The Complete Stories (Page 86)
George leaned back, stared over Omani’s head, and for a moment there was the return of something like restlessness to his eyes.
"Why wasn’t I told all this at the beginning?"
"Oh, if we could," said Omani, "the trouble it would save us. We can analyze a mind, George, and say this one will make an adequate architect and that one a good woodworker. We know of no way of detecting the capacity for original, creative thought. It is too subtle a thing. We have some rule-of-thumb methods that mark out individuals who may possibly or potentially have such a talent.
"On Reading Day, such individuals are reported. You were, for instance. Roughly speaking, the number so reported comes to one in ten thousand. By the time Education Day arrives, these individuals are checked again, and nine out of ten of them turn out to have been false alarms. Those who remain are sent to places like this."
George said, "Well, what’s wrong with telling people that one out of-of a hundred thousand will end at places like these? Then it won’t be such a shock to those who do."
"And those who don’t? The ninety-nine thousand nine hundred and ninety-nine that don’t? We can’t have all those people considering themselves failures. They aim at the professions and one way or another they all make it. Everyone can place after his or her name: Registered something-or-other. In one fashion or another every individual has his or her place in society and this is necessary."
"But we?" said George. "The one in ten thousand exception?"
"You can’t be told. That’s exactly it. It’s the final test. Even after we’ve thinned out the possibilities on Education Day, nine out of ten of those who come here are not quite the material of creative genius, and there’s no way we can distinguish those nine from the tenth that we want by any form of machinery. The tenth one must tell us himself."
"We bring you here to a House for the Feeble-minded and the man who
won’t accept that is the man we want. It’s a method that can be cruel, but it works. It won’t do to say to a man, ‘You can create. Do so.’ It is much safer to wait for a man to say, ‘I can create, and I will do so whether you wish itor not.’ There are ten thousand men like you, George, who support the advancing technology of fifteen hundred worlds. We can’t allow ourselves to miss one recruit to that number or waste our efforts on one member who doesn’t measure up."
George pushed his empty plate out of the way and lifted a cup of coffee to his lips.
"What about the people here who don’t-measure up?"
"They are taped eventually and become our Social Scientists. Ingenescu is one. I am a Registered Psychologist. We are second echelon, so to speak."
George finished his coffee. He said, "I still wonder about one thing."
”What is that?”
George threw aside the sheet and stood up. "Why do they call them Olympics?"
The Feeling of Power
Jehan Shuman was used to dealing with the men in authority on long-embattled Earth. He was only a civilian but he originated programming patterns that resulted in self-directing war computers of the highest sort. Generals consequently listened to him. Heads of congressional committees, too.
There was one of each in the special lounge of New Pentagon. General Weidef was space-burnt and had a small mouth puckered almost into a cipher. Congressman Brant was smooth-cheeked and clear-eyed. He smoked Denebian tobacco with the air of one whose patriotism was so notorious, he could be allowed such liberties.
Shuman, tall, distinguished, and Programmer-first-class, faced them fearlessly.
He said, "This, gentlemen, is Myron Aub."
"The one with the unusual gift that you discovered quite by accident," said Congressman Brant placidly. "Ah." He inspected the little man with the egg-bald head with amiable curiosity.
The little man, in return, twisted the fingers of his hands anxiously. He had never been near such great men before. He was only an aging low-grade Technician who had long ago failed all tests designed to smoke out the gifted ones among mankind and had settled into the rut of unskilled labor. There was just this hobby of his that the great Programmer had found out about and was now making such a frightening fuss over.
General Weider said, "I find this atmosphere of mystery childish."
"You won’t in a moment," said Shuman. "This is not something we can leak to the firstcomer. -Aub!" There was something imperative about his manner of biting off that one-syllable name, but then he was a great Programmer speaking to a mere Technician. "Aub! How much is nine times seven?"
Aub hesitated a moment. His pale eyes glimmered with a feeble anxiety. "Sixty-three," he said.
Congressman Brant lifted his eyebrows. "Is that right?"
"Check it for yourself, Congressman."
The congressman took out his pocket computer, nudged the milled edges twice, looked at its face as it lay there in the palm of his hand, and put it back. He said, "Is this the gift you brought us here to demonstrate? An illusionist?"
"More than that, sir. Aub has memorized a few operations and with them he computes on paper."
"A paper computer?" said the general. He looked pained.
"No, sir," said Shuman patiently. "Not a paper computer. Simply a sheet of paper. General, would you be so kind as to suggest a number?"
"Seventeen," said the general.
"And you, Congressman?" "
"Good! Aub, multiply those numbers and please show the gentlemen your manner of doing it."
"Yes, Programmer," said Aub, ducking his head. He fished a small pad out of one shirt pocket and an artist’s hairline stylus out of the other. His forehead corrugated as he made painstaking marks on the paper.