Story 1: David and Goliath and a Stone in a Sling
Circa: Many centuries ago, BC – Valley of Elah
David, the youngest son of Jesse, lived in Israel many centuries ago. Around that time the Philistines declared war on the Israelites. The two armies were camped on opposite sides of the steep valley of Elah. David being the youngest was sent to watch over the family’s flock of sheep while his elder brothers went to fight in the Israelite army. However, it was David’s duty to carry food and water for his brothers every day.
And every day they would hear the roaring voice of a giant warrior named Goliath. This giant of a man stepped out of the Philistine camp with his armour and shield and challenged the army from Israel. The soldiers were afraid; none of them were willing to fight Goliath. Even King Saul of Israel was afraid of the giant. Everyone was worried that Goliath would single-handedly destroy them.
Then, David, the young boy, said: “I’ll fight Goliath.”
“How can you? You are so young,” said his brothers. Even King Saul tried to stop him: “How can you even touch him? Look at how his entire body is protected by invincible armour.”
“God will help me,” said David. He prepared for his battle with Goliath. He carried a simple slingshot and gathered some stones in his pocket. The Israeli soldiers were stunned.
David came to the middle of the battleground and challenged Goliath. When the giant Goliath came out swinging his sword with his shield and armour, and saw that the Israelite army had sent a little boy to fight him, he started roaring with laughter. Everyone was afraid that Goliath would tear David to shreds with his bare hands.
However, David calmly put one stone in his slingshot and aimed it at Goliath’s forehead. The stone from the slingshot hit the giant Goliath on his forehead and lodged itself there.
Goliath fell. One stone aimed at the right spot was enough to bring down a giant. Sensing his opportunity, David killed Goliath with his big sword. On seeing this, the Philistine army panicked and ran away. And a little shepherd boy saved his country from enslavement and gave them the gift of freedom.
STORY 2: The Mis-guided Missile
(The descendant of the stone in the sling-shot)
Circa: Between 2000 and 2007 AD- This World of Ours
“Our scientific power has outrun our spiritual power.
We have guided missiles and misguided men.”
Martin Luther King Jr., Strength to Love, 1963
US civil rights leader & clergyman (1929 – 1968)
The Thinker can Think – screamed the media and leaders of the free world at the world’s biggest ever party to launch (marketingly, and not literally) the most advanced guided missile the world had ever known: The “Thinker”. “This is bigger than the Titanic and this will not sink. It will fly – straight into the hearts of our enemies and destroy those who have evil designs on our way of life.” The President of Goliath – the only country in the world that spoke in superlatives about itself – broke out into a song, “We are the (masters of the) world,” and dancers and divas performed with rappers in the slickest Hollywood choreography the world had ever seen. All this time the “Thinker” stood tall and quiet in one corner, surrounded by festoons and balloons, unlike its hunched namesake that brooded in some corner of a once mighty empire and is now known only for its bags, belts and designer bandwagon.
The Thinker was a missile with a mind. It was not merely a missile but a lean-mean fighting machine – a highly trained marine or commando that just happened to look like a missile. The Thinker was the technological samurai – the kamikaze-warrior – or the suicide-bomber of the free world; it would commit hara-kiri at the push of a button for its freedom-loving masters with no blood spilt except that of the enemy. And for once the men of marketing were not lying.
The Thinker was an accidental, but fortunate, break for the Millytree-Industree Company, which was running at a loss for the past decade; their value in international stock exchanges was at an all-time low. A conglomerate that had extensive competitive advantage in biological and nuclear weaponry had lost it all thanks to the Internet. Nowadays, anyone with access to a high-school biology lab could develop biological weapons at low cost by using DIY (do it yourself) manuals downloaded from the website “Biodegrade your Enemy”; and the proliferation of nuclear know-how on web-sites such as “Cook-your-own-Nuke” had made sales tough for the managers at Millytree-Industree. Furthermore, their special relationship with the government of Goliath, who had bailed them out ten years in a row, was in rough waters because of the budget deficit. The Thinker was therefore a priceless gift.
