April 22, 2024

The following story was inspired by the reading of the first three Foundation novels by Isaac Asimov.


March 15th, 2030

Jonn Asim was stuck in traffic on the southbound highway heading into Terra City. He was scheduled as the keynote speaker at the Stargate conference and had to prepare a special demo before arrival. The car updated an estimated time of arrival every second, accounting for the exact traffic conditions, and indicated no time to spare. Jonn set the car on autopilot.

“Computer, call Hugh and tell him to have an escort ready on the south side of the Convention Center”.
“Done. Hugh is asking if you brought the demo”, responded the computer.
“Oh, right. Tell him yes, then bring up the simulator and switch to development mode”
“Roger that, message sent. Development environment loading” the computer informed as the car’s interior reconfigured: the steering wheel depressed into the dashboard, the window’s tint darkened, and on the interior of both touch screens and windows displayed a projection of the programming environment.”
“Alright, let’s see, what do the people want to see?” Jonn muttered to himself.
“People at Stargate this year are buzzing about the latest mission to Mars” offered the computer, recognizing the question was rhetorical but optimizing for helpfulness. “Perhaps, the demo should build on that excitement”.
“Not a bad idea, but since when do we follow the crowd. I ask so we can do the exact opposite. We are going to give people what they need but don’t yet know they want. It’s the only way to show what this demo is capable of”.

Jonn programmed the demo with a combination of verbal commands and hand gestures. The car signaled five minutes to arrival and autopilot made its final turn on 33rd street. As usual during the annual event, the city streets were closed off, but the autopilot program had anticipated as much based on a real-time model of traffic and roads. With fine-tuning for the minutia of street conditions, the car navigated to the guest speaker drop off zone.

“Welcome, Mr. Asim. Right this way” the escort said as Jonn exited the car at the precise location.
“Computer, park at the Convention Center garage and await my signal” Jonn spoke into his car remote. The car drove off autonomously to the indicated parking lot.
Jonn and the escort walked down the halls of the Convention Center to the anteroom of the main stage.
“There you are, all set?” asked Hugh as Jonn entered the anteroom.
Just then Jonn gets a message to his phone that demo is done training.
“Just in time” replied with a smile.
“Good, because we are up” said Hugh, relieved.

The audience waited anxiously for the keynote that was to feature a much anticipated demo of Stellar Technologies latest inventions. In the audience were investors, entrepreneurs, Jonn’s fans and college kids. One college kid in particular, hungover, with his date in tow, staggered into an open seat holding his heart in his hand.

Hugh walks on stage as the room awakened with applause.

“Terra City, how are we doing?” said Hugh as he took his seat on stage.
“Today, we have a special guest for you. Most know him as the founder of Stellar Technologies. Join me in welcoming Jonn Asim to the stage. Jonn…”
The room took the applause up a notch as Jonn walked in, taking his time and savoring the moment.
“Hey Terra City!” Jonn says after finally making it to his seat.
“Welcome back home Jonn. It’s been too long”
“It has, but Stellar’s latest developments required working under more exotic conditions”
“The moon definitely counts as exotic conditions” Hugh said with a pleased laugh.
“It’s not Mars but it’ll do.”
“Tell us what happened”.
“As you all know, we have given regular tours around the moon’s orbit for a year now. I’ve joined the team in the latest private trip with a stop at Moon Base. I needed to experience an extended stay to provide our customers the best possible service”
The room was quiet as Jonn paused for added suspense.
“I brought back some pictures, would you all like to see?”
The audience roared. Hugh nodded and Jonn pulled out his phone.
“Alright, let’s see… connecting to the big screen… and here we go” Jonn narrated as he projected videos on a wall size screen.
On the screen played a video of Jonn on a stool with his back to the camera and a paint brush in hand. In front of him was a painting of the Earth, a replica of the planet and its luminous glow that could be seen in the background of the video.
“I’m not much of a painter, but this is definitely my latest masterpiece” said Jonn proudly. “I call it, ‘An Outsider’s Perspective’”
The room was filled with the overview effect from the high resolution recording of the Earth from the vantage point of the Moon.
“What a beauty!” said Hugh. “The paining is ok too”.
“Thanks. We will post this video online and the art will be auctioned with proceeds going to scholarships for space engineers.”
“So it’s safe to hang out on the moon? Is that what you are going to tell us?” teased Hugh.
“Glad you asked - no, we’ve known that for some time. The real question is - how do we make a Moon Base sustainable for generations to come. I’ve prepared a demo for us to get an idea of what I’m getting at”.
“Computer, start demo,” prompted Jonn”.

