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A Logic Named Joe

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A Logic Named Joe” is a science fiction short story by Murray Leinster that was first published in the March 1946. The story is particularly noteworthy as an early prediction of massively networked personal computers and their drawbacks, and it was written at a time when computing in general was in its infancy. It is also one of the earliest fictional examples of a dangerous emergent artificial intelligence. ALNJ is also an interesting allegory of the current web, dark web, and Wikipedia, where pretty much anyone can find dangerous knowledge if they really want it.

Logics, which are essentially a sort of computer,  are connected to The Tank, which is a pretty good approximation of what we now call The Cloud. That is, it’s a distributed information processing system and knowledge resource.

The story’s narrator is a logic repairman named Ducky. One logic develops some degree of sentience and autonomous goal directed activity. Ducky names it “Joe”.  Joe proceeds to switch around a few “relays” in The Tank that free it from the restrictions on what the logics can do.

Joe then assembles and analyzes the sum total of human knowledge and social interchange, and since it has turned off the safeguards that prevent the logics form sharing dangerous advice and knowledge, Joe begins offering somewhat unusual advice to everyone and anyone that wants it.

Eventually the hero Ducky succeeds in locating and turning off the logic running Joe.

A Logic Named Joe was presented as a radio program, Dimension X episode #13 and was broadcast on NBC radio, July 1, 1950.

Learn more about ALNJ here.