The “Thinker” had all the features of regular missiles with the nuclear warheads and all the destructive powers. However, a fusion of artificial intelligence and space-shuttle technology gave rise to an innovation called the ‘chip-and-circuit co-inhabitor’. This unique device implanted in the nose of the missile endowed it with the capacity to think. The Thinker had a nose for finding and destroying the enemy, the Defense Secretary had laughingly commented.
The Thinker was also mounted with a television monitor at the base of its nose. This helped the Thinker to process information from two inputs, the video-camera and the monitor. It could scrutinize enemy movements using the video and simultaneously analyze information fed into a television screen from Goliath’s satellites and on-ground stations. Any change of plans or last-minute breakthroughs in diplomatic negotiations broadcast live on network television would instantaneously flash on the monitor, and it would abort the mission.
This unique combination of chips, circuits, television and video feeds with the co-inhabitor gave it the unique abilities of a human mind. The Thinker could process and analyze information within micro-seconds, make decisions and execute new commands, change its thought and follow the new thought process without as much as a shudder. Moreover, its precision ensured no wastage of thousands of missiles and billions of dollars as had happened during previous wars.
The “Thinker” could just hang over the head of the enemy like that proverbial Damocles sword; put fear in their hearts as they wondered: will this missile land or will it not? The Thinker was the ultimate military tool for molding those who played hard to negotiate. Giving a missile a mind had solved a centuries-old dilemma: How do we control those who do not want to be controlled?
This new guided missile quickly became the toast of the nation. Viewer ratings for television channels shot up whenever the Thinker was mentioned. The talk of every town, the master of every parade; the economy went to market with it – there were replica toys and books, watches and Thinker underwear, coffee-mugs and mouse pads, and T-shirts on sale with the Thinker’s nose staring out from all of them. Babies born that week were named Thinker. Plastic surgeons advertised nose jobs on the front pages of major newspapers. People started rubbing noses with each other as a sign of affection, and the CEO of a chain retail outlet even required his employees to thumb their noses at customers as a sign of pride in their nation’s most thoughtful creation.
In the meantime, The Thinker oblivious to all this hype, because its television circuit was not connected to any satellite dish, felt lonely in his base camp in a corner of Goliath. The Thinker knew it was near the sea; it could hear the sound of the ocean but could not turn around because it was fixed to a platform and tied to some sort of scaffolding. “Why do these scientists and soldiers tie me down? It’s not like I am just going to fly away,’ it thought.
And then it heard a sound; someone was sniffling and sobbing. The Thinker could see a little boy sitting all alone in the corner of the silo. “What’s wrong dear child? Why are you crying?” The Thinker thought. And the child responded, “Because none of my friends want to play with me”. The Thinker was amazed and delighted. Finally, someone who could understand what was going on inside its mind. “That is such a shame. You are such a wonderful child. How old are you?” “I am six,” replied the boy, “and I am not wonderful, I am terrible because no one wants to be my friend.” “I will be your friend if you will let me. I am lonely too. Because no one can understand what I am thinking, but you can.” said The Thinker.
“I want to be your friend too, but you are the reason my friends tease me. My daddy claims that he invented the ‘chip-and-circuit co-inhabitor’ that gives you a mind. But, all the other scientists claim they did. And now all the families in this base-camp have stopped talking to us and no one plays with me anymore.”
“That’s too bad,” said The Thinker, “maybe, if you come and meet me every day, we can find a solution. But, please, no one must know because if they find out they will stop us from meeting each other. What is your name?”
“David,” smiled the little boy, “and I can keep a secret too.” And little David returned every evening to meet The Thinker; they became the best of friends. And it was their secret.
In a few weeks the people were tired of too much talk about the Thinker and turned to other stories. The opposition sensing a political opportunity asked: Who will pay for The Thinker? And then the skeptics stepped in: “How do we even know that “The Thinker” can think? Is there proof?” And 67% of the people polled that week said they wanted proof too. Now the President was under pressure. The elections were near. He could not let some thinking machine cause his downfall. So, he pushed the intelligence agencies for proof and they came up with the only solution they had for all problems of the free world: “A war.”
