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A Logic Named Joe by Murray Leinster

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"A Logic Named Joe" is a 1946 science fiction short story by Murray Leinster. It is about a network connected machine that can answer any and all questions!

Predicting The Internet But Not Behavior

The most amazing thing about this story is that it predicts a network of machines that people use to get information, news and entertainment – sound like anything we know? Being written in 1946 I find it remarkable that the author foresees a type of internet and gets several aspects of it right. The disappointing part, however, is that Mr. Leinster assumes people are generally bad and that the only reason they don’t do terrible things is because they lack the knowledge. Luckily, today’s internet hasn’t had that effect on the current population… or has it?

Non-spoiler Summary in a Nutshell

Soda Machine Interface, relay board by LogicalZero

“Ducky” is a logic repairman who has a problem. What is a logic you ask? Well, it is a type of advanced machine that is connected to a giant network of relays – a network that literally holds all knowledge! That’s pretty powerful, so it’s a good thing that information is kept under tight control. But something strange has recently happened – when people log onto their logic machine they are getting messages stating that the logic can answer any question they have! Bust out the craziness! Once this is discovered people go hog wild asking juicy gossip about neighbors, how to make loads of money quickly, how to rob banks, how to kill people they don’t like and a lot of other terrible things. Needless to say, this doesn’t make for a happy society. “Ducky” has his own problems as a psycho ex-girlfriend is intent on hooking up with him, and he needs some answers fast. Hey – that gives him a really good idea… but will it be enough? Hmm… any guesses on what he will do?

Interesting Tidbits About This Story:

  • Page Count: 13
  • Word Count: 6,733
  • Did you know that Murray Leinster is the pen name of William Fitzgerald Jenkins? Yep. You can learn more about this talented science fiction author at Wikipedia.
  • Special thanks to Variety SF for pointing out this great story!

Where You Can Find A Logic Named Joe:

  • This story was first published in the March 1946 issue of Astounding Science Fiction.
  • You can read "A Logic Named Joe" online for free at Webscription.
  • This story is included in Murray Leinster’s short story collection, also entitled A Logic Named Joe.

Craving More Science Fiction Short Stories?

If you liked "A Logic Named Joe" then you might also enjoy “Jeffty is Five” by Harlan Ellison – about a small boy who never ages and the strange pocket of time in which he lives.

3 thoughts to “A Logic Named Joe by Murray Leinster”

  1. I agree with your review of this one. However, Leinster’s view that “people are generally bad and that the only reason they don’t do terrible things is because they lack the knowledge” is still untested. His logics provided 100% certain answers, while our internet can’t provide certain means of getting away with committing crimes. Even then identity theft, Nigerian scams, and other internet crimes do paint a bleak picture.

    In some ways, I think his philosophy here might just be a combination of two cliches, “knowledge is power” and “power corrupts.”

    Thanks for posting this one, I had only heard its X Minus One adaptation before.

  2. @Dave: thanks for your comment. Yes, that view is still untested, but it seems that in this story the author focuses undue attention on the fact that everybody immediately goes to the bottom of the barrel to dredge up answers for the worst type of questions. I thought that was too much, but it is true that today’s internet has its share of muck on it! Hopefully we do a better job than the citizens in this story.

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