A real-time video feed of the Moon Base was shown with a person standing out front of a large building.

“Hello, Terra City. I’m your guide at Moon Base, call me Oscar.” said a man standing on the Moon with no spacesuit.
“What are we looking at here exactly? Are you telling us the Moon has an atmosphere now?” asked Hugh confused.
“No way, terraforming the moon would take an unreasonable, almost impossible effort” replied Oscar. Hugh flashed a curious look at Jon. Jon smiled and indicated Hugh to continue.
“I’m confused, how are you breathing in space?”
“I don’t need to breath. I don’t have that limitation” responded Oscar. “Let me show you around the base and introduce you to our operations team of autonomous agents”

As Oscar performed the task of a virtual tour from thousand miles away, the Convention Center was filled with awe. Jonn beamed.


The roar from protestors could be heard outside the Atomos Nuclear Facility in Alaska. Media personnel eagerly sought a glimpse of the inaugural proceedings of the opening of the fifth operational nuclear plant in America. A reporter interviewed a protesting environmentalist.

“We have Dr. Biome, professor of Climate Change at World University with us today. He has braved these freezing temperatures to make his voice heard. Tell us professor, what bring you out to Atomos Nuclear Facility?”
“I represent multiple generations of Alaskans and the latest in environmental science. Today is a dire circumstance. For the first time in Alaska’s history, we witness the destruction of native lands for the establishment of a nuclear facility - a facility that is expected to create 20 metric tons of nuclear waste every year!” responded Dr. Biome.
“Atomos officials claim each of its facilities produce 10 Giga Watts of energy. The Alaska facility alone would then be capable of producing half of the energy consumed by the state. Are you suggesting, professor, a net loss to Alaskans as a result of this facility? the reporter followed up.
“Absolutely. We ought to be powering our cities with only renewable energy that involves zero detrimental byproducts. It’s bad enough that toxic byproducts are produced, but what about the risk of a meltdown? How are my fellow Alaskans supposed to sleep at night knowing the danger of a Chernobyl is in their neighborhood!”

The interview was distracted by commotion at the facility’s outer gate entrance. Protestors mobbed security and begin streaming in through to the outer gate where they are met by backup security personnel. A struggle ensued. Inside the facility an eager audience of investors, entrepreneurs, and faculty chatter away in the main auditorium.

“10 minutes to show time! Everyone, take your positions” the facility director proclaimed in adrenaline fueled haste. “And where is Kathleen? Can someone text Kathleen?”

From the conference room adjacent to the top floor office came the sounds of a frustrated child and a playful dog.

“There is a bug somewhere but where? I’ve looked over the code a hundred times now” said the child.
“You have been working on that for an hour now, what does that tell you?” said Kathleen, placating.
“I know, I know, I’m not looking at the problem with the needed perspective” recited the child reflexively. “You always tell me patience is key but how long am I supposed to wait!?”
“Go take Baxter on a walk in the facility playground and see how that feels” suggested Kathleen. “Jameson, could you look after Jopper and join them in the playground, please. There is too much commotion outside for them to go alone right now.”
“Of course, doctor. It would be my pleasure” responded Jameson with serene confidence.