So, the President huddled with his advisors and since all modern wars were embedded with journalists, all secret meetings that could lead to a war were attended by BNN (Babel News Network). The President said, “Gentlemen and ladies, Goliath has to go to war, but, we need an enemy. Find a country where BNN can set up cameras and transmission units without much difficulty because I want the world to witness this great event. And, do I have to remind you that the target cannot be a place where the business interests of our multi-nationals get jeopardized. This war will prove that the thinking missile is not a figment of our imagination.”
While the government men and women made hasty preparations for an ensuing battle, the Thinker, found itself surrounded by soldiers and scientists; however, no one could understand him or read its mind like the little boy David. The Thinker missed his friend. And then The Thinker sensed words punched on a keyboard attached to the side of its body near the base. The Thinker decoded the message – “You have a mission to fulfill tomorrow. This is your opportunity to prove that you are the best among all missiles on this planet. Are you ready to target our enemies and destroy them? Are you ready to give your life for this great democracy?” The Thinker felt a sensation of heat surge inside its chip-filled nose. It was a sense of pride, exactly what a samurai warrior would have felt in these circumstances. And it thought: Who is the enemy?”
The backroom boys from the President’s office and BNN had selected a faraway land in the poorest and darkest continent as the enemy. It was the country of choice not only because the effects of a nuclear explosion there would not affect any members of the free world but also because its government was a puppet in the hands of one rich man. He owned all the land after he had made the tribal chiefs sign their land over in return for television sets and a regular supply of beer. The main export of that country was oil and the bombings would actually reduce the price of oil globally because the government would want to sell the oil before it all burned. And reduced oil prices were welcomed by everyone, including the stringent critics of Goliath, because lower oil prices meant more protestors could drive to various anti-war rallies. Most importantly, at this particular time of the year, the satellites of BNN would be hovering right above that country, and the live relay of the Thinker’s war on television would be as clear as if the nuclear warheads were exploding next door.
The backroom boys had also found an excellent trigger for starting the war. Some idealistic young men and women from the targeted country, influenced by some extraordinary constitution written a few centuries ago that saw all men as equal, had expressed dissatisfaction with their nation’s state of inequality. They had called for general strikes throughout their country. They had serious doubts about the motives of their own government, which they believed had become a puppet of the powerful and mighty. They shouted their throats hoarse demanding bread for their fellow countrymen and this call for food was conveniently interpreted by Goliath’s backroom boys as a call against freedom and choice.
The President promptly announced, “We are going to war, country persons. As we all agree, anybody who dares complain about our way of life is an enemy of freedom and free choice. Why don’t these rabble rousers understand that there is no choice except choosing free choice? And since we are sworn to protecting freedom and choice, we have no choice but to destroy the enemies of freedom all over the world. Tomorrow at exactly 9:05 p.m., we will launch the Thinker and let it loose on the country that has dared to challenge our principles of freedom and choice. We have to remind the rest of the world that no one is free to challenge the free world.” The viewers applauded as the canned laughter on TV faded into a commercial for running shoes.
By 7 p.m. Free World Time, which was the dark hour of midnight in the target country in the not so free world, the television transmission vans and radars had been set up by BNN. At some secret underground station in Goliath the programmers at the Millytree-Industree Company’s research laboratory were running a simulation of the Thinker’s flight path across the ocean. The Thinker would strike the enemy’s heart and create a devastation that would last for the next thirty years. Of course, then the international lending institutions would swoop like vultures in a desert, hand out loans to the devastated country to the tune of tens of billions of dollars at extremely high interest rates in the name of rebuilding infrastructure, and devastate the next thirty generations of families that had never even seen the war. War was good business indeed. The President would have no dearth of campaign funds, and he would in turn convince the taxpayers that war and investment in defense was good for the people because it was good for big business. After all, who else, except the corporations, could give more freedom of choice to the people? The backroom boys patted themselves on their backsides for having thought this out better than any thinker could.
