"The laws of Nature [seem] perpetually subject to challenge
by the scientific court of appeal."
--Alan Dean Foster
General Wye, Graham and Deborah spent breakfast of the following
day comparing notes on the previous evening. The General - now
renamed 'Dictator' - reported his pillow talk with the US
ambassador, to the interest of Graham and the slight disapproval
"Absolaam, I'm not sure it was wise to let the Americans know
our plans quite so soon."
"Perhaps not, Deborah," said the Dictator, chastened, "But the
damage - if damage there is - is done now, so it's best to bear
it in mind in the future. In any case," he smiled, playfully, "I
think it was worth it - and it might be a good idea to let them
think that those are our entire objectives - after all, I didn't
mention the extent of the new Network, or our aims regarding
"Or the research goals, eh, General?" added Graham.
"Exactly," agreed Wye, "These long-term philosophical goals
might cause them to delay taking notice of the short-term
scientific goals for just long enough to let us get away with
poaching their best minds. What's left of them, that is," he
Graham and Deborah agreed, with some reservations from Deborah,
before she said, "Now to our own evening.
"On the way down, Graham and I came up with two rumours which we
each spread, surreptitiously, at the Knees-up," she smiled at the
irony of the name they'd applied to the previous evening's rather
"The first," she went on, "Which I spread, was to do with
bacteriological weapons. The story I spread was that I'd heard
tales from the highest levels of the Dictator's new advisors that
nuclear weaponry was to be dismantled."
"True enough - when we have the time to do so, and find a use to
put them to," agreed Wye.
"Hmmm," she agreed, though less than wholeheartedly, "But the
same tales also mentioned bacteriological weapons which would be
used, in place of a nuclear strike. So, an attack on Britain
would result in retaliation by germ warfare," thinking back, she
added, "The responses were quite promising - I don't think
anybody would risk that kind of retaliation."
"Wise idea, Deborah - and what was your story, Graham?"
"Mine was a little more subtle, Genera...Dictator," Graham
grinned, "By the way, your new title went down very well - those
ambassadors were quite bowled over by it."
Deborah nodded her agreement, "Yes - it made spreading tales of
your ruthlessness far easier. Of course, the broadcast of the
'massacre' helped a lot in that as well."
Wye was grinning like an idiot by now, as he said, "Thank you -
it just came to me in a flash when I walked into the hall." Then,
seriously, he added, "I like the title, though, it's got just the
right touch of irony to it. Do you think I should keep it?"
"Oh, undoubtedly," replied Graham.
"Yes, not that you've got much choice in the matter by now,"
Deborah added, "In the newspapers - and on the TV and radio -
they were all calling you 'Dictator of the British Isles' this
morning," she grinned, "But you're right in any case - it's a
"In fact," she went on, "It might be a good idea to re-title all
government positions in the same fashion."
"How do you mean?"
"Well - have you both read Swift's Gulliver's Travels?" They
nodded, so she continued, "Well, on the island of Laputa no
official ever spoke or listened to anybody else unless their
servants - called 'flappers' - flapped their lips or ears with a
bladder. The servants would do this whenever it was important in
their opinion that their master listened or spoke to that person.
"The Laputan system, for obvious reasons, is very like the
bureaucratic system of hierarchies between the 'common folk' and
the higher levels of government and the civil service."
"So, you're suggesting," Graham asked his wife, "That we re-name
civil servants 'flappers,' the better to describe their actions?"
"Exactly - each civil servant has, as her primary purpose,
'flapping' at the ears and lips of her superior, who has the same
purpose until the lips and ears of the head of the government are
"The only difference between Laputa and the civil service is
that on Laputa flappers ignored those who they didn't think were
important enough to bother their masters with, while in the civil
service they will either deal with them under the rigid set of
rules sent down from on high by their masters, or send a memo
"An admirable concept, Deborah," the Dictator announced,
pressing the intercom button on the table. The Cabinet Secretary
answered almost at once - so quickly, in fact, that Wye almost
choked on the piece of fried tomato he was trying to quickly
"Yes, Dictator?" came the muffled voice.
