Suis-je libre ou esclave ?

Comme Arthur C. Clarke inspire en partie la forme de mon nouveau livre, le socialisme selon Starglider, j’ai commandé la compilation de ses nouvelles. Je les picore au hasard. Hier soir, je tombe sur Dial F for Frankenstein, publiée en janvier 1965 dans Playboy.

’This is something I’ve been wondering about for years. Have you ever considered the analogy between an automatic telephone exchange and the human brain?’

’Who hasn’t thought of it?’ scoffed one of the listeners. ’The idea must go back to Graham Bell.’

’Possibly. I never said it was original. But I do say it’s time we started taking it seriously.’

’Are you suggesting that the world telephone system is now a giant brain?’

’Until today, they’ve been largely independent, autonomous. But now we’ve suddenly multiplied the connecting links, the networks have all merged together, and we’ve reached critically.’

’And just what does critically mean in this case?’ asked Smith.

’For want of a better word – consciousness.’

En même temps que je m’étonnais de la coïncidence, le sujet de cette nouvelle lue au hasard et celui de mon nouveau livre, un étrange sentiment m’a envahi. J’avais forcément déjà lu la nouvelle en français quand j’avais quatorze ans et que je dévorais Clarke. Je l’avais oubliée mais elle ne m’avait pas oubliée, elle s’était gravée en moi au-delà de la mémoire pour façonner mes idées.

Pour accompagner ce billet, j’ai rapidement cherché une version en ligne de la nouvelle, j’ai pas insisté car j’ai trouvé trop d’articles relatifs à lire. Je suis tombé sur un courrier des lecteurs, adressé en 2000 par Clarke lui-même, à NewScientist :

More modest coughs from a minor prophet: I described the emergence of the "global brain" (24 June, p 22) in Dial F for Frankenstein, published by your competitor, Playboy magazine, in January 1965 and now in my collection The Wind from the Sun. It was actually written in 1963, and I assumed that as soon as communications satellites started operating (which they did in 1965), the global telephone system would reach criticality. The slightly dated opening sentence reads: "At 0150 on December 1 1975, every telephone in the world started to ring." If I was writing this story now, I would have "Access denied" appearing on the world’s computer screens.

Au cours d’une de ses conférences, Clarke a dit :

The information age has been driven and dominated by “technopreneurs”--a small army of "geeks" who have reshaped our world faster than any Alexander, Napoleon or Genghis Khan could. And that was the easy part. We now have to apply communications technologies to save lives, improve livelihoods and eventually lift millions of people out of squalor, misery and suffering. In short, we should move our focus from the geeks to the meek.