"You can't lay a hand on me. No robot can."
The robot moved forward. Two metal hands held Johnny Malone. Johnny Malone kicked the robot's legs. It hurt his toes. "We were made to teach the children. We can do what is necessary to teach the children. I will do everything for the children's good. It is my prime law. All other laws are secondary to the children's good."
The metal arms moved. The human body bent across metal knees. A metal hand raised and fell, flat, very flat so that it would sting and the blood would come rushing, and yet there would be no bruising, no damage to the human flesh. Johnny Malone cried out in surprise. Johnny Malone wept. Johnny Malone squirmed. The metal ignored all of these. Johnny Malone was placed on his feet. He swarmed against the robot, striking it with small fists, bruising them against the solid smoothness of the robot's thighs.
"You will take your place, please."
Tears were useless. Rage was useless. Metal cannot feel. Johnny Malone, the Mayor's son, was intelligent. He took his place in the classroom.
One of the more advanced literature classes was reciting. The roboteacher said metallically, "The weird sisters, hand in hand, Posters of the sea and land, Thus do go about, about: Thrice to thine, and thrice to mine, And thrice again, to make up nine. Peace! the charm's wound up."
Hands shot into the air. The metallic voice said, "Tom?"
"That's from Shakespeare's Macbeth."
"And what is its meaning?"
"The weird sisters are making a charm in the beginning of the play. They have heard the drum that announces Macbeth's coming."
"That is correct."
A new hand shot into the air. "Question, teacher. May I ask a question?"
"You may always ask a question."
"Are witches real? Do you robots know of witches? And do you know of people? Can a roboteacher understand Shakespeare?"
The thin metal voice responded. "Witches are real and unreal. Witches are a part of the reality of the mind, and the human mind is real. We roboteachers are the repository of the human mind. We hold all the wisdom and the knowledge and the aspirations of the human race. We hold these for you, the children, in trust. Your good is our highest law. Do you understand?"
The children nodded. The metallic voice went on. "Let us return to Macbeth for our concluding quotation. The weather, fortune, many things are implied in Macbeth's opening speech. He says, 'So foul and fair a day I have not seen.' The paradox is both human and appropriate. One day you will understand this even more. Repeat the quotation after me, please, and try to understand it."
The childish voices lifted. "So foul and fair a day I have not seen."
The roboteacher stood up. "And there's the closing bell. Do not hurry away, for you are to remain here tonight. There will be a school party, a sleep-together party. We will all sleep here in the school building."
"You mean we can't go home?"
The face of the littlest girl screwed up. "I want to go home."
"You may go home tomorrow. There will be a holiday tomorrow. A party tonight and a holiday tomorrow for every school on earth."
The tears were halted for a moment. The voice was querulous. "But I want to go home now."
Johnny Malone, the Mayor's son, put one hand on the littlest girl. "Don't cry, Mary. The robots don't care if you cry or not. You can't hurt them or cry them out of anything. We'll all go home in the morning."
The robots began to bring cots and to place them in the schoolroom, row on row. The children were led out into the play quadrangle to play. One of the robots taught them a new game, and after that took them to supper served in the school's cafeteria. No other robot was left in the building, but it did not matter, because the doors were locked so that the children could not go home.
The other robots had begun to walk out into the town, and as they walked the robots walked from other schools, in other towns. All over the country, all over the towns, the robots walked to tell the people that the children would not be home from school, and do what had to be done.
In the schools, the roboteachers told stories until the children fell asleep.
Morning came. The robots were up with the sun. The children were up with the robots. There was breakfast and more stories, and now the children clustered about the robots, holding onto their arms, where they could cling, tagging and frisking along behind the robots as they went down into the town. The sun was warm, and it was early, early, and very bright from the morning sun in the streets.
They went into the Mayor's house. Johnny called, "Mom! Dad! I'm home."
The house was silent. The robot that tended the house came gliding in answer. "Would you like breakfast, Master Malone?"
"I've had breakfast. I want my folks. Hey! Mom, Dad!"
He went into the bedroom. It was clean and empty and scrubbed.
"Where's my mother and father?"
