Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Notes from the Mad Science Lab: Bad Ideas

How do these people find me? Honestly, I work in a hidden laboratory beneath an unassuming house in an utterly typical subdivision. All the major deliveries arrive at a warehouse on the far side of town, and are brought to the lab through the underground tunnel. There is nothing, nothing to give me away.

And yet, just this morning... Well, okay, I suppose I shouldn't count this one. I know how he found me, and one of my fellow Mad Scientists - Burbank L'estrange - is to blame for that. L'estrange and I do exchange potential jobs, when one or the other of us is too busy to take on a commission; but in this case, he really should have known better. There are some jobs I just won't take, and this morning's proposal is a perfect example.

The prospective client was a fellow in his late forties, lean, with fashionably mussed hair; he was wearing a nice suit and seemed friendly enough. I recognized him immediately, which wasn't hard since he was a politician - and recently elected one with a tendency to make headlines, at that. Then he sat down and started explaining what he wanted.

It turns out that this fellow sincerely believes that he'd have a much easier time achieving his policy goals if the world had a lot fewer "stupid people" in it.

For a moment, I was really worried. I mean, I'm all in favor brilliant new devices, and sometimes sacrifices must be made in the pursuit of knowledge; but killing off half the population seems a bit extreme.

Fortunately, that wasn't what he was after. No, what he wanted was a device - and he didn't care how it worked, as long as it worked - that would render anyone below average intelligence sterile, worldwide. So this generation would still have to put up with all the parasites and the looters and the useless hangers-on, but after they died out the intelligent ones could build a better, saner, more efficient society.

The mechanics wouldn't be that difficult. Basically, you'd need something to render people sterile - the possibilities are nearly endless - and something to limit the effect to "stupid people." And that's where the idea falls apart: intelligence (and by extension stupidity) is not any one, single trait. There's no good way to tell who's smart and who's not - not that you could automate, anyway.

But, okay, maybe Prospective Client was just being flippant or euphemistic.

So I asked him what sort of intelligence he wanted to preserve.

Unfortunately (mostly for him), his answer was about what I expected: "You know, the smart people. The leaders, the achievers, the producers."

Well, all right. He's a politician, so he isn't producing anything. He's trying to convince me to help him because he isn't enough of a leader to convince people to follow his particular vision for the country. I'm not really seeing any signs of achievement, here, either.

I explained that what he wanted wasn't really possible, because any device I made would almost certainly end up sterilizing some people that he didn't want to target. He not only didn't understand, he didn't even believe me - stormed out in high dudgeon. Which, you understand, wasn't very smart.

So I sterilized him.

I did it the old-fashioned way: a massive dose of precisely-aimed radiation from a hidden projector. He might notice, eventually, but I doubt it. And what could he say, in any case? I might not be able to give him what he wanted, but I could at least make my own small contribution to his plan.


  1. Can you repeat the process and do it to whomever you choose?

  2. Well... There is one small limitation: it only works on a line-of-sight basis. And sadly, it isn't mounted high enough to target anything outside of my particular suburb. Now, were I to move it to, say, some sort of orbital platform... well, that would be another matter altogether.


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