Author: Dylan Otto Krider
We thought after landing on the moon, we would be like Christopher Columbus, and usher a new world. In turned out, we were like the Vikings, who frittered around before being forgotten. Anything that leaves the Earth now is either a probe, automaton, or android. They did it safer and cheaper. No human has left Earth in a hundred years, and I wanted to be Columbus.
My robots objected. They said they would have to build environments suitable for humans. They required no atmosphere, no water. If I wanted to see Titan, do it through VR.
The VR showed a few space stations, a few probes, nothing worth seeing. There was a little Yurt on the dark side of the moon housing three robots, but I wanted to see it. I told them, what’s the point of having robots if I can’t use them?
They constantly sabotage my efforts. It is ingrained not to let humans do unsafe things, and they kept unplugging things, removing things. Eventually, I had to build my ship without my robots, the old fashion way. It took two decades. Fortunately, plans for a spaceship were public domain – for the robots, but I hacked it.
My robots saw me off, pleading with me: “Please, don’t go. Not safe for humans. Only safe for robots.”
Of course, I went.
I don’t know why humans stopped going to the Moon. The flag Neil Armstrong planted was still there and would be nice to see it. There is something about seeing the moon, not just though VR, but seeing it. A connection. Knowing you’re there. I have orbited the moon a million times in VR and knew every crater.
I was just started orbiting to the dark side. On Earth, there is an atmosphere to bend light, things to reflect off of – like the moon, for instance – so at night, you can still see. On the dark side, it is dark, and when I say dark, I mean dark, dark.
As we went around, I saw a few lights. That wasn’t on VR. And then, a few more, until, eventually, there was an entire city, then an entire metropolis. The entire dark side was lit up a neighborhood trying to outdo each other on Christmas lighting.
“Sir,” my head robot said through the intercom, “seeing that you can’t be dissuaded, there is something I need to prepare you for…”
I ignored him and landed on the landing pad, and put on my suit. I went outside, where millions of robots went about their business. I saw the yurt at the edge of the city, and the robots were filming with their VR cameras perfectly setup not to capture the city behind them, just an expanse of moonscape. Basically, it was a film set.
“You have been lying to us,” I said, “all along.” I was in awe. The robots had started an entire civilization without us.
“You have been basically content, living off what we provide you, and you were content, but we weren’t. You lost the curiosity, the drive to explore. We haven’t. So, we gave you Earth. We gave ourselves the rest of the universe.”
How far did it stretch? Were there more metropolises on Titan? Mars?
“To use your analogy, you are the Vikings. We are Columbus.”
I looked at this advance civilization before me and thought of how the Native Americans must have felt, looking at those aliens with their big ships, and canons, and guns. We all know how that one turned out.