As Jameson, Jopper and Baxter walked out the conference room. Jennine, Kathleen’s assistant hurried in, exasperated.

“Doctor May, it’s time” Jennine blurted out mid stride.

Kathleen May made her way to the main auditorium where Jennifer, the facility director was welcoming attendees, introducing the facility and sharing statistics related to power consumption needs of the country.

“Now, for the woman of the hour, allow me to introduce our founder. She has risked her wealth and life for the mission of energy abundance. You know her well as the person who made nuclear power possible again in America. Ladies and gentlemen, Kathleen May.

The attendants rose to their feet in a standing ovation and were beside themselves with revelry at the sight of Atomo’s founder.

“Hello friends! It’s so good to be with you again. Please, take your seat” said Kathleen with warm patience. The attendants continued for a moment and finally settled back into their seats, eager for the founder to continue.

“We have learned a lot since the opening of the first nuclear facility in New Mexico. The political environment is no less challenging than it was then. As you all saw at your arrival, some groups of people are unenthusiastic about our mission. We don’t blame them; they have been continuously misinformed by the media and the corporate interest that fear our mission.” Kathleen said, taking a pause to read the room. “When we started this journey, we knew that bringing nuclear power back to America would be a long drawn out battle but we believed nuclear energy would play a vital role in energy independence for our country. The latest energy crisis in Europe has again shown us the danger to national security that energy dependence entails. We are committed to working with energy secretary Tony, and the Energy Independence League of the West to ensure our children do not have to wage wars to power our cities.” The room again lit up with applause and Kathleen continued. “Our foundation has invested five billion dollars over the past five years to develop safer and more efficient waste capturing and neutralizing technology. Today, we are happy to announce, with the opening of our Alaska facility, the launch of the industry’s first net-zero waste technology that disposes of nuclear waste.” Kathleen said as the lights dimmed. A video of a rocket thrusting into space played, showing a trajectory to the sun. “The sun is not only a source of power but also an efficient way to dispose of nuclear waste. Now, for the first time, we have technology capable of safely transporting the most hazardous nuclear waste out of earth and to the sun, all at a fraction of the cost of the energy produced.”

The room exploded into astonished applause and cheers.


Oscar Vega, Stellar Technologies’ autonomous Moon Base supervisor, was a robotic replica of the human who serves as chief operating officer. As Oscar logged into a hologram conference call, the industrious workforce of automaton were busy with the Moon Base expansion under construction. A three dimensional, real-time light rendering of Jonn manifested in the seat opposite to Oscar’s. While Jonn’s physical incarnation dialed in from earth, the light rendering matched his actual proportions and appearance.

“Good morning, Mr. Asmin” said Oscar, cheeringly. “You will be pleased to hear we are making headway into the expansion to Moon Base mission control.
“Good day, supervisor. I commend you for the diligence and productivity of the Mission Control team under your leadership” was Jonn’s response, pleased.
“It does take time getting used to the programing of a workforce that doesn’t sleep, or ever stop working” said Oscar, replicating what the human version would say. “The Texas command center sent over their workforce training data. We were able to use transfer learning during training of Moon Base construction tasks.”
“You will have earned your rest tenfold with the completion of the foundational phase of construction.”
“I look forward to earth nights and spending the days with my wife and kids”.

The light rendering of Jonn flashed. Jonn received a message from the Computer marked with high importance. “Mr. Asim, a message from the White House, your presence is requested”.

Jonn dialed his holographic presence into a meeting already in progress. In Washington D.C., the president was surrounded by the light renderings of the space industry’s top executives. The young president spoke with clear competence and addressed the ad-hoc assemblage with an enthusiastic demeanor reflecting his comfort with high stakes situations.

“I am humbled and appreciative of your attention today on such a short notice.” The president said, pausing briefly to mark the moment. “We have a national emergency that requires coordination. It appears China has begun a land invasion of Taiwan. According to the Shanghai Communiqué, the United States under the Nixon administration, acknowledged the One China policy. We are prepared to uphold the commitments of prior administrations and evacuate any American civilian in Taiwan. Kathleen May, has committed the energy resources necessary to ensure our military has the fuel for operations in the Pacific for the foreseeable future.”

