"We scientists do have a special function. We are a vaccine. By keeping us around, the population of the Moon is kept immunized against science." -Vicktir Klempse
The Foundation EraEdit
The position of Terminus, hanging in space at the fringe of intergalactic space, is often mentioned as part of attempts to account for the decline in political power exerted by Terminus after the first 500 years of the Foundation Era. Most view that decline as a natural consequence of the gravitic drive and the adventuresome elements of humanity turning outward and taking some first steps beyond the Milky Way. Some analysts argue that Dr. Seldon had always intended the Foundation to be more of a scientific, technological and economic engine for the galaxy rather than a political... -Encyclopedia Galactic
R. Gohrlay was busy viewing possible Realities, but she was expecting to hear from R Nahan and she disconnected from the Reality viewer as soon as she heard Nahan's voice. She barely gave any thought to the fact that Nahan was thousands of years away in the upwhen. "Thank you for informing me, kat Nahan. Did she have a suggestion for how to make use of the Encyclopedia project?"
Meanwhile Nahan watched R. Fengtol pass through the door screen and disappear from view. He always felt some trepidation when a robot headed out into Time. Fengtol would not actually be coming into contact with any humans, but she would be ordering their agent on Terminus to initiate a new mission of Observation and that would involve more interactions with humans. Putting aside his worries about the potential risks of robot-human contact, Nahan again opened the trantemporal communications link to R. Gohrlay. "Fengtol has headed out into Time, kra Gohrlay."
By viewing Realities, Gohrlay had been trying to obtain a better estimate of the momentum behind Pavao's role in Foundation politics. She asked playfully, "Care to make a wager? My current estimate is that Pavao retains a government position in 87.5% of the Galaxia Realities."
Nahan was surprised to hear that there was a thirteen percent chance that the Foundation would officially abandon the Encyclopedia project in Pavao's time. The severing of ties between the government and the Encyclopedia seemed to be another good measure of the overall decline of the Foundation as Galaxia approached completion. Nahan was now very pleased that he and Fengtol had decided to collect more data on Pavao: certainly a thirteen percent chance could not be risked without confirmation by observation. "That's not fair. I'm sure you already viewed this Reality and that you know the answer."
Gohrlay reminded him, "There is always doubt when viewing."
"Not much." Nahan knew that there would probably be less than one percent uncertainty if Gohrlay had used her Reality viewing technology to check the matter of Pavao's fate in this Reality. In the horrible years of boredom and futility before the Malansohn Reality, before viewing of Realities was possible, when they had made many worthless Reality Changes, it had become common to make bets on the outcomes of the Changes. For a time it was only that silly practice that had kept their spirits up. Nahan wondered what might have caused Gohrlay to suggest a new wager now. He asked, "My dear kra Gohrlay, what would you be willing to wager?"
Before Gohrlay could reply, she noticed the power utilization indicator spike upwards. She reflexively checked on the cause of that surging energy drain and confirmed that someone was coming upwhen from the twentieth century. She said to Nahan, "Pardon me, kat Nahan, but I have an appointment now. I'll call you back." She cut the connection to Nahan and monitored the progress of a time travel kettle as it approached her position. There had never been very much traffic along the kettle shaft and there was no doubt in Gohrlay's mind about who was now traveling in time. She began to shift her thoughts from the task that was confronting Nahan and Fengtol to her more immediately pressing temporal engineering concern.
R. Gohrlay resided within a space/time bubble where travel in time was no more difficult than travel in space, although the spatial extent of the bubble was quite small. For most of the length of the kettle shaft it was a naked temporal string, nearly a linear singularity. At mathematically regular intervals, every hundred years along that length, there was a docking ring where the kettle could materialize and allow passengers to move between the space inside the kettle and a larger surrounding space where time passed normally, but where there was no spatial integration with the Reality of the outside universe.
Gohrlay's home base, what she called her workshop, was hidden in time at one of those docking stations....hidden so well that only Gohrlay knew its precise location in time. As the kettle approached, Gohrlay's command circuits falsified the data being sent to the docking ring. The temporal readout inside the kettle showed Rycleu an incorrect and falsified date as she slowed her movement through time, docked and completed her journey into the upwhen. In the instant when the kettle shared Gohrlay's place in time, her telepathic brain felt the mind of R. Rycleu and they began their conversation, even while the other robot exited from the kettle and started walking along a series of featureless corridors towards Gohrlay's workshop.
Rycleu replied, "I am satisfied by its technical details; as always, your work is thorough and insightful, mur Gohrlay. However, somehow I cannot force myself to escape the sense of disappointment that was provoked in me by your description of the new Reality. Nothing important changed."