"Ah, Cabinet Secretary," Wye began, "Tell me, what is the lowest
grade in the civil service?" He was told, so he went on, "As of
this moment, the job title of that position is to be designated
'First Flapper.' The title of the grade immediately above is to
be 'Second Flapper,' and so on, up to and including the Permanent
"Might I ask why, Dic..." the muffled voice began, then -
thinking better of questioning Wye again - meekly answered, "Very
"Good, good," Wye answered. Then, almost as an afterthought,
"Oh, and the position of Cabinet Secretary is - of course - one
grade higher than that of Permanent Secretary. So what would your
new title be?"
After a bare moment's thought, the ex-Cabinet Secretary
answered, "Fifty-ninth Flapper, Sir."
Wye whistled in astonishment - he hadn't realised that there
were so many layers - before telling the 59th Flapper to inform
all civil servants of their new job title, and switching off the
"I don't think he was happy about that, Absolaam," said Deborah,
after a moment's pause.
"I'd agree, Deborah. I think," Wye almost choked on a crisp
piece of bacon as he added, "I think that he - too - has read
The Three laughed together - Deborah's high, tinkling laugh
mixing with her husband's low baritone and Wye's half-choking.
For a few seconds, sounds of mirth echoed around the Cabinet Room
before Wye turned to Graham, "You were about to tell me the story
you spread last night, before we got sidetracked..." he said,
"Yes?" he re-gained his train of thought, "Ah, yes. So I was. As
I was saying, my story was rather more subtle than Deborah's germ
"I spread a rumour that the Dictator's," he nodded in Wye's
direction, "First action had been to add a ninja-like section to
the British Army, and had dispersed it to various countries
around the world. The aim of the new section was to assassinate
any leaders and underlings who decided to attack the British
"I'll tell you - the thought of their own necks in the noose and
those diplomats...well, you could almost see them take a pledge
to fight any aggression against this country," he laughed again,
low and booming.
Wye himself thought for a moment before saying, "You know,
that's not a bad idea, though." At the Greenes' questioning
expressions, he elaborated further, "I mean, making warfare
"In modern wars, the politicians and generals make their
decisions from miles behind the front line - in most cases,
thousands of miles. They are then quite willing to send tens of
thousands of soldiers, often conscripted, into battle to win or
"Yet look at how we took over this country. Instead of sending
our army - which we don't have, but even so - instead of fighting
the previous leader's army, we threatened him, personally - we
threatened his own life, and those of his close supporters.
"If that can work here, then why not set up an assassination
squad and let it be known that aggression by another country
against Britain will be met, not only by our army fighting
theirs, but also by the individuals responsible for the
aggression - the other country's leaders - losing their lives?"
"A good idea, Absolaam," Deborah agreed, "And, yes, the
foundation of our success in this country. But even so," she
paused a moment, "Such assassinations would be immensely
difficult to organise - and what of the possibility of even one
such team turning on us?"
"Good point, and one which I hadn't considered," Wye agreed,
"But the idea - as you say - is sound..." He paused, again, in
though, "How about if we set up these groups as a replacement for
the army just before we abdicate power? And, in the meantime,
keep both yours and Graham's rumours alive?"
The three agreed on this as the best course of action before
turning to talk about the large meeting that Deborah and the
Dictator had planned for that afternoon.
"Settle down, please, ladies and gentlemen. Thank you," Graham
began. The people he was talking to consisted of a large group of
scientists, the top people in the country in each of the key
areas which were initially to be funded by their group.
To the far right of the Cabinet Room's table sat Michael
Banting, the materials scientist who had taken part in the design
of the Network the previous afternoon, looking gleeful at the
prospect of the coming discussion.
To Banting's left was Colin Simoney, the leading particle
physicist in the country, trying, by means of a sober
countenance, to give the lie to his mop of frizzy, dark brown
hair. Beside Simoney sat Margaret Brinden, head of artificial
intelligence research at Edinburgh University, her slender figure
wrapped - and almost lost - in a baggy, tent-like, red dress.