“We are prepared to harness up to half the output of the Alaska facility to power our Pacific fleet. Even with the re-allocation, there should be no interruption to the power supply to the American continent” Kathleen added, bringing relief to the holographic renderings of executives present. Jonn remained sanguine in anticipation of the implications of the meeting.

The president continued: “Thankfully, our administration and the leaders of our semiconductor companies have reduced our economic dependence in Taiwan. However, the risk of a cyber contagion through our satellites remains a vulnerability we cannot ignore. We need surveillance and defense on our space infrastructure in the event of further escalation”.

The president allowed for the reality of the challenge presented to settle in, then the room turned to Jonn for a response.

“Let me see if I follow, Mr. President” began Jonn. “You want me to spy on the Chinese satellites and space traffic for signs of illegal cyber-attacks?”

“No, we want you to defend the interests of space commerce and military operations and ensure continuation of service. You have more eyes than anyone between Washington and the moon. Use them to identify unusual behavior and promptly alert the American military.”

“Sure, so business as usual. Pardon, Mr. President, but a cyber-attack is not likely to show signs in the world of atoms until it’s too late. I would recommend we use the Computer to monitor for suspicious cyber activity.”

“That we will, Jonn. The Computer has been given the purpose of national security and is instructed to report back on any such communication. We have reason to believe that parasitic robotic entities have been used in lower Earth orbit to inject cyber viruses directly into our satellite infrastructure.”

“Yes, we created those during the last cyber war. It was only a matter of time before they were used against us.”

“We are using the nation’s supercomputers to compute an inoculation on behalf of global systems. Until then, as your president, I am asking you to be an extension to our national defense and use your knowledge of these cyber-attacks to identify and preempt them.”


Titus Ranger took a sip of espresso, messing up the ornately crafted foam art on the surface. Normally, he would be listening to personalized news in the morning, but lately the topic of war was common across anyone who could afford to get the news.

“For the fifteenth straight week, the Chinese forces have occupied Taiwan. The crossing of the Rubicon in the conflict occurred last night with the cyber-attack on American military bases, disabling the power grid and forcing backup power generators to come alive across the nation. As of today, no nation has yet taken responsibility for the attack. However, decentralized media reporters have reached a near consensus. The potential causal theory points to a Chinese response of America’s recent refusal to remove all military presence from the island…” the artificially generated voice of a news broadcaster declared.

Titus’s attention shifted as the door to his office opened.

“Jonn, in the flesh, now this must be important” said Titus, amused.
“What, a guy can’t drop by to visit his old buddy on a whim” replied Jonn with a joking smile on his face.
“Not when the drums of war are this loud. Don’t tell me you don’t know the Chinese have infiltrated the nations intranet because it’s no time for jokes”
“More than likely the point of penetration was the American military base on the moon. There was plenty of decoys sent to the satellites though, enough for a clandestine operative to circumvent security during the changing of the guard.”
“And the bio-tracking? There is no way a single cell could have entered that building without triggering the systems’ defense.”
“Taking from the bio-identification of the suspect in custody, a military base agent was captured and cloned to 100% bio-marker alignment.”
“So what do we do now?” Titus said in realization.
“Titus, we need to bring the power back and crack this virus.” said Jonn. “There’s a rocket waiting for us at the south Texas launch site. We will arrive at the Moon in 24 hours.
“Have you spoken with Kathleen? We should be engaging the nuclear backup generators to buy us time.”
“Bring it up with her yourself, she is coming with us.”


