’ mass which can be measured over any unconstrainted period of elapsed time. The bound constrains gravity and leads to what we call the dark matter phenomenon. This is not the whole story, but sufficient for this presentation. Most will be familiar with the velocity curve of a galaxy, which rises and then flat lines to its most outer edges.
    It follows with respect to this analogy regarding time, that when the universe reaches the noted age that observers will not be able to measure events that exceed this age. Where this might apply I’m not sure, but it has many applications, including a limit to the count of things that can be known at any instance in time. Notably, MQ distinguishes the discrete Measurement Frame of the observer from the non-discrete Target Frame of the Universe (which has no external reference). This is critically important and primarily what distinguishes MQ from LQG.
    Fedde, I look forward to future posts and perhaps these thoughts on count bounds with respect to a discrete understanding of the physical universe might make their way into further posts mathematical in origin. At the least, we can attribute the lack of foresight with the Roman administration to a bound in knowledge not well understood, but exceptionally lower than it is today! The best approach to any bounded problem is to identify the constraining factor, with less focus on the symptoms (i.e., what we observe). And, I would imagine, that is likely to be the next chapter in your story. I look forward to your next post.

  6. Bob says:

    I havn’t read anything from you for a long time, so pleased to get this….and not in a strange foreign language either (I am British after all). Promising start to your short story, looking forward to the next episode.
    Cheers Bob.

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