Latest By

Artificial Intelligence
Data Storage
Input Devices
Living Space
Space Tech
Virtual Person

"Everything starts as somebody's daydream. And, when you're daydreaming, it is science fiction. It's when you start work out how you put it together, true science fiction becomes real science."
- Larry Niven

Vulcan 3  
  Artificially intelligent self-modifying supercomputer.  

In the near-future Earth of the novel, Vulcan 3 is the final authority for the people of the world.

Ahead of him, lights switched on. Behind him, enormous reinforced doors slid shut to fill in the chamber's single entrance. The huge calculator rose in front of him, the immense tower of receptor banks and indicators. He was alone with it - alone with Vulcan 3.

Very little of the computer was visible; its bulk disappeared into regions which he had never seen, which in fact no human had ever seen... Their only check on the growth and development of Vulcan 3 lay in two clues: the amount of rock thrown up to the surface, to be carted off, and the variety, amount, and nature of the raw materials and tools and parts which the computer requested.

The financial cost of supporting Vulcan 3 was immense... At the latest estimate, Vulcan 3's share of the the taxes came to about forty-three percent.

Beneath his feet the floor vibrated... What lay down there? Energy, tubes and pipes, wiring, transformers, self-contained machinery... He had a mental image of relentless activity... worn-out parts replaced, new parts invented; superior designs replaced obsolete designs. And how far had it spread? Miles?

Vulcan 3 was aware of him. Across the vast impersonal face of metal an acknowledgment gleamed, a ribbon of fluid letters that appeared briefly and then vanished.

From Vulcan's Hammer, by Philip K. Dick.
Published by Ace Books in 1960
Additional resources -

Vulcan 3 was named after the image created by its glowing power lines:

...Power lines glowed red - the origin of the series name. The rumblings and dull flashes of red had reminded Nathaniel Greenstreet of the ancient god's forge, the lame god who had created the thunderbolts for Jupiter, in an age long past.

Director Jason Dill explained the rationale behind the construction of Vulcan 3:

"But who would watch the Guardians? How could we be sure this supranational body would be free of the hate and bias, the animal passions that had set man against man throughout the centuries?

...There was one answer. For years we had been using computers, giant constructs put together by the labor and talent of hundreds of trained experts, built to exact standards. Machines were free of the poisoning bias of self-interest and feeling that gnawed at man; they were capable of performing the objective calculations that for man would remain only an ideal, never a reality."

The games Machine from AE van Vogt's World of Null-A is a clear predecessor to the Vulcan 3 computer. Enjoy comparing Vulcan 3 to other computers large enough to run whole planets or societies: see the City Fathers from James Blish's Cities in Flight, Watchdog from Jack Haldeman's story of the same name, and Deep Thought from Douglas Adams' The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy.

See also the way computers design computers in Isaac Asimov's 1958 short story The Feeling of Power.

The oldest reference I know about is the Government Machine from Mechanocracy (1932) by Miles J. Breuer.

Comment/Join this discussion ( 0 ) | RSS/XML | Blog This |

Additional resources:
  More Ideas and Technology from Vulcan's Hammer
  More Ideas and Technology by Philip K. Dick
  Tech news articles related to Vulcan's Hammer
  Tech news articles related to works by Philip K. Dick

Vulcan 3-related news articles:
  - Robot Brain Grows As It Learns
  - FAST Program AIs Search For Human 'Malintent'
  - Google Engineers Not Sure What Google RankBrain AI Is Doing

Articles related to Artificial Intelligence
AI Tool Lynx Insight And The Cybernetic Newsroom
Evorus Your Crowd-Powered Conversational Assistant
Alibaba's AI May Read Better Than You
Orwell's Memory Hole Looms Larger Thanks To Nvidia

Want to Contribute an Item? It's easy:
Get the name of the item, a quote, the book's name and the author's name, and Add it here.





Technovelgy (that's tech-novel-gee!) is devoted to the creative science inventions and ideas of sf authors. Look for the Invention Category that interests you, the Glossary, the Invention Timeline, or see what's New.





More News

Save Your Brain's Connectome, Upload Yourself Elsewhere
'You've got remote storage. How regular is the update?'

TMS Decreases Belief In God, Increases Belief In Immigrants
'... setting up the same currents, the same basic ideas, in them all.'

Loomo Mini Transporter Robot Companion You Ride On
'Slowly the [robot] horse raised its head, wiggled its ears, blinked twice, gave a tentative whinny.'

Soft Robotics - Now With 3D Printed Sensors!
'A series of chemelectric afferent nerve-analogues, which permitted it to gauge to an ounce the amount of pressure necessary to snap a bone...'

AI Tool Lynx Insight And The Cybernetic Newsroom
'The structure,... was once a great homeostatic newspaper, the New York Times. It printed itself directly below us...'

Espresso Telescope Searches For Exoplanets
'These instruments were the wonderful ones our astronomers had perfected.'

Dune Fans! Metal-Organic Frameworks Make Science Fiction Real
'Dew collectors,' he muttered, enchanted by the simple beauty of such a scheme.

Manned Maneuvering Unit From 1984
'The glittering little rocket bolted to the black iron behind him.'

Astronaut Gets Younger In Space
'So what we're looking for now is not an antibiotic - an anti-life drug - but an anti-agathic, an anti-death drug...'

Blockchain Used To Verify Election Results
'Any adult could punch into the phone his or her code, followed by a yes or no.'

More SF in the News

More Beyond Technovelgy

Home | Glossary | Invention Timeline | Category | New | Contact Us | FAQ | Advertise | - where science meets fiction™

Copyright© Technovelgy LLC; all rights reserved.