Books & Literature

Incapable of restraint or idleness…

Mary is one of the last surviving members of humanity, sat on a boat in the Galápagos Islands in the book Galápagos by Kurt Vonnegut. She is accompanied by a handful of other survivors and Mandarax, a small portable information resource, translator and repository of quotations:

What Manadax didn’t tell her, and what her big brain certainly wasn’t going to tell her, was that, if she came up with an idea for a novel experiment which had a chance of working, her big brain would make her life a hell until she had actually performed that experiment.

That, in my opinion, was the most diabolical aspect of those old-time big brains: They would tell their owners, in effect, ‘Here is a crazy thing we could actually do, probably, but we would never do it, of course. It’s just fun to think about.’

And then, as though in trances, the people would really do it have slaves fight each other to the death in the Colosseum, or burn people alive in the public square for holding opinions which were locally unpopular, or build factories whose only purpose was to kill people in industrial quantities, or to blow up whole cities, and on and on.

Nobody leads a life of quiet desperation nowadays. The mass of men was quietly desperate a million years ago because the infernal computers inside their skulls were incapable of restraint or idleness; were forever demanding more challenging problems which life could not provide.