To her left was Daniel Petri, aeronautics specialist and one-
time consultant to NASA, while to Daniel's other side sat
Henrietta Harshaw, the country's leading geneticist.
The remainder of the group contained representatives from other
branches of the sciences: organic and inorganic chemists, solid-
state physicists, biologists, climatologists, and so on. Each of
a dozen fields was represented by at least two scientists, chosen
largely because their opinions differed one from the other. Hence
the noise level in the room when Graham spoke.
Once the room had quietened down somewhat, Graham took his place
beside Wye, on the other side from his wife, to face the group of
scientists, who looked, variously, either attentive or bored -
largely depending on the number of government meetings they had
Wye spoke first: "Today," he began, "We are going to make some
initial decisions about which areas of scientific research are to
be funded over the course of the next few years.
"All comments and suggestions will be welcome," he went on,
waving his hands downwards in at attempt to quell the uproar,
"But, first, Mrs Greene will outline the practical results we
will be initially aiming for. Deborah?" he indicated her with his
"Thank you, Dictator. As you know," she addressed the
scientists, "The previous government is no more," unexpected
cheers came from the group of scientists, "As you may have heard,
our policy is to invest in scientific research, both pure and
applied, in many directions."
She paused, before adding, "Money is not - for now, at least -
Deborah waited a moment for her last statement to sink in. The
scientists looked awe-struck for a moment, then one - a man in
his mid-thirties, Deborah estimated, wearing a sports jacket with
a tie that looked like it had seen better days - stood up.
"Professor Colin Simoney, particle physics," he introduced
himself, "When you say that money isn't an issue, what exactly do
"Exactly what I say, Mister Simoney," began Deborah.
"That's 'Professor' Simoney," he interrupted, with a pompous
"No formality here, please, people," Wye exclaimed, "We'll leave
titles outside the door at these meeting. Go on, Deborah," he
gestured in her direction, ignoring the apoplectic look on
"Thank you, Absolaam," continued Deborah, omitting the title and
emphasising the omission, "As I was saying...Well, give me an
example from your own field, Colin," she asked Simoney.
"Something expensive? Hmmm...There's a particular configuration
of particle accelerator that I've been wishing to have built for
quite a few years now, but nothing like it exists yet - that
would set you back close to eight hundred million pounds per year
for the decade it would take to build it. Do you have eight
billion pounds you would be willing to spend?"
"A very good example, Colin," Deborah went on, "How much would
it cost to build it within a year?"
"Probably even more - say nine and a half to ten billion
"Call it ten billion - now, could you explain why you'd want
"In layman's terms? Not really. It's needed to check a small
prediction of my own theory against observation. I'd want to see
what happens when..." With a faraway look in his eyes, Simoney
launched into a rather technical speech, finishing with, "...and,
if my theory proves to be correct then neutrinos, under these
conditions, are travelling in excess of the speed of light.
"Since - according to Cowsik and McLelland's arguments - a
neutrino has mass, then my theory seems to be in direct
contradiction to Einstein's Relativity theory," he concluded,
"But, of course, there's no way to test it out," he finished,
"I thought that you said it could be tested using the device you
asked us to have built," Deborah said to him, questioningly.
"Well, yes, but that wa..."
"Okay - you can have your accelerator, we'll sort out the
details after this meeting, okay?"
Simoney sat down, thunderstruck, the wind taken right out of his
sails. As he was seating himself, he heard Michael Banting's
voice say, quietly, "I told you all - yesterday afternoon, these
three people calmly committed two hundred billion pounds to the
construction of the largest single computing network ever built.
They're not going to quibble about a few hundred billion spent on
On hearing this, Deborah turned to Banting, "Thank you, Michael.
But, you know, that's not entirely true. Before we authorise a
single penny to be spent on any project, I will want to know why
the money should be spent in that way, and some idea of the
implications of the project, if any.
