Saturday, February 28, 2015

"With Folded Hands": Servants, Masters, and the Will

Science-fiction writer Jack Williamson died in 2006; somewhat ironically, that's the year in which his 1947 novelette With Folded Hands was set. A half-hour Dimension X radio adaptation  was made in 1950, and is broadcast periodically on golden-age-of-radio shows.

Without giving away too many spoilers, the story is about servant-robots called Humanoids. They arrive on Earth to serve, protect, and make people happy. Their (extremely irritating) tagline is "At your service." The trouble is, they work too well. They do too much. They protect too much. If you let them in the door, they never leave. And their final method of making people happy is quite drastic.

Did I mention they're indestructible?

I'd forgotten about this story until our local golden-age show played it again this week. Over the next couple of days I kept thinking about how disturbingly close to technological reality some of that is now. But then an even better application came along: this week's chapter from Ourselves.

Guard the postern, says Charlotte Mason. Examine each and every one of those ideas that are all clamouring to get into your Personsoul. Because if you do let them come in, you may end up serving them instead of the other way around. If you sit around with folded hands (without using your Will), the ideas, fads and opinions of others will leave you even more helpless.

Pray first, she says; then go to work examining the applicants, and diverting your thoughts wherever necessary. But if that whole scenario scares you, remember what else she says, and it's something else that came up in this week's Latin lesson: Horatius and his friends had to confront only one enemy at a time.

1 comment:

walking said...

Autism is this to the extreme. Children in the spectrum can slowly push you into a straighjacket if you allow them to become more rigid in their thinking by trying to do exactly what they want to avoid meltdowns. In the long run, they end up even more unhappy because they have not learned to think flexibly.

P.S. The reCAPTCHA thingie should make us prove I"m not a humanoid. LOL