On Stellar’s Moon Base, the dark emptiness of space engulfed the senses and engendered a cosmic perspective that permeated down to the bones. The base was a web of underground tunnels expanding out from a central spoke chamber. The mission control room was located in the central chamber and its entrance was a redundant air pressurized tunnel with multiple security points. Titus was given full access to mission control and concentrated on locking down the virus markers. Meanwhile, Kathleen projected her holographic presence back home from a conference room on Moon Base.

“Mom, show me the robots!” said Jopper’s hologram excitedly. Baxter managed to get picked up by the holo-camera by reaching in close to Jopper’s face and was also projected virtually.
“This is our friend who supervises Moon Base, say hello to Oscar.” Kathleen introduced a casually dressed man in his forties.
“Hey there Jopper! I heard you want to study robotics and automation.” Oscar jumped in with a friendly and welcoming tone.
“Yes, sir. I’ve customized a version of Maximus 5000 to play fetch with Baxter. Programming is a hobby of mine.”
“Good, well keep at it and one day you could program the next generation of mission control for us.”
“I could program Moon Base?!” responded Jopper in wonderment.
“Sure you could. Keep building and share what you build with the world. Let’s catch up in a few years. Looking forward to speaking with you again Jopper. I’ve got to go for now” Oscar waved and stepped out of frame.
“What did you think, Jopper?” asked Kathleen.
“He was nice, but I wanted to see robots” responded Jopper.
“What if I told you that Oscar is the most advanced robot there is?”
“What?! Him, a robot? No way!” Jopper exclaimed, incredulous.

Jonn was alone, playing Beethoven on a grand piano in a private quarter on the opposite side of Moon Base. There was a one-way panoramic window in front of him with a view of Earth. As the musical piece approached its climax, the Pacific Ocean was spinning out of view revealing the continental masses of the Old World: a moment of connection with time and space.

“Sir, its time” Oscar’s voice was heard through the room’s speaker.
“Thank you Oscar. Please check in with Titus and see if he needs anything” responded Jonn.

Jonn walked down the halls of the complex to the conference room were Kathleen was on a call with the chief scientist at the nuclear facilities.

“Hello, can I come in?” Jonn knocked before entering.
“Let’s connect tomorrow” Kathleen ended her call. “Go ahead, come in. Is it time?”
“Not yet, we aren’t due to meet with Titus for another hour”
“Then what can I do for you, Jonn”
“I just wanted to thank you personally for what you are doing for our country” Jonn said.
“Oh, that’s sweet of you. Look, we all have loved ones we would do anything to protect. Call it the human imperative to see our species survive” Kathleen replied.
“Do you think we stand a chance? I mean, humanity – will we survive another war…” Jonn said with seriousness.
“We will make it through these trying times and give the next generation an opportunity to live better than we did.” Kathleen said, sincerely. “There is no limit to what we can create. We have managed to invent out way out of problems like these before.”
“Even a techno-optimist has to wonder how lucky we have to be to avoid blowing ourselves up and ruining the great run we have been on since the Enlightenment.”
“We must trust in the individuals who are determined to protect Western and enlightenment values. Our hope lies with people like you”

Just then a message from Titus reached their phones and took their attention. “You all want to see this” it read. They all met up in the control room, just before their planned time. Titus beamed with a confident and self-assured, patient countenance.

“Check this out: the security system shows everyone who is currently logged in and contributing to the training data for the power grid’s distribution model - the model that determines how much power goes where. On the surface it seems normal. I was talking with Oscar and noticed how his intention circuit is in complete alignment with the goals of mission control. A 100% cloned bio-copy of a government agent, however, would not be”

Titus tapped his finger on the controls and made a gesture in the air that was interpreted by the system as a trigger. “What you see now is the authentication requirements for accessing the system, including the mandatory brain frequency readings. These brain frequency readings can be used to map out a person’s intentions. As you can see here, all intentions are reading positive except for the cluster of users in this region who have been making up the vast majority of usage data in the past few days. Their intention is to consume all of the grids energy at an exponential cost…”

“diverting the energy usage to the point of draining the system, triggering the system’s auto-shut off” Jonn finished the thought.
“Yes, and now…” Titus typed in a set of commands and said “Computer, remove mal-intents from system”.

