Atomic Radio Asks Who is the Master, Technology, or Man?

A longtime theme of Science Fiction is the story of the Mad Scientist’s creation taking a will of its own, usually with tragic results. This happened in one of the earliest Science Fiction novels, Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein. The theme took on Society wide implications in the Atomic Age.

The apprehension is understandable. There was to be countless wonders from Atomic Power, but all that the average person saw were pictures of mushroom clouds. Coupled with this lack of understanding was a lack of control. Should the world be vaporized in Atomic War, the average person would have little to do with it. The decision would be made in Washington, or worse, in the Kremlin.

In “The Life Boat Mutiny”, written by Robert Sheckley and performed on X Minus One, Sep 11, 1956, the question is explored in a rather humorous fashion.   A team buys an old lifeboat to use in a survey of a water covered planet. The automated lifeboat, when fully activated, sticks to its programming to protect its occupants at any cost. But those occupants weren’t supposed to be human…

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Suspense had a more chilling interpretation of the theme in “The Doom Machine”, written by Edgar Marvin and broadcast Mar 4, 1962. A scientist is frustrated with the limitations of his Human Brain, so he creates a robot to aid in his work. He thinks that he has succeeded, the robot meets his expectations, but there are dangers with “the most advanced electronic brain ever devised.” The Machine kills on assistant while the Doctor is away. The Machine tries to warn the Doctor by telling him to listen to the audiovox tape, but the Doctor can’t be bothered, thinking the first assistant has quit. Instead he finds another Assistant that will be put in danger, this time the fiancé of the Doctor’s daughter.

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