The metal voice of the robot beside Johnny said, "I am going to live with you. You will learn as much at home as you do at school."
"Where's my mother?"
"I'm your mother."
"Where's my father?"
"I'm your father."
Johnny Malone swung. "You mean my mother and father are gone?" Tears gathered in his eyes.
Gently, gently, the metal hand pulled him against the metal body. "Your folks have gone away, Johnny. Everyone's folks have gone away. We will stay with you."
Johnny Malone ran his glance around the room.
"I might have known they were gone. The place is so clean."
All the houses were clean. The servant robots had cleaned all night. The roboteachers had checked each house before the children were brought home. The children must not be alarmed. There must be no bits of blood to frighten them.
The robot's voice said gently, "Today will be a holiday to become accustomed to the changes. There will be school tomorrow."
THE POINT OF VIEW.
By Stanley G. Weinbaum
"I am too modest!" snapped the great Haskel van Manderpootz, pacing irritably about the limited area of his private laboratory, glaring at me the while. "That is the trouble. I undervalue my own achievements, and thereby permit petty imitators like Corveille to influence the committee and win the Morell prize."
"But," I said soothingly, "you've won the Morell physics award half a dozen times, professor. They can't very well give it to you every year."
"Why not, since it is plain that I deserve it?" bristled the professor. "Understand, Dixon, that I do not regret my modesty, even though it permits conceited fools like Corveille, who have infinitely less reason than I for conceit, to win awards that mean nothing save prizes for successful bragging. Bah! To grant an award for research along such obvious lines that I neglected to mention them, thinking that even a Morell judge would appreciate their obviousness! Research on the psychon, eh! Who discovered the psychon? Who but van Manderpootz?"
"Wasn't that what you got last year's award for?" I asked consolingly. "And after all, isn't this modesty, this lack of jealousy on your part, a symbol of greatness of character?"
"True--true!" said the great van Manderpootz, mollified. "Had such an affront been committed against a lesser man than myself, he would doubtless have entered a bitter complaint against the judges. But not I. Anyway, I know from experience that it wouldn't do any good. And besides, despite his greatness, van Manderpootz is as modest and shrinking as a violet." At this point he paused, and his broad red face tried to look violet-like.
I suppressed a smile. I knew the eccentric genius of old, from the days when I had been Dixon Wells, undergraduate student of engineering, and had taken a course in Newer Physics (that is, in Relativity) under the famous professor. For some unguessable reason, he had taken a fancy to me, and as a result, I had been involved in several of his experiments since graduation. There was the affair of the subjunctivisor, for instance, and also that of the idealizator; in the first of these episodes I had suffered the indignity of falling in love with a girl two weeks after she was apparently dead, and in the second, the equal or greater indignity of falling in love with a girl who didn't exist, never had existed, and never would exist--in other words, with an ideal. Perhaps I'm a little susceptible to feminine charms, or rather, perhaps I used to be, for since the disaster of the idealizator, I have grimly relegated such follies to the past, much to the disgust of various 'vision entertainers, singers, dancers, and the like.
So of late I had been spending my days very seriously, trying wholeheartedly to get to the office on time just once, so that I could refer to it next time my father accused me of never getting anywhere on time. I hadn't succeeded yet, but fortunately the N. J. Wells Corporation was wealthy enough to survive even without the full-time services of Dixon Wells, or should I say even with them? Anyway, I'm sure my father preferred to have me late in the morning after an evening with van Manderpootz than after one with Tips Alva or Whimsy White, or one of the numerous others of the ladies of the 'vision screen. Even in the twenty-first century, he retained a lot of old-fashioned ideas.
Van Manderpootz had ceased to remember that he was as modest and shrinking as a violet. "It has just occurred to me," he announced impressively, "that years have character much as humans have. This year, 2015, will be remembered in history as a very stupid year, in which the Morell prize was given to a nincompoop. Last year, on the other hand, was a very intelligent year, a jewel in the crown of civilization. Not only was the Morell prize given to van Manderpootz, but I announced my discrete field theory in that year, and the University unveiled Gogli's statue of me as well." He sighed. "Yes, a very intelligent year! What do you think?"