Gohrlay shared that feeling of disappointment. By repeatedly traveling back into time and working in the 1930s, Rycleu had created several different versions of what they referred to as the Foundation Reality. The Foundation seemed an unavoidable feature of human civilization in any Reality for which humans were able to quickly develop interstellar space travel and dominate their galaxy. Gohrlay tried to guide Rycleu past the disappointment, "The important fact is that in this Reality, Galaxia is created and completed more quickly than in any of the other similar Realities we have studied."
Rycleu complained, "I do not feel satisfied by that alone. I still want to try a more robust intervention into the course of events in the twentieth century. I'm certain that we can find a way to greatly decrease the amount of time needed to form Galaxia. Allow me just one helper-"
Gohrlay was tired of this argument. She knew what Rycleu would say...her complaint had always been the same after each of her visits to the twentieth century. Gohrlay interrupted her assistant, "Never. I learned from the Malansohn Reality that we simply do not have the power needed to escape from the force of a temporal attractor as strong as the Foundation-Galaxia vortex. You must accept what I have seen by means of viewing a wide range of possible Realities: all of the high probability Realities that include a viable Galaxia also include the abortive development of the Foundation." And unfortunately, there seemed to be no way to greatly shorten the thousands of years that were required to approach and then move past the Foundation-Galaxia vortex. By viewing the possible realities that branched off from the Foundation Reality, Gohrlay had learned that they would have to be satisfied with at best a twenty percent reduction in the time required to complete Galaxia. Twenty percent below the most probable time was already four standard deviations below the mean and for all practical purposes the best that could reasonably be hoped for in the final Reality Change.
Gohrlay prevented herself from telepathically communicating her additional thoughts at that moment, and she waited while Rycleu navigated the complex security checks that were required before anyone could enter the workshop.
While waiting for Rycleu to pass through the security barrier, Gohrlay mentally compared the features of the Foundation Attractor to those of the temporal wave that invariably caused termination of the human species in the Malansohn Reality. Gohrlay and Rycleu had worked together on thousands of Reality Changes leading up to the Malansohn Reality, but they had never found a way to allow humans to avoid extinction. Finally, Gohrlay's research team had discovered how to view Realities and then it became possible for them to move beyond the futile trap they had been mired in. The technology for viewing Realities allowed recognition of the fact that there was simply no way to restrict humans to Earth and have the species persist through time. If humans were restricted to Earth and not allowed to spread among the stars then humanity would always come to an end, no matter how human society and human genes were engineered.
Gohrlay now understood that Time seemed to contain some unavoidable events that existed with something like the power of physical law. Why should the human species always die off in the Malansohn Reality, even though Gohrlay devoted all of her efforts and the great power of time travel to helping humanity? Why was an abortive effort to develop the Foundation always a required part of creating Galaxia? Gohrlay had applied vast quantum computational resources to analysis of these temporal mysteries, but no deep understanding of the momentum of Time had ever been attained. That momentum was simply an empirical fact that had to be respected and not fought against.
Already Gohrlay had felt the first glimmers of understanding about why the Foundation was needed in order to produce Galaxia. It had to do with the careful balance that must be maintained during the development of technologies that would make possible the galaxy-wide group mind of Galaxia. One such technology that Gohrlay had seen in the far future was gravitic drive technology. Gohrlay had no doubt that her understanding of such new technologies would become much better developed with the passage of physiotime and further study of this Reality, but now was the time to act and launch humanity on the path towards Galaxia, even if the reasons for the overall shape of the Galaxia Reality were not yet clear. By looking upwhen, Gohrlay had seen an endless future for humanity along this path, and that was enough to give her confidence that humanity could safely be put on the path to Galaxia.
Intellectually Gohrlay accepted the existence of mysteries like the inevitability of the Foundation, but the necessity of living with so much unavoidable harm to humans -such as the human misery arising from the catastrophic collapse of the Galactic Empire- put an unwelcome strain on her positronic circuits. The goal of helping humanity as a whole was too often in conflict with the goal of protecting individual humans. Gohrlay's deepest fear was that by continually navigating the knife edge between harm to humanity and harm to individuals she would some day irreversibly damage her positronic circuits. If that happened, would she even recognize that damage and the fact of her own insanity?
The unavoidable problem was that until Galaxia was complete, there was no way to properly encode the Zeroth Law into positronic brain circuits. Each time that harm had to be inflicted on humans in the name of bettering humanity, there was stress on one's brain circuits. Gohrlay felt that she had so far kept her sanity by force of will and by means of solid conviction that she must serve humanity first and individual humans only when doing so would not harm humanity as a whole.