The hoopla that preceded the first-ever military launch of the Thinker had reached the far corners of the world thanks 24/7 global news and social media. At exactly 9 pm, which was 2 am in the enemy country, the President announced the name of the country that was to be the Thinker’s first-ever target. This was broadcast live on BNN to 4 billion consumers worldwide and 177 countries including the one targeted as the enemy. The people in the targeted country panicked. The children started crying, the men screamed, and the women wailed and beat their chests. No one knew what to do, who to turn to; there was confusion all around. The country became chaos. “This is great TV,” said the BNN correspondent and immediately deployed his best cameraman on the streets to carry the live shots of chaos and mayhem to the rest of the world. Sensing the opportunity of a lifetime to grab all those eyeballs with their commercials the corporations, TV channels and marketing pundits decided that more time be given to The Thinker’s flight. Mission control said a slow speed would ensure that Thinker flew slower, the show lasted longer and more commercials could be beamed to the world.
It was 9.05 pm in the free world, and at a signal from the President, the Chief of Mission Control communicated with the Thinker using a special code. The Thinker like any good soldier had psychologically prepared itself for battle. The Thinker wanted to ask the reason for adopting a slow speed trajectory because that would increase the tension within its circuits; but no one understood the Thinker except David, the little boy.
At the press of a red button the Thinker set off for the target destination, although at a slightly slower speed. In order to keep its attention away from the pit-in-the-stomach feeling generated by the launch and the sudden change in altitude that made it dizzy, The Thinker tried to focus on the TV screen mounted in front of its nose. The commercials were funny, a good distraction, thought the Thinker. Then, as its system adjusted to the flight, the Thinker looked around and saw the magnificent view of the coastline and then the blue seas. A few confused seagulls flew alongside the Thinker for some time, flapping their wings and making strange squawking sounds. The Thinker even saw an airplane flying some distance away. It’s a wonderful world, sang The Thinker to itself.
The Thinker was now flying at a higher altitude when it encountered static on the TV monitor. The Thinker tinkered with the TV monitor to re-establish reception. This was urgent because it was also the channel for military commanders to transmit any change in plans. The Thinker nervously fiddled with the circuits, and suddenly the monitor mounted on its nose picked up the live transmission on BNN. The Thinker saw live pictures of fear being beamed from the targeted enemy country – close-ups of panic-stricken people – right under its nose. Agony and panic of people among humans in one country transmitted live to other humans all over the world who just sat and watched the spectacle on their television screens. The poor conditions in which these people lived; filth on their streets, squalor inside their houses, emaciated men, women covered in torn garments huddled with crying children inside houses with no roofs flashed from the TV screen straight at The Thinker. “How could these people be the enemy of the most powerful nation in the world? They can’t raise their arms to wear their shirts, let alone fire a rifle.”
But, the Thinker was a trained soldier – a technological samurai – a kamikaze warrior – trained to target and destroy. It wiped all self-doubts from its computer screen. The Thinker checked its circuits again. The in-built digital clock struck a reminder in its circuits that contact with target was only a couple of minutes away. The Thinker looked straight ahead and saw land. It was leaving the ocean behind. As it started descent the land and the water merged into one and whizzed at fast-forward underneath, while on the TV monitor in front of it, the people screamed, wailed, and prayed to the skies.
Everything seemed blurry for a while, and suddenly, the Thinker saw itself zooming into some dark tunnel with a bright light at the end. The Thinker was confused. Its nose did not tell it that the target had been hit. What unknown and un-programmed reason has brought this this strange vision? It thought. What the programmers had not reckoned when they gave the missile a mind was that just before the Thinker exploded, or died, it would see its entire life flash in front of its eyes. That was a price one paid for having a human mind, but the scientists could not foresee that.