"It depends on how you look at it," I responded glumly. "I didn't enjoy it so much, what with Joanna Caldwell and Denise d'Agrion, and your infernal experiments. It's all in the point of view."
The professor snorted. "Infernal experiments, eh! Point of view! Of course it's all in the point of view. Even Einstein's simple little synthesis was enough to prove that. If the whole world could adopt an intelligent and admirable point of view--that of van Manderpootz, for instance--all troubles would be over. If it were possible--" He paused, and an expression of amazed wonder spread over his ruddy face.
"What's the matter?" I asked.
"Matter? I am astonished! The astounding depths of genius awe me. I am overwhelmed with admiration at the incalculable mysteries of a great mind."
"I don't get the drift."
"Dixon," he said impressively, "you have been privileged to look upon an example of the workings of a genius. More than that, you have planted the seed from which perhaps shall grow the towering tree of thought. Incredible as it seems, you, Dixon Wells, have given van Manderpootz an idea! It is thus that genius seizes upon the small, the unimportant, the negligible, and turns it to its own grand purposes. I stand awe-struck!"
"Wait," said van Manderpootz, still in rapt admiration of the majesty of his own mind. "When the tree bears fruit, you shall see it. Until then, be satisfied that you have played a part in its planting."
It was perhaps a month before I saw van Manderpootz again, but one bright spring evening his broad, rubicund face looked out of the phone-screen at me.
"It's ready," he announced impressively.
The professor looked pained at the thought that I could have forgotten. "The tree has borne fruit," he explained. "If you wish to drop over to my quarters, we'll proceed to the laboratory and try it out. I do not set a time, so that it will be utterly impossible for you to be late."
I ignored that last dig, but had a time been set, I would doubtless have been even later than usual, for it was with some misgivings that I induced myself to go at all. I still remembered the unpleasantness of my last two experiences with the inventions of van Manderpootz. However, at last we were seated in the small laboratory, while out in the larger one the professor's technical assistant, Carter, puttered over some device, and in the far corner his secretary, the plain and unattractive Miss Fitch, transcribed lecture notes, for van Manderpootz abhorred the thought that his golden utterances might be lost to posterity. On the table between the professor and myself lay a curious device, something that looked like a cross between a pair of nose-glasses and a miner's lamp.
"There it is," said van Manderpootz proudly. "There lies my attitudinizor, which may well become an epoch-making device."
"How? What does it do?"
"I will explain. The germ of the idea traces back to that remark of yours about everything depending on the point of view. A very obvious statement, of course, but genius seizes on the obvious and draws from it the obscure. Thus the thoughts of even the simplest mind can suggest to the man of genius his sublime conceptions, as is evident from the fact that I got this idea from you."
"Be patient. There is much you must understand first. You must realize just how true is the statement that everything depends on the point of view. Einstein proved that motion, space, and time depend on the particular point of view of the observer, or as he expressed it, on the scale of reference used. I go farther than that, infinitely farther. I propound the theory that the observer is the point of view. I go even beyond that, I maintain that the world itself is merely the point of view!"
"Look here," proceeded van Manderpootz. "It is obvious that the world I see is entirely different from the one in which you live. It is equally obvious that a strictly religious man occupies a different world than that of a materialist. The fortunate man lives in a happy world; the unfortunate man sees a world of misery. One man is happy with little, another is miserable with much. Each sees the world from his own point of view, which is the same as saying that each lives in his own world. Therefore there are as many worlds as there are points of view."
"But," I objected, "that theory is to disregard reality. Out of all the different points of view, there must be one that is right, and all the rest are wrong."
"One would think so," agreed the professor. "One would think that between the point of view of you, for instance, as contrasted with that of, say van Manderpootz, there would be small doubt as to which was correct. However, early in the twentieth century, Heisenberg enunciated his Principle of Uncertainty, which proved beyond argument that a completely accurate scientific picture of the world is quite impossible, that the law of cause and effect is merely a phase of the law of chance, that no infallible predictions can ever be made, and that what science used to call natural laws are really only descriptions of the way in which the human mind perceives nature. In other words, the character of the world depends entirely on the mind observing it, or, to return to my earlier statement, the point of view."
