….It was in the very distant past that the first computer appeared, and with it dawned a new era of which the main events form the subject of this account. Despite one appalling disaster, this period of history is dominated by a fantastic evolution which transformed the primitive pre-computer communities and welded them into the perfectly integrated and organized society of today.
The future historian begins in the past, with the formation of Earth and the origin of life. Biological evolution is here a mere detour through the human race, necessary to construct the first computer.
Our poets, especially those commonly called mystics, tend to regard the period immediately succeeding the formation of the Earth as a mighty effort on the part of nature to engender computers directly, without the help of any intermediary. They are alluding to the geological processes which crystallized out many of the substances of which a data machine consists. But the task of bringing forth computers from sterile soil proved too difficult. The tectonic forces which created mountains and differentiated minerals could not produce anything as subtle and complex as a computer. For this a lengthy, troublesome detour was required, and the greatest of all tasks had to be completed step by step.
The chronicler describes how early computers facilitated mathematical calculations that gradually led to the automation of all areas of society. First came inventions such as the Teletotal, a combination of “automatic telephone,” radio, and TV. Then came the Minitotal, worn as a wristwatch and in constant radio contact with the Central Computer, where all information was stored. Finally came the Neurototal, a tiny unit inserted surgically into a nerve channel, enabling direct contact between the nervous system and the computer system, intimately connecting everybody to one another and to the all-encompassing computer network.
For a time, all seemed to be functioning well, as most societal functions were now run by computers. However, the power struggles of human bureaucrats did not decrease. Human brain capacity was insufficient to analyze and organize the complex and rapidly progressing society. Additionally, there was always the imminent risk of human error: An imperceptible mistake could cause a devastating chain reaction. And this was exactly what happened.
Suddenly, there was a blackout, all at once, worldwide. The computers lost their power supply, and society became paralyzed. Nobody knew how infrastructure functioned—for food, water, electricity; everything was beyond human control. Most people died in this great disaster (though nature got a respite from exploitation).
The few who survived had to start again from scratch. By finding clues in archives and museums, they were able to re-create society’s entire cultural development. But they saw that safeguarding against similar disasters was an absolute necessity. The safest thing would be to not involve people in the most important functions of society.
The computers gained the ability to repair and replicate themselves, and eventually they solved all society’s problems in the most logical manner. The book ends in the narrator’s present time. Supercomputers are busy analyzing whether or not humans should be retained—for nostalgic reasons, or as a back-up in the event of another disaster. If it was not obvious before, it is now: The narrator “himself” is a computer…
Complete essay here