During my first semester of library school I wrote out six short science fiction plots; at the time I wasn’t serious about them, though in retrospect I see I might have fused them into a semi-interesting novel. In any case, Number 6 arose from my experience in the frustrating and time-consuming introductory Reference class, in which, way pre-Internet, we hunted down hundreds of scraps of trivia from dozens of printed reference sources in different libraries–simulating a day of hectic patron interaction.
But a class near the end of the semester on the emerging reference databases gave me hope; it was obvious that no reference book, however recently published, was equal to the searchable, always current online database. From there it was a short step to the convenience of the Telepathic Database, which along with Library Director Peter became the focus of Sortmind many years later. Thus, from November 29, 1982:
Plot 6. The War Returns to Alpha Centauri
Peter gazed out the window of his library and surveyed the rolling sunny hills of the suburb of Klawza on Alpha 7. He was in a disagreeable mood. Statistics had just been compiled which indicated that the Telepathic Database was not working out, as Peter’s predecessor Holbin had hoped. Holbin had designed the Telepathic Database in an attempt to give the libraries of Klawza, the Imperial Capital of Wisp, an unlimited information resource, completely flexible and available for a small sum for any who wished to subscribe. Holbin had thus eliminated the need for a reference section in any of the Klawza libraries and in fact had gone a long way toward convincing other libraries on Alpha 7 to abandon their own reference methods and instead pool all their resources into the Holbin base.
However, as Holbin had feared on his deathbed, and as Peter had suspected himself the last few months, the results of the first Ten Year Statistical Evaluation of the Holbin Telepathic Database were far from encouraging. In fact, the Database might just have to be dismantled entirely. This left Peter with the extremely unpleasant task of having to rebuild traditional computer-based information bases in all the libraries of Klawza, of which he was now the Director.
The Telepathic Database had seemed perfect at first: instead of hunting for information in any of fifteen million databases, in addition to a few million book reference works still left from the preceding century, one simply paid 55 credits a year and entered the Holbin Base. Holbin technicians then recorded your brainwave pattern, transferred it to their main computer, into which had been loaded every conceivable scrap of information ever–ever–recorded anywhere, and set up the Telepathic Energy Field from the Computer to the subscriber’s brain. When one wished to locate information on any subject, one didn’t bother turning to a computer terminal to hunt for the answer. The answer was just automatically sent via the Telepathic Database to one’s brain–one was certain the answer was correct because of a certain sensation transmitted along with the answer. The Verifying Sensation, Holbin called it.
Unfortunately the statistics were now pointing up the unfortunate fact that not only was the Verifying Sensation addictive in itself, in that subscribers to the Database were generally asking what 2 and 2 was, just to get a dose of Verifying Sensation, but also that Verifying Sensation was, for either pleasure seekers or serious information gatherers, damaging. The bottom line was that after five years of subscribing to the Telepathic Database, one could expect to have one’s mind burned out. Brain transplants had been tried in a few cases, but they had unfortunately failed.
Peter had cancelled his own subscription to the Holbin Base yesterday.
Copyright 2019 by Michael D. Smith