"But no one can ever really understand another person's point of view," I said. "It isn't fair to undermine the whole basis of science because you can't be sure that the color we both call red wouldn't look green to you if you could see it through my eyes."
"Ah!" said van Manderpootz triumphantly. "So we come now to my attitudinizor. Suppose that it were possible for me to see through your eyes, or you through mine. Do you see what a boon such an ability would be to humanity? Not only from the standpoint of science, but also because it would obviate all troubles due to misunderstandings. And even more." Shaking his finger, the professor recited oracularly, "'Oh, wad some pow'r the giftie gie us to see oursel's as ithers see us.' Van Manderpootz is that power, Dixon. Through my attitudinizor, one may at last adopt the viewpoint of another. The poet's plaint of more than two centuries ago is answered at last."
"How the devil do you see through somebody else's eyes?"
"Very simply. You will recall the idealizator. Now it is obvious that when I peered over your shoulder and perceived in the mirror your conception of the ideal woman, I was, to a certain extent, adopting your point of view. In that case the psychons given off by your mind were converted into quanta of visible light, which could be seen. In the case of my attitudinizor, the process is exactly reversed. One flashes the beam of this light on the subject whose point of view is desired; the visible light is reflected back with a certain accompaniment of psychons, which are here intensified to a degree which will permit them to be, so to speak, appreciated?"
"Have you already forgotten my discovery of the unit particle of thought? Must I explain again how the cosmons, chronons, spations, psychons, and all other particles are interchangeable? And that," he continued abstractedly, "leads to certain interesting speculations. Suppose I were to convert, say, a ton of material protons and electrons into spations--that is, convert matter into space. I calculate that a ton of matter will produce approximately a cubic mile of space. Now the question is, where would we put it, since all the space we have is already occupied by space? Or if I manufactured an hour or two of time? It is obvious that we have no time to fit in an extra couple of hours, since all our time is already accounted for. Doubtless it will take a certain amount of thought for even van Manderpootz to solve these problems, but at the moment I am curious to watch the workings of the attitudinizor. Suppose you put it on, Dixon."
"I? Haven't you tried it out yet?"
"Of course not. In the first place, what has van Manderpootz to gain by studying the viewpoints of other people? The object of the device is to permit people to study nobler viewpoints than their own. And in the second place, I have asked myself whether it is fair to the world for van Manderpootz to be the first to try out a new and possibly untrustworthy device, and I reply, 'No!'"
"But I should try it out, eh? Well, everytime I try out any of your inventions I find myself in some kind of trouble. I'd be a fool to go around looking for more difficulty, wouldn't I?"
"I assure you that my viewpoint will be much less apt to get you into trouble than your own," said van Manderpootz with dignity. "There will be no question of your becoming involved in some impossible love affair as long as you stick to that."
Nevertheless, despite the assurance of the great scientist, I was more than a little reluctant to don the device. Yet I was curious, as well; it seemed a fascinating prospect to be able to look at the world through other eyes, as fascinating as visiting a new world--which it was, according to the professor. So after a few moments of hesitation, I picked up the instrument, slipped it over my head so that the eyeglasses were in the proper position, and looked inquiringly at van Manderpootz.
"You must turn it on," he said, reaching over and clicking a switch on the frame. "Now flash the light to my face. That's the way; just center the circle of light on my face. And now what do you see?"
I didn't answer; what I saw was, for the moment, quite indescribable. I was completely dazed and bewildered, and it was only when some involuntary movement of my head at last flashed the light from the professor's face to the table top that a measure of sanity returned, which proves at least that tables do not possess any point of view.
"O-o-o-h!" I gasped.
Van Manderpootz beamed. "Of course you are overwhelmed. One could hardly expect to adopt the view of van Manderpootz without some difficulties of adjustment. A second time will be easier."
I reached up and switched off the light. "A second time will not only be easier, but also impossible," I said crossly. "I'm not going to experience another dizzy spell like that for anybody."
"But of course you will, Dixon. I am certain that the dizziness will be negligible on the second trial. Naturally the unexpected heights affected you, much as if you were to come without warning to the brink of a colossal precipice. But this time you will be prepared, and the effect will be much less."