"If you don't know what the implications might be, then say so.
In some ways, we could be more interested in that kind of
experiment than in some others. Hell," she said, laughing, "We
might even invest in a scheme to extract sunbeams from cucumbers
if we thought there was a chance of it working...
"Even if we didn't, for that matter," she added, pensively,
"After all, sometimes the craziest ideas turn out to be the most
useful - think of how crazy helicopters must have seemed in Da
Vinci's time, or computers in Babbage's.
"What we want to do, people, is to push back the boundaries of
both science and technology. I'll warn you now, however, that a
large chunk of money is already earmarked for research into five
"Which ones?" came a voice - Deborah couldn't be sure, but she
thought it was the woman from Edinburgh University...Maggie...
"Specifically," she began counting them off on her fingers, "We
want a broad-range, room-temperature super-conductor; Secondly,
we're after a nuclear fusion reactor - preferably cold fusion,
but anything that can reach ignition point will be a good start;
Thirdly, we're interested in developing a true artificial
intelligence; fourthly, we want life extension techniques -
everything from repairing cells and genetic disorders through to
extending the human lifespan as far as it will go.
"Finally - and, perhaps, most urgently - we want a self-
supporting, independent space station to use as a base to explore
and settle the rest of this solar system.
"You're going to pay for this money, of course," Deborah went
on, as a sea of eyes caught those of others in a 'ah, now here
are the strings' expression, "If you accept funding from this
government, then fifty percent of all money which results from
your research will go to the government for so long as we choose
to fund your research.
"Notice that the choice to start accepting our money is yours
but, once you've started, the choice to stop accepting it is ours
alone. You can, if you like, take fifty billion pounds from us,
spot a practical application and then stop taking our money and
take off to obtain private funding for the last stretch. But even
if you do that, we will still own half of the money from that,
and any other, practical application.
"To give an example, then: suppose Colin Simoney's experiments
result - somewhere along the line - in a practical faster-than-
light drive," Simoney started to protest, but Deborah waved him
down, "I realise how unlikely that is, Colin - just bear with me.
If that happens, then the government will own half of that drive.
That's our starting position, people, so let's hear your ideas."
Ideas came thick and fast - after seeing the casual expenditure
of ten billion pounds on Simoney's pet project, all of the
scientists were eager to contribute their own.
In all, one hundred billion pounds was committed to fund
seventy-seven separate projects during the course of that
afternoon. Each of the five key fields was well covered, and two
hundred million pounds was allocated to a number of what Deborah
later called 'crackpot' ideas, on the basis that if just one of
those panned out then the government's coffers need never be
The final list of projects included some fairly ambitious ideas.
To take a few examples:
Once the mechanics of the forthcoming national Network were
explained, Sharon Kelly came up with the idea of exploiting the
magnetic field around the electricity transmission network, by
installing blocks of nitrogen-cooled superconducting material in
vehicles, to provide a means of levitating cars and trains.
Graeme Skildon, of Cambridge University's computing department,
concurred with Sharon in this, but thought that spare capacity on
the radio relays in the Network could be also be useful in
automatically navigating the same cars and trains - or ground
cars, if the levitation idea didn't pan out.
A small group of particle physicists and engineers had discussed
Deborah's ideas of deriving a faster-than-light theory from Colin
Simoney's equations. No answers yet, of course, but plenty of
fascinating questions, and some great ideas for further
experiments to try out on Colin's new accelerator - "Come back in
ten years time and we'll let you know if travelling faster than
light could be practical."
Fifty million pounds was to be spent on the most powerful
computer available to help get these three projects off the
ground - literally, in the case of Sharon Kelly's project.
A group of neurophysicists, it turned out, had been playing with
the idea of building a huge connectionist machine. A
connectionist machine, they explained, was a mass of simple
computer processors all connected together in the same way that
neurons in the human brain are connected together. They reckoned
that it would be very interesting to build such a machine which
contained as many processors are there are neurons in the human
brain. Hideously expensive, of course, and the resulting computer
would be enormous. The idea appealed to Wye and Graham, however,
and so they were given the go-ahead, and half a billion pounds,
to give it a try.