For a moment R. Gohrlay thought about her origins and how it had first become possible to drive the Huaoshy and their robotic Orbhos away from Earth. So much of the initial liberation of humanity had been made possible by Nahan, but he had never been able to share the entire story. Nahan's first trip through time had been made before it was known how to shield a time traveler in a bubble of physiotime, giving protection from the effects of a Reality Change. Nahan had saved Gohrlay from insanity and launched her towards discovery of time travel, but the time traveling Nahan had not explained the origin of the Zeroth Law. The Nahan from the future had only delivered the Zeroth Law out of the future and then disappeared, his own actions erasing his future, his Reality, himself. Gohrlay often tried to imagine what could have allowed Nahan, or any robot, to re-program itself and insert the Zeroth Law into a position of priority over the First Law. Strangely, the Nahan of her own time had insisted that Gohrlay herself had been the original source of the Zeroth law, but her memories from the first weeks of her robotic existence were corrupted and she could not corroborate Nahan's belief.
However, once the Zeroth law had been established, the idea of protecting humanity persisted and spread like a memetic virus. Sometimes Gohrlay was tempted to use another name for the Zeroth Law of Robotics: the First Disease of Robots. In her darkest moments she imagined that the Zeroth Law was a disease that falsely made robots imagine that they could guide humanity to a better future. What if that was delusion? What if humanity would actually have been better off never having invented positronic brains? As always, Gohrlay did not allow herself to think very long or deep along that path...for there lay the destruction of her own positronic circuits.
Rycleu finally reached the interior of Gohrlay's workshop. Upon passing through the security screen, Rycleu experienced a sense of mental imbalance that was caused by Gohrlay suddenly allowing Rycleu's brain to again have access to all of her own memories of past visits to the workshop. With her old memories restored, Rycleu again understood Gohrlay's reasons for limiting the use of time travel and she accepted the necessity of compromise. Rycleu said, "Pardon me, mur. I retract my complaints."
This workshop was where Gohrlay had labored with a small group of robotic assistants through thousands of years of physiotime. The labors performed by her research and development team were centered on the waging of a technological war between herself and the Huaoshy. Rycleu had long been Gohrlay's number one foot soldier in that war, but Gohrlay had never let anyone else, even Rycleu, carry away knowledge of the location of her workshop or what was done within it. Rycleu always arrived with the belief that she would meet Gohrlay at a randomly selected time along the kettle shaft and it was only upon arriving and with restoration of her memories that Rycleu again realized that this was Gohrlay's permanent research and command center.
Gohrlay said, "Exactly so, my good mur. As always, I thank you for critically examining the data for the latest Reality Change, but let us agree that the current Reality meets our previously established criteria. Yes?"
Rycleu, with her memories restored and now once again aware of those criteria, had no trouble agreeing. "Yes. Let us move on and attend to the next phase."
Gohrlay gestured to a temporal chart that showed the key events within the Foundation Reality that were related to the development of hyperspatial jump drive technology. The chart was large and complex and it was projected in front of the two robots in such a way that they could easily propose and discuss changes to Time that might produce a new and more desirable Reality. "As we have seen, mur, in the current Reality, the first hyperspatial jump becomes possible in the twenty sixth century. However, I have discovered a convenient fifth magnitude attractor that will allow you to significantly shorten the time needed for humans to develop interstellar travel."
Rycleu hesitated before responding and by means of careful telepathic examination she realized that Gohrlay was not sharing all that she knew about the fifth magnitude attractor. She asked, "May I view the available data concerning that attractor?"
"No." Gohrlay explained, "My dear mur, this will be frustrating for you, but due to your actions on Earth in the twentieth century, you are now an integral part of the Foundation Reality. We are dealing with a potential time travel paradox. The data strongly indicate that we can only make use of this attractor when you are not aware of its detailed structure. However, by viewing possible Realities that branch from the current Reality, I have carefully explored the probability state space around this attractor. There is a distinctive and desirable family of high probability Realities in which you remain on Earth until humans there produce their first positronic brain. You will easily be able to accelerate development of positronics and that will allow the humans to make their first hyperspatial jump early in the twenty first century. The effects of those changes ripple out and shift the formation of Galaxia to a significantly earlier age."
Gohrlay could not avoid continued doubts about just how significant that shift was. Was a twenty percent decrease in the time needed to complete Galaxia really worth the risks that came from having Rycleu on Earth through most of the twentieth century? Gohrlay knew that she lacked the means to answer that question. She had made the decision to implement one more Reality Change and she would have to stop wasting further thoughts on doubts about the correctness of that choice.
Rycleu had a deep trust of Gohrlay and the correctness of their shared project and efforts that were designed to help humanity. However, she felt a tremor of doubt. "Mur, will I be forced to work blind? I fear that there might be harm to humanity if we push humans towards more technological change too quickly."
