Wednesday, December 03, 2008

The Adventures of Od

Od had no ears.

This was kind of strange, but he was used to it. He was born that way.

You might think it would be a problem, having no ears. It wasn't for Od. He communicated just fine! He would point at people, and he would tell them what to do. Then they did it!

Sometimes people tried to tell Od what to do. This did not work very well. He had no ears, after all.

Still, people listened to Od. He knew what he was talking about!

Od lived in a cave on the side of a small mountain. It was a nice cave. He was very proud of it. He grew flowers near the front of the cave, so that it would smell nicer, instead of smelling dank and nasty. This is why he was sad when people would come to him for advice! They tended to trod on his flower beds. So careless! So shameful.

In the early days, they would ask Od for advice on agriculture. "Help!" they would say. "We are all starving!" So Od would plod down the mountainside and teach them about animal-driven plows, or windmills (for making flour), or various types of fertilizer. Then he would go back up the mountain.

You might wonder how Od knew about these things. He had a lot of time to think, in his cave. He wasn't sad, or lonely. (Mostly.) He just liked thinking. That was the sort of person Od was.

Later, people would come to Od asking for help with economics. "Help!" they would say. "We are all poor!" Then Od would plod down the mountainside and teach the people about currency-based economies, or accounting, or limited liability corporations. Then he would go back up the moutain.

(You might wonder how Od knew what the people were asking. He didn't. But that was okay. He just followed them and figured out the problem himself. It tended to be pretty easy. Sometimes he wondered if the problems he was solving were the same ones the people were complaining about. They always seemed happy with his solutions, though, so he figured it didn't really matter.)

Od liked the economics problems less than the agriculture ones. When he solved the food problems, people gave him food. When he solved the money problems, people gave him money. Food was tasty, but Od didn't have much use for money. He tended to end up giving it away. It was okay, though. He mostly just solved problems for the sake of solving them.

One time, a person came up to Od's cave. "Help!" the person said. "Crime is overrunning the city! Many people are starving! The prince has declared martial law!"

Od was surprised when he left his cave and looked. There was a city? This was new. He saved it for later consideration. Right now, he had a very tricky problem to consider.

Od thought about it on the way down the mountain. It seemed like it would need a social engineering solution. Those were tricky! He had an idea in mind for a kind of device that would use heat and water to make a wheel spin really fast. He hadn't quite worked out the details, but it seemed really nifty! He didn't think it would solve this problem, though. That made him sad for a moment.

Social engineering. Od was not very sure about social engineering. He hadn't thought much about it. He decided to keep things simple and just teach everyone martial arts. Then they could defend themselves from the criminals!

Od walked into the city. He taught everyone jujitsu. He walked out again.

The next day, a person came up to his cave, looking very upset. "Help!" the person said. "Now all the criminals are crane-kicking the soldiers trying to enforce martial law! It leads to some very exciting martial-arts battles but it is making things even worse!"

Od decided to try again. He didn't take his initial failure amiss. These things happened when dealing with sophisticated social engineering.

Od's next idea was to establish a police force. He walked into the city. He established a large police force, a logistics system to support them, and a set of laws to restrict their use. He walked out again.

The next day, a person came up to his cave, looking very upset. "Help!" the person said. "Now all the police are trapped in their stations by the sheer number of criminals! Things are really pretty bad!'

Od thought about this. His last idea was a good one, he thought. Not like the martial arts silliness. But he would need something else to really fix the problem.

The water-and-heat-wheel-turner still didn't seem like it fit the bill.

Then Od had an idea. Maybe he should fix the underlying problems! That was a much better approach than the one he'd been using.

First, Od went back to the fields. He taught the farmers how to use polyculture and crop rotation. Now there was enough food for everyone! Now fewer people would be forced to steal to live.

Second, Od went back to the city. He taught the city government how to use double-entry bookkeeping. Now there was much less corruption, so most of the food actually went to the people!

Now things were much better. The police were in the streets, most of the people were fed and no longer being criminals, and the soldiers had left the city, no longer harassed by wire-fu-practicing civillians. Everyone was happier!

But Od felt there was something still to do. He was pretty sure that he had still only fixed some of the underlying causes; there was something else he'd need to do if he wanted things to really work. For the first time, he stayed in the city overnight, thinking about his idea. Then he stayed for another night. And another, for six nights. Each day, he walked about the city, forming his idea for a system in which the welfare of the people, not that of the hereditary ruling class, would be the basic goal of government.

On the seventh day, Od went to the prince and told him his idea. "It is nearly done," Od said, "And tomorrow, I will teach it to everyone. Then things like this will never happen again."

That night, an assassin stabbed Od in the back. If Od had ears, he might have been able to hear the assassin coming! But he did not - and, just short of his greatest accomplishment, he died.

Actually, Od would have said that the government thing was his second-greatest accomplishment. He still hadn't finished with that wheel-turning device, after all.

But he was dead - and now, his trajectory cut tragically short, he is no more.

Weep for Od! Weep for his nobility. Weep for what he could have been. Weep, just as the prince did at his funeral, so very sad about Od's completely unplanned death.

Well, maybe not like that.


Od was a pretty cool guy. eh invented things and didn't afraid of anything.

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