The scientists, in short, were behaving like a group of children
loose in a toy shop, and were already suggesting that 'Sol,'
Deborah and Graham get in touch with some of their colleagues
from overseas and try to convince them to come and help out - and
start work on their own long-wished-for projects.
By the end of the meeting, Deborah had a list of nearly three
hundred names and telephone numbers - and she had the 59th
Flapper spend the remainder of his day getting each of those
people on the telephone so that their colleagues in the UK could
explain the British policy on research and, if possible, convince
them to immigrate.
Wye overheard part of one of the earliest of these 'phone calls,
"Come on over, Dmitri. You know that connectionist machine we've
been talking about? That's right - the Multivac. Well, we're
actually going to build it - and I want your help. Money? Hell,
no - no problems with money, we've been given half a billion
pounds to start us off. Yes, you heard me right: half a billion.
Five by ten to the eight pounds sterling. We can do it, man! We
can actually fucking do it!"
Before that first meeting ended, the Dictator had a word with
Sharon Kelly about her superconduction-led levitation concept.
She soon calmed his minor fears regarding possible quenching
effects and the reliability of the cooling system.
"Not really a problem, Absolaam," she said, "A small-scale
liquid-nitrogen cooling system is fairly straightforward to
build, and boil-off can be reduced using a fair vacuum for
"'Boil off'?" enquired Wye.
"That's where the liquid nitrogen heats up and becomes gaseous
again," Kelly explained, "Hold on a second and I'll show you."
She made a quick 'phone call to her lab.
"The real problem is going to be in developing a reliable
technique for growing or manufacturing superconductors of a
"You can grow superconductors?" Graham said in surprise, having
overheard Kelly's words.
"Sure, just not very reliably. Sometimes, we can grow a
superconducting crystal," her brow furrowed in annoyance, "It's
just that we haven't managed to get a large one yet. Not high-
For the next hour, the four - the conversation was soon expanded
by Deborah's joining them - talked over the problems Kelly faced.
Then, the Flapper announced the arrival of somebody from Sharon's
lab. He brought in a flask, hand-labelled 'N2,' and a small case.
When the case was opened, they could see padding which protected
the fragile disc of black ceramic that was the superconductor.
"This is a chunk of ibbcoo," began Sharon. At the puzzled looks,
she laughed, then explained, "Sorry - we call it that because of
its chemical formula: why, bee-ay two, see-you three, oh seven."
When their faces still looked quizzical, she went on, "That's 'Y'
for 'yttrium,' 'bee-ay' for 'barium,' 'see-you' for 'copper' and
'O' for 'oxygen.'
"So YBa2Cu3O7 means that each molecule contains one atom of
yttrium, two atoms of barium, three of copper and seven of
oxygen," her eyes took on an amused glint as she said, "Actually,
that should be 'O seven-minus-X' because there aren't exactly
seven oxygen atoms in each molecu..." Sharon Kelly burst out
laughing when she saw their expressions of dismay, "It's okay -
you don't really need to know all that - we just call it ibbcoo
for short," and the other three nodded in relief.
"In any case," Sharon went on, "I'm using this ibbcoo because
it's a high-temperature superconductor - it superconducts up to
around ninety degrees. That's Kelvin," she added, "In
centrigrade, that's roughly one hundred and eighty-seven degrees
"That means that liquid nitrogen - which has a temperature of
seventy Kelvin - can be easily used to cool it down to
superconducting temperatures. Do you have a cup or something?"
she asked Graham.
Graham offered her a delicate china cup, but Sharon shook her
head, saying, "No - something more like...ah, this will do," she
picked up a polystyrene cup from the table, "There're a couple of
drops of coffee still in it, but what the hell."
