(Un)predictable results

“The implications are staggering.”

Roberts and Jones were discussing the Widget they’d finished. Following mass-emailed instructions, and about fifteen bucks worth of Electronic Store basic parts, they’d produced a couple of rough breadboarded test circuits.

Most astonishing—the things seemed to work just as the instructions suggested. Roberts and Jones were both electrical engineers, and there was just no way this particular circuit, as constructed and powered by a single “AA” battery, should do anything at all. It didn’t make any sense.

But stacked next to the breadboards were several duplicated items. Spare soldering irons, perfect matches of the copied original. A small stack of quarters. Spools of wire, all identical. As the instructions specified, pick up the object you want duplicated, push the “on” button, and a duplicate would be created.

“Do you know what this will do to the economy?”

“If a thousand people in the world bothered to make these, the economy is…dead. Fiat money, no scarcity any more…” Jones stumbled to a halt.

“How many people do you suppose received this email?”

“I don’t know, but the one I got was forwarded half a dozen times before it got to me.”

“Call up the electronics store, see if there’s a run on these parts today,” said Roberts.

After fifteen minutes, Jones returned, shaking his head.

“He says he’s got a line of customers forming at his part counter right now, busier than he’s ever seen the place.”

***

“So you can use the Duplicator to duplicate the Duplicators?” asked Jones.

“Completed units, much faster than soldering new units together. I’ve already passed several people wearing slick-produced units on their belts this morning,” Roberts replied.

“I’ve been cleaning up our quickie-breadboards, and built these for us. More substantial and waterproof, even a backup battery.” Jones handed a completed upgrade unit to Roberts.

“Let’s do some more testing.”

Jones stumbled on another unpredictable result while testing the Duplicator’s upper size limit.

“Roberts. Have you tested…” Jones held out a strawberry milkshake, hand shaking.

“Where’d that come from?”

“I pressed the button, but I wasn’t touching anything. I’d been thinking of maybe taking a break and fetching some lunch, and this appeared.”

Roberts stared for a moment then held out his right hand and toggled his Duplicator.

In his hand appeared a small bar of solid gold.

“Oh, no no,” breathed Roberts.

***

“Not just duplication. Anything you can imagine?”

“Anything so far,” said Jones. “I chickened out at creating a venomous reptile, but I made a white rat.”

“Maximum range?” asked Roberts.

“AA battery, I’d be shocked if it ranged even a quarter mile.”

“Make guns. I want a gun, before we head out to lunch.”

While crossing the corner of Third Avenue and Washington, a dark shadow swept over the street and their heads.

“That was…”

“Dragon,” said Jones. “What kind of idiot created a dragon?”

Roberts turned to stare at him. “We’re going to need so much more than handguns.”

***

Ninety-five percent of the human race perished within the next two weeks.

Wars were fought between dragons, demons, Gundams, hundreds of duplicates of Godzilla, giants, angels, Kzinti, unicorns, Jaberwockies, orcs, trolls, and the Armies of Fae…

Most of the giant-monster creations ate their stupid creators first, and then escaped to wreak havok on the planet.

The survivors were the ones who reached shelter fast enough, who had enough time to fortify. The ones who could find Survivalist bunkers or underground lairs. People often thought of fortified castles, but Godzilla-class monsters make short work of those.

Worse, a bunch of people also dreamed up UFOs, killer-droids, self-aware combat tanks and other killer tech. Mushroom clouds erupted over several continents, where one people hated the people who lived next door. No one was sure who triggered the last crusade, but the exchange was quick, nuclear, and dirty as hell.

Those individuals who dreamed up force fields managed to survive the nukes. A targeted nano-plague took care of the last of the Duplicator units.

As far as we know, anyway.

We hope we’ll manage to clean up the mess, in time.

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Ow, my hand

When was the last time you wrote something substantive — a letter, a story, a journal entry, etc. — by hand? Could you ever imagine returning to a pre-keyboard era?

I actually made quite a nuisance of myself, and made my poor physical therapist’s life hell, over this very issue.

See, we had to teach me to write by hand again, fine motor control skills. That’s the kind of thing that the type of stroke I had does the biggest number on. A very minor stroke, and I got insanely lucky (I’m totally recovered, thanks).

But part of the recovery therapy involved walking (not too bad), stairs (easy-peasy after a day working on walking), and then fine motor skills. Walking was never seriously affected anyway.

My therapist demanded I write things, by hand. Which I hadn’t done for a good twenty years before the stroke. I’m a digital kid, always have been a computer-phile nerd, I totally Grokked keyboards from even before they became separate from terminals.

So I gave her hell. She wasn’t teaching me the type of motor skills I actually used, she was making me write. With a pen. How…twentieth century.

Fortunately, she persisted (and she should have, don’t take any lip from that brat)! And though I still don’t write much of anything by longhand, I am awfully glad she did.

‘Cause, hey, I’m writing. Turns out those fine motor skills are pretty damned important. Typewriter or keyboard or pen or pencil or crayon, even a piece of slate and a bar of soap. Need to write.

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Drool and Dropping Things