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An Easy Life

Page history last edited by Ian Kimber 9 years, 7 months ago





An Easy Life


John Jones was born and lived on a farm well up the valley.  In his seventeen years, his life had followed the normal pleasant ordered pattern of life in the valley.  From the age of six to twelve he had attended the school in the village about a mile away with his younger sister Mary.  They walked down the lane in the morning but usually in the afternoon they took a more interesting route up the stream and across the fields to get home for his tea, often arriving a bit late.   At school he learned all the basics of reading, writing, geography history and the basic technologies of the simple life lived by most of the people in the valley.  As with most farmers’ children he had always helped around the farm generally and was occasionally allowed some time off school at very busy periods.  John’s parents farm was mostly sheep for meat and wool and young cattle raised for meat although they had a vegetable plot and kept a few pigs and chickens.  The wool and meat went down the road to the factories and shops and some of the surplus of the general farming found use in the village.


The Village was one of those typically haphazard English villages with a mix of cottages and larger houses, mostly with both decorative and productive gardens, a couple of shops one for food and household items and one for hardware and essential farming equipment. Of course there was the all-important school and village hall where the community met regularly for many activities.  There was also the quiet room where people could go to meet and think of others and their own personal needs and express them to the guardians.  Other local specialist services like building and dressmaking were carried out from the houses of the people who offered them.


When he was Twelve, John went to the secondary school cycling four miles down the valley to the edge of a larger town where there were more ordered houses and factories where a range of other products were manufactured.  There the schooling was different with more detailed studies of the normal academic subjects interspersed with periods trying out aspects of the various jobs that were available in the valley.  Most children chose jobs that were closely related to their parents.  Mary was totally happy to become a farmer and carry on the family holding but John was a much more inquisitive character and had explored the valley much more than most of its inhabitants  by taking long walks and cycle rides during his free time which for most people was quite plentiful as school and work in general only occupied about four days a week.


Calling  the community “the valley” was a bit of a misnomer because it was really a whole set of small river valleys each with their villages and small towns coming to a confluence near the largest town  before the estuary to the sea and coast in the south.  The valley was also surrounded by high hills or mountains to the north and cut off by two other large river estuaries to the east and west.

The valley was very largely self sufficient producing all its basic needs of food clothing and building materials.  All unwanted materials were always reused, recycled or returned from whence they came. The main town had a small port and a rail terminus through which the small amount of  specialist material not available in the valley could be moved and a small surplus of regional specialities and non reusable or recyclable materials exported.


Most people spent all their considerable amount of leisure time around the valley too.  There were a few who went away to visit other places and a few visitors who came to the valley but these visits were mostly associated with some sort of study. Travelling large distances was generally considered to be wasteful and unnecessary when one could see and talk to anyone anywhere in the world via the telescreens at any time. 


This is the way things had been for as long as records were available.  The strict rules on population control meant that every married couple was allowed one male and one female child (where possible) as a replacement. People who wanted more could apply for extra children and these were occasionally granted to replace unmarried or childless people, or people who died in accidents.  Everyone understood and accepted that this was the only way in which the population could be stable and overcrowding avoided.  The many community activities that involved children were always open to all so that people who did not have children of their own were not left out of the fun of having a family.


To return to John, he was always a born explorer and liked walking on the mountains beyond the farm even departing from the many well marked footpaths that were there for recreational walking and venturing into difficult territory of gorse, brambles dense woodland and rocks.  Several times he had reached a road in a new and seemingly uninhabited valley only to find that as he approached it across the difficult terrain a police car arrived and a voice came out from the loud speaker at the front warning him that he was entering a danger area with wild animals and should immediately return home by the way that he came.


He had done this several times in very different directions on the edge of his community. He had also seen what looked like cattle and other animals possibly lions and bears in the distance and had no reason to doubt that it was very sensible to return home.  It would be very unwise to face a hungry lion in the wild when he could easily watch any one of several families of lions in detail in the comfort of his home.


John was a bright boy and his friends did not understand his need to explore.  Why push the limits with the guardians they said,  “we have everything we need here an easy life comfortable and are quite capable of looking after ourselves there’s just no need to go further”.  but he still explored and learned all he could. John also found the many opportunities for future employment although interesting and useful in their own right somehow unsatisfying and could not settle with any of them. 


Then one day at school he was asked to report to the headmaster.  Initially he was a bit afraid that he was going to be disciplined for his exploring or inability to settle to some form of useful employment, but the head smiled at him and said he was here to tell him of a great honour that was to bestowed upon him.  Every year the guardians requested that one or two students from each of the schools should leave the valley to attend the University in the great city to the south.  This would probably just be for a few years while he learned some special skills and tried different jobs.  Most people returned and became important people within the community leaders or great artists and musicians.  But a few did not return often because they worked outside the valley.  When they came back to visit family they confirmed that the wide world was much the same everywhere but they enjoyed their work away from home because it was more important that the pull of family and friends.