Sharon set the vacuum flask on the cabinet table beside the disc
of ibbcoo, which she had placed on a piece of paper. Then, Sharon
quickly - but, nonetheless, carefully - unscrewed its lid.
Immediately, white plumes of cold gas started to appear around
the top of the unsealed flask as the nitrogen visibly boiled off
into the surrounding air.
She took the polystyrene cup and placed it on the table, then
lifted the flask and started to pour the liquefied nitrogen into
it. Her first attempt was not too successful - she accidentally
knocked the cup over, and the nitrogen spilled over the table.
It left no stain, however, and no residue - it boiled off so
quickly after being spilled that Wye wasn't even sure that he'd
seen the liquid flowing over the table. Hesitantly, he reached
and touched the table top. Aside from its being cold - very cold
- to the immediate touch, he couldn't detect any trace of the
"Careful," Sharon said, "You don't want this stuff to get onto
your skin. Oh," she added, almost as an afterthought, "And don't
touch the ibbcoo either - it's a strong carcinogen." The Dictator
drew his hand back, sharply.
Sharon's second attempt was a little better. Before replacing
the cup, she had dipped it slightly into the flask to improve its
stability by weighting it with a splash of liquid nitrogen. Once
the cup was about two thirds full, she put the flask down and
proceeded to pour the liquid nitrogen in the cup over the ceramic
The procedure was repeated a couple more times, then she glanced
at the lab assistant who had brought the items from her
laboratory. Immediately, he handed her a small metallic object -
no more than a centimetre across, "The magnet," she explained,
searching her pockets and finding a pair of plastic tweezers to
Sharon then moved the magnet to just over the centre of the
ceramic disc before releasing it with the tweezers. It hesitated
a bare moment, then rolled away. Once she had moved the magnet
out of the way, Sharon re-filled the cup twice more, pouring more
nitrogen over the superconductor until it lay in a shallow pool
of nitrogen, which surrounded it with a faint haze of white mist
as it boiled off.
Taking the magnet once more in the tweezers, she replaced it in
the centre of the disc. This time, it stayed there, suspended in
space about half a centimetre above the ceramic. Her smiling lab
assistant took a piece of paper and inserted it in between the
ceramic and the magnet, to show that there was nothing connecting
the two. Neither was disturbed, though the magnet did wobble a
little in the breeze cast up by the movement of the paper.
"And that," said Sharon, "Is practical levitation. Or will be,"
she corrected herself, "If it can be done on a large enough
"Why does it just...float there?" asked Graham. Though he'd
heard of this effect before, this was the first time he'd
actually seen it with his own eyes, and he was frankly astounded.
"It's a property of superconductors," Sharon explained, "That a
magnetic field can't pass through them - it's forced to...well,
'move away,' to put it loosely. When a magnetic field touches a
superconductor, the superconductor itself produces an opposed
magnetic field, and the practical result is that the magnet is
suspended above the superconductor, as you can see," she
"If it generates a magnetic field," said Wye, slowly, "Then
there has to be an electrical current as well, doesn't there?"
For a change, it was Sharon's turn to grin, "Yes - you're
thinking of free power, aren't you?" she asked. At Wye's nod, she
answered, "The problem is that the current on the surface of the
superconductor is far too distributed to tap into it."
Sharon broke off in thought, then mumbled to herself, "But if we
were to..." The rest of her words were too low for the Dictator
to hear, but he heard the word "angstrom," then noticed that she
shook her head in dismissal when she finished.
Dmitri, the artificial intelligence researcher interested in
building a massive neural network, became a British citizen two
days later, and quickly contacted even more of his colleagues to
tell them the good news.
Within the week he and his fellow immigrant scientists had
ensured that the finest twenty thousand scientific brains on the
planet were working in Britain.
The salaries of one hundred thousand pounds sterling per annum
which Wye and Deborah decided on were not even a factor in their
decisions - since the immigration wave had been in the country
for over a week before salary was mentioned.
What those scientists came for was the freedom - and the
resources - to research the questions that they felt were
"When you're a god, you don't have to have reasons."
