The Universal Righteousness Machine
Professor Zygote had finally cracked the automation equation,
paving the way for the creation of the ulti-mate machine,
a machine capable of wip-ing out all forms of crime overnight
— without the help of guards, policemen, detectives, lawyers,
judges, juries, jailers, executioners, parole officers,
alarm sys-tems, prisons, or even locks and keys. The very
thought was staggering. It would truly be the ultimate machine,
the law enforcement machine.
If accepted by the people, the ma-chine would be installed
in the nation’s capital. Powered by gigantic thermo-nuclear
dynamos, it would direct an im-mense laser beam toward a
stationary space satellite in the sky over North America.
Relay stations evenly spaced over the land would pick up
the signals as they bounced off and radiate them out in
all directions to be picked up by tiny tran-sistor devices.
These devices were so small that by a simple surgical operation
one could be planted under the scalp where it would pick
up the signals and send them on into the brain, producing
a predetermined response.
“But the rumor is not true,” Dr. Zygote tirelessly
pointed out on his exhaustive speaking tours around the
land, “that the machine does a person’s thinking
for him. Indeed not.” The computer itself was programmed
with none other than the laws of the land, and it simply
beamed a negative impulse into a person’s brain if
he tried to break the law.
The President himself and most of Congress had personally
tested a model of the machine, had been delighted, and had
recommended to the nation that the Con-stitution be amended
to require every citizen to wear one of the transistor
One Senator, while testing the de-vice, had tried to plunge
a knife into one of his colleagues and had found himself
“pleased as a child with a new toy” that he
had been unable to do so. Professor Zygote’s machine
was indeed a miracle.
To be sure, there were questions and objections raised about
the law enforcement machine, but the overriding fact was
that crime was engulfing the nation, and Professor Zygote’s
invention seemed to be the only remedy left.
When the system was completed, it was set in operation by
the President him-self in a special ceremony. The effect
was as startling as it was immediate. Prisons, jails, correctional
institutions of all descriptions opened their doors; and
the most hardened criminals- each wearing his own transistor
device-went out, never to commit another crime. All forms
of crime, from corruption of judges and high government
officials to muggings on the street, were wiped out overnight.
Policemen obtained other jobs. Social workers took vacations.
Lock makers went out of business.
Professor Zygote. now a very old man, was honored beyond
any other man in history. So complicated were his formu-las
that nobody else had been able to un-derstand them or knew
how his machine worked. He died seeing his “dream
come true” — a moral utopia.
A few dissenters were saying that the machine changed only
the exterior behavior of a person, but did nothing to change
his motives, desires, and impulses. However, no one paid
much attention. “After all, crime has been wiped out,
hasn’t it?” syndicated a national colum-nist.
“If it works, it’s right!” The statement
became a national slogan.
Women walked the streets at night unmolested. Credit was
extended to everyone. Because the demand for their products
had dropped off so sharply, weapons manufacturers diversified
into other lines of business.
But all was not unity and peace in paradise. Despite all
disclaimers, many people were extremely unhappy with the
law-enforcement machine. Addicts, whose only ways to support
their habits were criminal, found themselves without funds.
Mobsters were reduced to rags.
Wealthy ladies would wear their jew-els into the most depraved
slum areas at night, scoffing at the misery and at the men
who leaned out of windows yelling, “Woman, if that
machine would let me. I’d kill you!”
Psychiatric offices had lines blocks long. Leading psychiatrists
were saying more and more that murder and other forms of
anti-social behavior, such as child beating, assault and
battery, rape, and so forth, had been ways of releasing
pent-up hostility. Now, since the machine had closed off
these escape hatches; people were going insane.
Mental hospitals were overflowing. All the structures that
had formerly been prisons, jails, reformatories, and the
like were now converted into mental institutions. And former
policemen and detectives, put out of work by the law enforcement
machine, were re-employed to care for the insane.
But those who had money, position, and influence were well
off. Nobody could touch them. They used legal methods to
get their revenge. The most complicated and subtle legalistic
system every devised was worked out to circumvent the law
and make one’s way without it.
Yet no crimes were committed, not because people didn’t
want to, but be-cause they couldn’t. Every newborn
child was fitted. Every alien entering the coun-try was
fitted. Fugitives were quickly tracked down and fitted.
Nor could the device, once fitted, be taken out-for the
newly-enacted national law would not permit it.
Then one day the machine began to shake, emitting aloud
buzzing sound. It grew louder and louder and the shaking
more intense until the whole capital city was shaking and
the noise had drowned out even the cacophony of the traffic.
Frantic technicians slaved in droves around the machine,
all to no avail. Terrified scientists searched the late
Dr. Zygote’s papers in vain for a clue. Noth-ing worked.
The machine — steel, crystals, wires, transistors ał was
simply giving out.