The great day arrived.  John was to leave very early in the morning on the fast train to the city and would be meeting his new mentor at the second city station.  Most others were to leave at the first city station where the main university campus was.  The train took two hours to get to the city, travelling mostly through an impetetrable wild forest.  The university campus was bright and attractive and when the train left John was the only person on it  the city moved from domestic suburbs to tall blocks with complex connecting links  there were robovans everywhere  no doubt carrying some of the complex products like telescreens that were not made in the valley.  The train then went underground and in a few minutes he arrived at a large station that was almost deserted, except for a small open car that asked him by name to get on board to go to meet his new mentor.  Who was to be Guardian Wales. After going down several long corridors and up in two lifts he entered a very comfortable conference room with a few seats a large area for wheeled vehicles and a large screen.

The lights dimmed and a friendly reassuring face and voice appeared on the screen, it was one of his favourite teachers from the special telescreen science lessons.  Good morning John he said.  Please do not be worried.  I realise that you have been separated from your friends and have seen many new things today but it is my job to introduce you to the next stage of your training to become Human Guardian John Jones.  This is a great honour and your skills and potential have been quietly nurtured for many years and it is now time to learn some very important things about the world that you may have suspected but are not obvious to common knowledge.


Can I ask a question? John said  “of course you can, at any time” the teacher replied.  “Are you a real person or a robot?”  John asked.  “I am not really either, I am not a human being and it think of robots as mostly things that move about. You see most of me does not move at all, it is distributed around this building and all over what you know as the valley and its surrounding countryside and several other communities in Wales similar to your valley.  I am one of the thousands of  what you might call machine guardians who look after your planet.  Today it is my job to give you a brief introduction to the real world and explain to you why it is the way it is.


Many tens of thousands of years ago mankind dominated the world and bred themselves to such a density that not even the whole resources of the planet could supply their needs of food or fuel.  “we learned a bit about that at school”  John said  “they then realised that this was stupid and realised that human beings should live in stable natural sized communities like our valley and set out to achieve this. We celebrate this with “heroes day” every year”.  That’s not quite true said the teacher.  There were many hundreds of years of terrible famines, wars, climate change and the wholesale destruction of much of the planet before a small group of far sighted people agreed to put the future of the planet into the hands of the machines that they had created to try to make their cities the most efficient possible.  The machines took over and gradually the population was reduced by strict birth control and natural wastage and mankind became a set of small isolated communities with the guardians looking after most of the planet and slowly restoring its severely damaged ecology.  It is now almost entirely restored and can last for millions of years, but there are areas where the scars will never heal.


Does this mean that mankind is just kept as a sort of Zoo and it would not matter if it became extinct?  “Yes, the earth would go on quite well without mankind. But no, intelligent, sentient, social species are very rare in the universe and usually die out rapidly.  We have found and seen the sad artefacts of their desperate demise on several crippled planets that have been explored by our long range robot probes.  So far, we are still the only long term survivors that we can communicate with although we have detected signals from a long lived intelligent lifeform in another nearby galaxy but are not yet sure if it still has its biological roots alive.


You said “we”  yet you say you are not a human being.  “Ah but although we are in control, and will, if necessary, take action to destroy or control a lifeform that is a deadly danger to its community we are still the servants of mankind and must ensure that the optimum balance is maintained.


“Why can’t mankind itself do the controlling?”   “That is where the great foresight and wisdom of the leaders that set us up is shown.”  Replied the teacher. “They realised that the skills and psychology developed in the basic evolution of intelligence and survival is good for growth and adaptation but is totally incompatible with the correct maintenance of an essentially closed system like a planet. There will always be jealousies and a fight for superiority and no political system can be stable in the long term.  The fact that absolute power corrupts absolutely in a human individual has been demonstrated so many times.  Democracy and large committee government can be very good but it can be shown that it will always fail after a period of time.  You will learn all about that in the more technical courses later.


“Why do you need me?”  You, and others like you are very important.  It is true that the guardians and our wide range of mobile robot assistants can maintain this planet without any assistance from humans but we need the input of human intelligence when it comes to thinking up new ideas and there are still some sensitive issues of human interaction that human beings are particularly sensitive to. 


Your particular strength is in exploration and innovation. We have watched you carefully as we watch every other human being on this planet and feel that you have some particular skills that will be essential for the future.



Comments (1)

Ian Kimber said

at 8:38 am on Oct 1, 2012

The big question for this story is. Is this a Utopia or a Distopia?

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