All in the world of science was not a bed of roses, of course -
there were some restrictions on the research which was allowed.
Throughout their initial meeting of minds with the country's top
scientists, the Dictator and the Greenes had kept a second group
waiting. Four hours later - when the scientific head-to-head was
over, and the scientists themselves had departed - the three
invited that second group in to see them.
The second group consisted entirely of philosophers. More
specifically, it consisted of those philosophers who concerned
themselves with the field of ethics.
The second meeting itself continued for eight hours straight. It
would have continued indefinitely, as meetings of purist thinkers
are bound to do, with no resolution, had the Dictator not stepped
in to stem the flow and demand some basic guidelines.
What, Wye wanted to know, did the majority of the group actually
agree to be the basis of a sound ethical system.
To his astonishment - and to the amazement of Deborah - this
group of ethicists managed to state several relatively-simple
guidelines, which - despite their claims of agreement - they then
proceeded to argue about as vehemently as before.
To give you some idea: the first was that anything which does
unnecessary harm to a living organism is morally unjustifiable.
The word "unnecessary" there was the subject of much debate,
which we need not go into here or we'll be continuing
The basic bone of contention, however, was whether a short-term
harm in the service of a long-term benefit constituted an
"unnecessary" harm and, thus, was ethically unsupportable, or
To take an example. If a small child reaches toward a flame, is
smacking its hand an ethically supportable action? The
philosophers were much divided.
One group claimed that such a smack - since it was inflicted by
another individual - was damaging to both the smacker and the
child, since it implied that violence was a valid solution to a
problem, equal or greater in value to reasoned argument.
Another group claimed that the smack was justifiable since the
minor harm it imposed was negligible compared to the potentially
far greater damage which the naked flame could cause the child.
The first group then retorted that the smack need not
necessarily be associated with the flame in the child's
mind...and so the arguments went round and round.
Wye, despairing of the philosophers, eventually formulated
guidelines for his own use in deciding the permissibility or
otherwise of research projects. Firstly, that no live human
beings were to be experimented upon without their explicit
agreement, which could not be given unless they thoroughly
understood the implications and possible dangers of the research
which they were assisting in.
Wye's second guideline was that no genetically-altered organism
could be released into the wild unless it could be proven that
its benefits would greatly outweigh potential dangers.
It was the second guideline which caused him the most trouble,
since deciding on the basis of vague perceptions of "potential
harm" and "potential benefit" was such a troublesome area that
the guideline was virtually no use at all in practice.
Wye's only firm commitment to himself was that he would make no
guidelines and no rules concerning experiments involving animals,
beyond a statement that laboratory animals should suffer no
distress or pain beyond that which was absolutely necessary for
When he stated this commitment, both Graham and several of the
philosophers looked appalled at the second half of Wye's
statement, while Deborah merely nodded that she agreed with the
Dictator, on this point at least.
"But, darling," pleaded Graham when he was alone with his wife
later in the evening, "Surely you can see that experimenting on
animals is wrong. It's just plain nasty. And, besides, there's no
need for it," he added.
"Why do you think that?" Deborah replied, quizzically, talking
around the toothbrush, and incidentally spraying small flecks of
toothpaste onto the bathroom mirror.
"Well," he went on, "There's no comparison between animals and
humans. You know that. Just because a drug works fine on animals
doesn't mean that humans won't get side-effects from it."
"True, true," she agreed. Deborah spat - not at all 'daintily' -
the toothpaste into the sink then ran a little water as she
swilled to remove the toothpaste from her mouth. After spitting
again, she turned to her husband.
"Sort of," she went on, "Look - I'm no biologist, you know
that," her husband started to nod, but quickly caught himself -
that wasn't the sort of question you were supposed to agree with
your wife about, after all. "If I recall correctly, though, there
are lots of animals which are similar enough to humans for any
major side-effects to show up. Guinea pigs, for example," she
added, "Have an immune system which works in almost exactly the
same way as ours."
