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"...a market economy is essentially a genetic algorithm for solving resource allocation problems..."
- Charles Stross

Neoterics  
  Pure engineering genius on tap.  

James Kidder, as the author says, was quite a guy. He pretty much invented everything useful. For Kidder, ninety-nine percent perspiration (like Edison) was not enough.

This, then, was the answer to his problem. He couldn't speed up mankind's intellectual advancement enough to have it teach him the things his incredible mind yearned for. he couldn't speed himself up. So he created a new race - a race which would develop and evolve so fast that it would surpass the civilization of man; and from them he would learn.

They were completely in Kidder's power. Earth's normal atmosphere would poison them, as he took care to demonstrate to every fourth generation... They would make ... their little trial and error experiments hundreds of times faster than man..

He called them Neoterics and teased them into working for him.

From Microcosmic God, by Theodore Sturgeon.
Published by Galaxy in 1941
Additional resources -

In the story, Kidder puts the Neoterics into life-and-death situations to force them to invent what he needed. The Neoterics were imprisoned in a shatterproof, chemical-proof sealed bubble. When Kidder needed to develop stronger alloys, he arranged for them to have only lighter metals and then started dropping the ceiling on their containment bin one millimeter per day. Only by inventing new alloys and structures could they save themselves from being crushed to death. And they did it!

I was thinking about this one at the Michigan State Fair the other day. My family was looking at the exhibit for honey, with a live bee display. Handy creatures, bees; they work hard all the time and make a unique and useful product.

What if you could have a tiny hive full of creatures who could make something other than honey? What could be sweeter than brilliant ideas?

Compare to the miniature universes from Fessenden's World (1937) by Edmond Hamilton.

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Additional resources:
  More Ideas and Technology from Microcosmic God
  More Ideas and Technology by Theodore Sturgeon
  Tech news articles related to Microcosmic God
  Tech news articles related to works by Theodore Sturgeon

Neoterics-related news articles:
  - E. Coli Forced To Evolve: Old Bacterium Learns New Trick
  - Bacteria Torture Tests Demonstrate Evolution
  - 'Evolution Chip' Automates Evolved Change
  - Phage-Assisted Continuous Evolution

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