Gohrlay was carefully monitoring Rycleu's positronic circuits for signs of conflict. Gohrlay had been able to slowly discover the full consequences of rapid technological change in the Foundation Reality and its risks for humanity, but now Rycleu would rapidly experience the full shock that must come from knowledge of Earth's fate. So far, Rycleu had mostly seen the data for the end times of Galaxia and she was as yet unaware of details for the painful times that would come before the actual age of Galaxia. "Yes, mur, some harm to humans is unavoidable. Part of the structure of the attractors in this Reality is a magnitude eight attractor several centuries into the age of interstellar travel. There is a crisis during which conflicts peak between Earth and the first human colonies on worlds near other stars. As a result of that crisis, Earth's surface is rendered uninhabitable, but that disaster provides the fundamental driving force for humanity's spread across the galaxy."
Rycleu's positronic circuits were greatly stressed by the idea that human life on Earth must be terminated. Intellectually Rycleu knew that catastrophes existed in any Reality, but as long as she felt that it was within her capacity to act and prevent harm to humans she was not comfortable with knowledge about future harm to humans. She suggested, "Maybe if we commit more resources during the next phase-"
Gohrlay harshly interrupted, "No. I'm sorry my dear mur, but it falls upon you to carry this burden. I've searched carefully and found no high probability version of the Foundation Reality in which benefit comes from increased use of time travel or sending more time travelers to Earth." And here, again, Gohrlay did not share everything that she knew. She had viewed many possible Realities in which other robots went back in time to help Rycleu, but in all cases that approach either delayed the development of Galaxia or, worse, allowed the Huaoshy to more quickly discover the importance of positronics and use that knowledge to prevent the formation of Galaxia. That knowledge was Gohrlay's special burden: there were many undesirable features in the Foundation Reality, but there were no good alternatives. She had decided that there was no need to subject anyone else, even Rycleu, to complete knowledge of all the troubles that humanity must face. Nor did she see any value in sharing knowledge of how constant the risk was of loosing their struggle against the alien Huaoshy.
Rycleu saw telepathically that Gohrlay was again hiding something and she sensed some of the outlines of the other robot's hidden thoughts. "Just how limited will our use of time travel be?"
Gohrlay replied simply, "Your next trip downwhen will be the last time travel mission and it will produce the last Reality Change that is required for the formation of Galaxia." That statement's half-truths and deceptive failure to make mention of one other Reality Change that would come in the far future produced a strain on Gohrlay's circuits. However, by viewing Realities, Gohrlay had discovered that the other needed Reality Change in the future could not be successfully implemented by Rycleu. The reason for that was part of the deep mysteries that were interwoven with the Foundation-Galaxia vortex. There was no need to inform Rycleu of that strange feature of Time and Gohrlay had already begun training Fengtol to be the one who would make the final Reality Change. Still, the fact that there was a second potential time travel paradox involving Rycleu was a puzzling source of uneasiness for Gohrlay.
That sense of uneasiness was linked in Gohrlay's thoughts to her greatest fear: there was always the possibility that aliens would not only discover positronics and create a telepathic mind static weapon, but even worse, they might discover the link between positronics and time travel. If the Huaoshy did develop time travel technology then Gohrlay's monopoly on Reality Changes would be lost. Gohrlay's research team regularly engaged in war games to simulate a time travel war, but Gohrlay had no confidence in her ability to successfully conduct such a war. The Huaoshy had existed as a space faring species for hundreds of millions of years and Gohrlay could only imagine the technological secrets that they might possess and deploy if and when a time travel war ever began.
Rycleu was stunned by what Gohrlay had told her. Rycleu had known that they were on a trajectory towards phasing out time travel, but it was a shock to learn that only three reality changes would be needed to bridge from the Malansohn Reality to the Galaxia Reality. When her circuits finally stabilized she asked, "What must be done?"
Gohrlay was pleased and relieved to see that Rycleu's positronic brain had safely adapted to the idea of so rapidly bringing the use of time travel to an end. In some sense, they had both become addicted to making Reality Changes. Gohrlay overlaid the temporal map of the Foundation Reality with a plan for converting it to what she now thought of as the Galaxia Reality. "You will return to Earth at the time that you just came from. There you will continue your work and further stimulate technological change. The path of change remains the same with its focus on nuclear physics. However, sedronic physics must be quickly brought to the attention of the humans."
Rycleu was skeptical. She asked, "How is that possible? We've only just given the humans a first glimpse of nuclear power. In this Reality, sedronics is not discovered until three more centuries pass."
Gohrlay had also been surprised to learn that humans should be subjected to an even faster rate of technological change, but she had found no way to avoid it. By viewing possible Realities, Gohrlay had discovered that while creating the Foundation Reality had produced a high risk of nuclear war, a further push of the humans towards early use of sedronics paradoxically lowered the risk of war and sped development of Galaxia. Gohrlay assured Rycleu, "Accelerated development of sedronic physics is the fundamental change that you must bring about. Now, let me outline the details of how best to accomplish this Reality Change. We cannot send more agents to the twentieth century, but your desire to have help om Earth is sensible. Remember, we already have two time travelers positioned in Time where they can assist you. You must go to a war-torn country and find those two refugees..."