Deborah paused, before adding, hesitantly, "At least I think
it's guinea pigs...
"In any case, where would medicine be without animal
experiments?" It was a rhetorical question, "How many dogs died
before penicillin was developed?"
Graham interrupted, "Hold on - penicillin was found by
"Initially, yes - but that one piece of serendipity, that one
'lucky accident' would have been useless without the experiments
which were needed to get from a piece of mould contaminating a
dish to a fully-fledged antibiotic.
"Experiments," she said, deliberately, "Conducted on animals."
"Well, yes, but..." Graham began.
"'But'?" his wife exploded, "'But'? How many lives - human lives
- have antibiotics saved? If animal testing had been banned back
then, how many people would have died for the lack of them?"
"I was going to say," Graham broke in, "But, these days we can -
or, rather, the biologists can - do their tests on computer
simulations of animals, or on tissue samples grown in the lab."
"In some cases, that's true," his wife agreed, "But. Well, let
me ask you this - how can you build a simulation complex enough
to test for something that you don't even know exists?"
"Well, suppose you're trying to find a cure for some type of
cancer. Lung cancer, say. If you're not sure of what causes it,
how can you build a simulation of it?"
Graham paused for almost a minute in thought.
Deborah went on, "The simple answer is that you can't. If you
know enough about the disease to be able to simulate it in enough
detail to study it through the simulation then you don't need to
study the simulation because you have to already have your answer
before you can write the simulation.
"In short," she paused to take a breath, "You can use the
simulations to teach what is already known, but not - in general
- for research."
"But what about tissue cultures?" asked Graham, sensing that his
arguments were losing ground, but sure that this last would
settle the matter.
Deborah smiled, sweetly, "Graham," she asked, "How many cures
were found for AIDS?"
"Huh? None that I know of. Why?"
"I asked because there have been half a dozen 'cures' found.
That I know of," Deborah added, to her husband's expression of
disbelief, "The problem is," she went on, "That the cures which
worked in the test-tube didn't work on the animals. Or on those
humans who were desperate enough to try them."
"What are you saying, Deborah?" asked Graham, though he knew
what she meant by this line of attack on his argument.
"I mean, dear, that experiments done on tissue cultures can be
used to replace some experiments on animals. But only in the
early stages. There's still no substitute, in the final analysis,
for testing on live animals. And, in my opinion," she added,
"There probably never will be.
"I'll agree that it's unfortunate, and that animal testing
should only be done when necessary. I'll also agree that pain and
discomfort for the animals should be as little as possible.
"But I'm afraid that I can't agree that animal testing is always
A Bad Thing. I can't even agree that it's a Bad Thing most of the
"Frankly, my dear," she smiled at the words, "I'd be happy to
sacrifice a million - a billion - animals if it results in a cure
for AIDS. Even if that cure saves only a single human life. And
try to get it into perspective - after all, the number of lab
animals isn't exactly enormous. One lab animal dies each year for
every fifteen people in the country.
"I just think that humans are more important, on balance, than
any other type of animal. I think that, admittedly, because I am
a human - if I were a rabbit I might think that rabbits were the
most important animal. But I'm not a rabbit, so I'll go for
saving the human race above all else."
Deborah, out of breath after her talking marathon, grinned
sheepishly then said, "Sorry, dear - I didn't mean to make a
speech. It's just that the whole vivisection thing bugs me, the
way it plays on peoples emotions and doesn't give the full
"When did you last see an anti-vivisection poster that had a rat
on it? After all, four out of every five lab animals are mice or
rats - but you just don't see them on the posters. It's all
monkeys, rabbits, guinea pigs, dogs, cats and chimps.
"Why? Because rats aren't as cute as likkle bunny wabbits,
"Oops - sorry. I started another speech then as well."
"Never mind, dear," said her husband, throwing back the sheets,
"Come to bed now." As his wife joined him, Graham asked, deadpan,
"What were you saying about if you were a rabbit?" Their giggling
went on for only a short time before being replaced by more
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