Produced by Greg Weeks, Mary Meehan and the Online
Distributed Proofreading Team at http://www.pgdp.net
Produced by Greg Weeks, Mary Meehan and the Online
THE PILOT AND THE BUSHMAN
By SYLVIA JACOBS
Illustrated by DAVID STONE
[Transcriber’s Note: This etext was produced from
Galaxy Science Fiction August 1951.
Extensive research did not uncover any evidence that
the U.S. copyright on this publication was renewed.]
Technological upheavals caused by inventions of our own are
bad enough, but this was the ultimate depression, caused by
the ultimate alien invention—which no Earthman ever saw!
The Ambassador from Outer Space sprang to his feet, taking Jerry’s extended hand in a firm, warm grasp. Jerry had been prepared for almost anything—a scholarly brontosaurus, perhaps, or an educated squid or giant caterpillar with telepathic powers. But the Ambassador didn’t even have antennae, gills, or green hair. He was a completely normal and even handsome human being.
“Scotch? Cigar?” the Ambassador offered cordially. “How can I help you, Mr. Jergins?”
Studying him, Jerry decided there was something peculiar about this extraterrestrial, after all. He was too perfect. His shave was too close, his skin so unblemished as to suggest wax-works. Every strand of his distinguished iron-gray hair was impeccably placed. The negligent and just-right drape of his clothes covered a body shaped like a Sixth Century B.C. piece of Greek sculpture. No mere human could have looked so unruffled, so utterly groomed, at three o’clock in the afternoon, in a busy office. A race, Jerry wondered, capable of taking any shape at will, in mimicry of the indigenous race of any planet?
“You can help me, but I’m not sure you will,” Jerry said. “The rumor is that you won’t do anything to ease this buyers’ strike you started on Earth.”
The Ambassador smiled. “You’re a man who’s not used to taking no for an answer, I gather. What’s your proposition?”
“I’d like to contact some of the firms on the Federated Planets, show them how I could promote their merchandise on Earth. Earth is already clamoring for their goods. To establish a medium of exchange, we’d have to run simultaneous campaigns, promoting Earth merchandise on other planets.”
“That would be difficult, even for a man of your promotional ability,” the Ambassador said winningly. “You see, Earth is the only planet we’ve yet discovered where advertising—or promotion, to use the broader term—exists as a social and economic force.”
“How in hell can anybody do business without it?” Jerry demanded.
“We don’t do business in the sense you mean. Don’t mistake me,” the Ambassador added hastily, “we don’t have precisely a communal economy, either. Our very well defined sense of ethics in regard to material goods is something I find impossible to describe in any Earth language. It’s quite simple, so simple that you have to grow up with it to understand it. Our whole attitude toward material goods is conditioned by the Matter Repositor.”
“That gadget!” Jerry said bitterly. “It was when you first mentioned it before the U.N. Assembly that all this trouble on Earth started. Everybody and his brother hopes that tomorrow he can buy a Matter Repositor, and never have to buy anything again. I came here mostly to ask you whether it’s really true, that if you have one of those dinguses, you can bring anything you want into your living room.”
“You can. In practice, of course, repositing just anything that took your fancy would produce economic anarchy.”
“Let’s put it this way,” Jerry persisted. “Home appliances were my biggest accounts. Now, when we try to sell a refrigerator, the prospect says she’s saving her cash till Matter Repositors get on the Earth market. She plans to reposit a refrigerator—not from her neighbor’s kitchen, because that would be stealing—but from the factory. If the factory goes bust, people figure the government will have to subsidize building appliances. Now, could she really reposit a refrigerator?”
“She could. But she wouldn’t want to.”
“Why not?” Jerry asked, puzzled.
“If she conceived an illogical and useless desire for food refrigeration, she would simply reposit a block of cold air from, say, the North Pole.”
“Oh, fine!” Jerry said sarcastically. “That would cause more unemployment in the refrigerator industry than repositing them without paying for them! But what do you mean about food refrigeration being illogical and useless?”
“Well, in a storage warehouse, there might be some reason for food preservation. But you don’t need cold or canning. Why not just reposit the bacteria that cause the food to deteriorate? There’s no need to store food in a home equipped with a Matter Repositor. You simply reposit one meal at a time. Fruits and vegetables direct from tree or field. Meat from a slaughterhouse, since it isn’t humane to remove a pound of steak from a live steer. But even this is needless.”
“Why?” Jerry baffledly wanted to know.
“To free the maximum amount of the effort of thinking beings for non-material activities, each consumer can reposit the chemical elements of the food, synthesize his meal on the table. He can even reposit these elements directly into his stomach, or, to by-pass the effort of digestion, into his bloodstream as glycogen and amino acids.”
“So refrigerators would be as dead an item as kerosene lamps in a city wired for electricity,” Jerry agreed unhappily. “Suppose Mrs. Housewife, not needing a refrigerator, reposits a washing machine. The point I’m driving at—is there any practical way to compensate the factory, give it an incentive to produce more washing machines, without dragging in government control?”
“Why should the factory produce more washing machines? Who would want one? The housewife would simply reposit the dirt from her clothes into her flowerbed, without using water and soap. Or, more likely, reposit new clothes with different colors, fabrics, and styles. The Matter Repositor would eliminate textile mills and clothing factories. Earth’s oceans have vast enough quantities of seaweed to eliminate the growing of cotton, wool, or flax. Or, again, you could reposit the chemical elements, either from the soil or from seawater.”
Jerry pondered the extensive implications of these revelations. Finally he said, “What it boils down to is this. All Earth’s bustling material activity, all the logging and construction, the mining and manufacturing, the planting and fishing, the printing and postal service, the great transportation and shipping effort, the cleaning and painting, the sewage disposal, even the bathing and self-adornment, consist, when you analyze them, of one process only—putting something from where you don’t want it to where you do. There’s not one single, solitary Earth invention or service left to advertise!”
“Nothing,” the Ambassador agreed. “Which is exactly why advertising has not developed on the Federated Planets. You’re fortunate that Earth doesn’t have Matter Repositors. You’d be out of a job if it did.”
“Oh, no!” Jerry said. “I could still advertise the gadget to end all gadgets—the Matter Repositor itself. I know other people have asked you this before, but could an Earth company get a franchise to import those machines here, or the license rights to manufacture them?”