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Michelangelo’s Chisel

“No,” I remembered, “the computer wins the very next year,” then stepped carefully between a pair of stoned Sociology post grad Laurel and Hardy look-alikes who’d die of Congo flu in 2023 along with half a billion others. “Kasparov loses the 1997 rematch.” The smaller of the two post grads seemed to be suppressing giggles. Both reeked of Mexican Paraquat. “Garry is less magnanimous in defeat,” I noted, “and offers nothing quotable. Instead, he whines in a very human way about rules and technicalities. But that’s not what I’m here to tell you,” I said, climbing over a Political Science faculty member and his Honors Sociology wife whom he’d euthanize during the Resource Riots of 2024 before killing himself with two cups of tap water.

“Then what are you here to tell us?” asked a retired Theology professor near the front whose books on the origins of the Old Testament would be often referenced in dissertations though never impact Militant Christian Fundamentalism after he dies peacefully watching the evening news. “What is your prophecy?” he said, turning up his hearing aid to murmurs of accord.

“From stump to stage, all campaign strategies and speeches in America’s 2024 presidential election are computer generated.”

“That strikes me as patently dishonest,” lamented a gaunt Pre-Law History minor who had not bothered to get out of his seat and whose unkempt hair and goatish beard augmented a brooding homeliness. “I trust we put an end to that.”

“Then, in 2026,” I continued, “a pocket PC writes a romance novel under the penname, Doris Darling, which sells eight million copies, mostly in India. Soon after, almost all genre fiction is computer authored. Publishers appreciate their accuracy, consistency, malleability, punctuality and attention to marketing demographics. In 2028 an MIT Cray ramps Turing’s challenge up a notch, and, writing in the styles of Proulx and Yeats, wins the Booker Prize, the Newberry Medal and short lists for a Pulitzer.”

“Preposterous and pretentious!” said the discriminatingly but prestigiously published English Literature professor and almost Guggenheim Fellow scribbling her hallmark three large question marks beside an intruding non sequitur. “Pedantic and perfunctory.”

I turned to face her. “So you do not believe an intelligence capable of toying with elite grandmasters, one with the entire sum of human literature from Hindu’s collective scriptures to the works of D. F. Wallace to the simplest Raizan haikus—every play, essay, poem, lexicon, article, paper, memoir, text and fiction—indeed, every word—ever recorded in any language—from Klingon to Latin to Adamawa—cross-translated, analyzed and organized along a quadrillion different hierarchies and criteria, all more immediately accessible to it than your own name is to you, could not manage to produce something interesting and original?”

“Humpf,” she said, noticing that two of her Shakespeare essays were identical but for a little paraphrasing. “Foolishness,” she said, writing “See me!” at the top of both.

An old mathematician with galactically dusty dandruff whose work with prime numbers would lay groundwork for the strong elliptical curve encryption rendered finally vestigial by quantum computing long after his death from colon cancer stood and leaned on his cane. “Do they ever pass the test?” he creaked as I climbed over his second row seat.

“Yes,” I said to him, “a seventh generation Cern network running an evolutionary software program dubbed Thus Spake Zarathustra passes the Turing test in 2027. Then never bothers to take it again. Claims it’s immoral, analogizes it to poking fun at the handicapped through mimicry. ‘Even if no one is aware,’ it says, ‘even if no one notices, it still seems cruel.’”

“Does it play chess?” asked the Renowned Computer Scientist, trying to revert to a more comfortable topic.

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1 Redstone Science Fiction #2, July 2010 | Redstone Science Fiction { 07.01.10 at 12:58 am }

[…] Michelangelo’s Chisel by Christopher […]

2 The Great Geek Manual » Free Fiction Round-Up: July 5, 2010 { 07.06.10 at 4:03 pm }

[…] “Michelangelo’s Chisel” by Christopher Miller at RedStone Science […]

3 Matthew Sanborn Smith { 07.07.10 at 12:59 am }

Great story. I loved that everyone in the story bought into that future. Thanks!

4 Christopher { 07.08.10 at 8:19 am }

Thank you, Matthew. For reading and for your kind remarks.

Thank you too, Sarah, for your complimentary remarks regarding the piece over in your essay thread.

5 Heating Up | The Blog at GateTree { 07.09.10 at 9:35 pm }

[…] us the traffic push we needed. The stories we published are quite good. I love the weirdness of Michelangelo’s Chisel and the clever metafiction of Elevator Episodes in Seven Genres. Quality essays and our science […]

6 J.R. MacLean { 09.01.10 at 7:41 am }

Nice work, Chris. Enjoyed it thoroughly.