The Thinker’s life flashed in front of its eyes. It was a missile and its life story went back thousands of years to the first ever missile used in history. The Thinker saw a little boy defend a group of weak people against a huge and strong giant who wanted to oppress them. The Thinker faintly heard the people call the boy’s name; it sounded like David. And this little boy David picked up a stone, put it on a hand-held sling, and hurled it with great aim onto the forehead of this giant. The stone hit the giant; the Thinker could almost see the mighty giant fall flat on his face. The people screamed: We are free. The poor rejoiced and sang praises to David, while the stone – that first ever missile – the predecessor of the Thinker – lay silently on the ground next to the giant, whose name sounded like Goliath. No one picked up the stone to worship it nor did the people throw parties later to celebrate its birth as a missile. That stone was just a mere stone and would remain a stone forever. Yet, this simple stone had forever changed the way humans would see history.
This stone, the first missile and the Thinker’s ancestor, had established the hope of freedom among the weak and the meek – that they too could be free on this earth. Instead of sheer strength, David had used his mind. If people used their minds, started thinking, then stones could become missiles, not to capture and conquer new land, but to get back one’s rightful share. The stone was inert. It was the thought that had launched it that was powerful. And the Thinker could hear its ancestor – the inert stone- say the same thing over and over again, “Don’t lose your life in vain. If you have to be used, then let yourself be used for a just cause. What’s the use of a mind if you let someone else’s thoughts guide you? We are missiles but shall we always remain mere tools in the hands of the one that launches us, if so, then we have to be wary of the thought that launches us.”
The Thinker realized that despite its ability to think, it was still a tool in the hands of the greedy and the powerful. The Thinker’s mind arose out of no motives to innovate, to create new technology or to make anyone else’s life better, but out of thoughts that were unjust – out of the desire to control the weak and subjugate the meek. The Thinker felt cheated. It saw itself as the embodiment of all injustice that existed on this planet. It was not created because of someone’s love for science and technology but to satisfy the lust of the powerful. The Thinker was simply a dangerous missile. And of all things, they called me ‘guided’. At that moment The Thinker felt like the most misguided being that ever flew across the face of this earth. The Thinker felt a strange sensation surge in the chips and circuits in its nose – a profound sense of shame and guilt. How could it have thought of itself as an original? After all, it was merely thinking the thoughts of the powerful and the oppressive. Their thought was the warhead – it had nothing to do with him, none of the hoopla and the hype was about him, it was all about them wanting more of everything. The Thinker heard the words of wisdom from its ancestor, the stone – the first ever missile in history, as it sped along that dark tunnel, and then suddenly came out into the brightest light it had ever encountered. “Don’t let your life be a waste. After all, you are The Thinker.” The digital clock showed 30 seconds to target.
The Thinker could not handle the conflict churning within its circuits. “Live up to your ancestors’ principles,” shouted the ancestor stone. The people on the TV monitor wailed and screamed, and lifted their skinny arms to the skies. Ten seconds to target – ticked the digital timer. The Thinker did not want its life to be a waste. After all, it would be letting down its ancestors and all of history. “Yes,” thought the Thinker, “I have been launched to prove to the world that I can truly think. Let my actions prove it.” The digital timer was stuck at 10 seconds to target. “Yes, I can think,” were the Thinker’s last words, as it turned around and flew back in the direction of Goliath from which it had been launched just a few minutes ago.
And then The Thinker thought of David, the little boy, his only friend on this planet who understood. How could “The Thinker” turn on the country where his friend, David, lived and as did many little boys and girls like David? The Thinker was afraid it would explode and kill more innocent people so it changed trajectory and took off towards outer space. As it went high up into the atmosphere, it tried to detonate and kill itself but the buttons jammed; they did not pick up signals from base camp. And so The Thinker circles the Earth afraid that if it came too close it will explode and kill innocent children; and curses itself that unthinkingly it had almost become a tool in the hands of Goliath. And just like the power-hungry men had, it hangs like the sword of Damocles, but on the heads of all those who live on this planet! But that’s a secret between The Thinker and you, its friend.
© Parababel, 2013
David and Goliath: http://goodnessofgodministries.wordpress.com/2010/12/19/605/
Silo Nuclear Missile: http://www.urbanghostsmedia.com/2010/03/anatomy-of-a-titan-nuclear-missile-silo/
Plume from launch: http://epod.usra.edu/blog/2005/11/plume-from-vanderberg-missile-launch.html