Written by Bradley W. Schenck
The only real experience I have with mad science is my hair.
Because I have mad scientist hair. The slightest breeze will make my hair leap up and cavort and dance, exactly as though it’s just thought up a clever enhancement for its death ray.
In the real world, I don’t think that scientists are any more mad than plumbers, or electricians, or grocery clerks. Those people are all a little bit mad; if you don’t think so yourself, that’s because you’re not paying attention. But they’re nowhere near mad enough to make us label their whole profession as bedbug crazy. That wouldn’t be fair.
No, what is mad about science is only obvious when you look at science as a whole. It’s like there’s a big lurking overmind of invention which has an agenda, and that agenda is absolutely bonkers. I think German probably has a word for this. And if individual, really-not-mad scientists ever compared notes, and got a good look at this sinister agenda, they’d probably be as horrified as anybody else.
Allow me to demonstrate! Let’s look at robotics.
When you want autonomous robots that can keep going on their own, a big problem is fuel. You need a fuel source that’s readily available, right? And since nothing is more readily available than protein… why not build robots that are fueled by meat?1
And because that went so well, the obvious next step is to fuel robots with corpses.2
But fueling robots with corpses is pretty pointless, unless robots can prepare their own meals. So let’s make sure they can. In fact, let’s teach them to flense and debone meat.3 That’s better!
Something’s still missing, though. When you combine all these advancements you still need some way for robots to know what’s meat and what’s not meat. Rest easy: we’ve handled that. Robots can now identify meat!4 And, as a bonus, they think we’re made of bacon. Tasty, tasty bacon.
Now, of course this is an informal survey. But so far we’ve developed robots that eat meat; that know meat when they see it; that can butcher and prepare meat for their meals; and, apparently, also think that people are delicious. These things alone ought to be a little disturbing.
But there’s more! If we expand our search beyond robot nutrition we discover that scientists are developing angry robots.5 And, hang on, we have also created robots that can escape confinement.6 Once they’re out in the wild, we’ve made sure that they’re able to camouflage themselves.7 You know, so they can avoid detection while they pick out and prepare a nice piece of meat. Which is… wait, was that bacon?
So this is the thing about Mad Science. It’s complicated, okay? Because when you look at individual scientists, apart from that guy with the head transplant, they are not mad.
And yet when you add together the things that all these scientists are working on and then divide that total research by the number of scientists, the average is completely, absolutely, mind-bogglingly insane.
It’s got something to do with Quantum Physics.
This is the reason why I don’t feel badly about my mad scientists of Retropolis, in Slaves of the Switchboard of Doom.
Retropolis has wisely confined all scientific research in a single neighborhood. You don’t want to live next door to a lab where somebody’s decided to see what happens when you cross a great white shark with a lawnmower, and then give it a rocket pack. Do you?
So, no. I don’t feel badly about my mad scientists. But that’s actually because I’m just too busy. The robots are coming, and I’m running down the street screaming that I am not bacon. See me, there? That’s my hair. It’s waving at you, and chuckling to itself, and plotting world domination. I tried to tell you.
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