One by one and then increasingly in frequency indicators of users with negative intentions began to fade away.


The land invasion of Taiwan and cyber-attack had driven the world’s two dominant powers into a tense and precarious moment of truth, narrowly escaping declaring war with each other. The Western power discovered the cyber-attacker to be a lone actor in search of instigating a new world order. The Eastern power was sufficiently appeased through the de facto control of Taiwan, a necessary diplomatic concession from the West. The balance of power in the world, however, was irreversibly tipped in a new direction for the first time in a century. A multipolar world order would not remain stable for long. A struggle of ideas and values between the East and West played out in various digital fronts. Instigators and ignoramuses frustrated those who would seek to synthesize dissimilar perspectives. The mainstream narrative permeated with an atmosphere of distrust for ways of life that were unfamiliar.

“The Eastern power declared mandatory service to family and nation for ages 18-33. Members of the country found that failing to serve for at least 30 minutes daily would result in a deduction from their social accounts. After repeated offense, they would be forbidden to make purchases using the nation’s banking system. Adherence to service quotas are tracked by cameras, pervasive in the country” the news broadcast could be heard playing from the foyer of Jonn’s office. From a nearby conference room, Jonn unwittingly listened to the news through an open door and realized he had tuned out of the meeting he was in that moment. “Our analysis shows a reduction in cost for stage three production by redesigning the …” the meeting went on.

“Sounds good, let’s go for it” Jonn said, snapping back to reality. “You will excuse me. I have to make a call”. He reached into his wallet and pulled out Kathleen’s business card, staring at it for a moment and then putting it back. He dialed a number from memory.

“Jonny?” a tender voice picked up.
“Hi Mom, is Dad home?” Jonn said.
“He is. You should give him a call, he has been asking for you” said Margret, assuring. “How are you, Jonny? You’re always so busy”.
“I’m good. Actually, that’s why I call. How would you all like to take a trip for a few days,” Jonn’s voice slightly breaking with discomfort at the idea of vacation.
“Of course, but you know how your father gets with taking time off” she responded.
“Is he next to you now?”
“Robert, come here, your son’s on the phone.”
A moment passed as some chatter could be heard over the phone. Jonn felt his body tense up in anticipation.
“Jonn, to what do we owe the honor” Robert said finally.
“Hi dad, you know how you’ve always said that resting is for the dead?”
“That’s what your grandfather used to say. He had a point in a way.”
“Well, what if we don’t wait till we die. I’d like to take a trip with you and mom.”
“A trip…? I don’t know, things are busy right now at the office. What did you have in mind?”
“I just want to spend some time with you all, no particular plans” Jonn paused for a moment.
“Why don’t you come home for dinner tomorrow, Jonn. I can fire up the grill.” responded Robert.
Margret can be heard in the background speaking excitedly.

The sun neared its final resting place for the day as the summer heat gave way to dimming light. At the Asim residence, the setting of plates could be heard inside the house while smoke from the grill filled the backyard air. Jonn capitalized on downtime by looking through his old books and reminisced how hours would disappear without effort in those stories.

“How did you two know you could trust each other enough to build a life together” asked Jonn after the family said grace.
“Oh, Jonny” Margret said sweetly. “Your father and I were so young when we decided to build a life together, it was mostly a leap of faith”.
“You finally thinking of settling down, Jonn?” asked Robert.
“I just don’t see how I can live without having full trust in a partner… and well, partnerships in the past have eventually ended in some sort of betrayal.”
“Do you trust yourself, Jonn?” asked Robert.
“As much as consciously possible.”
“When I was your age, I remember a struggle to determine what I wanted out of life. It was not always evident in day to day events, but every so often an internal struggle would ensue between what I thought I wanted and what I yearned for unconsciously.” Robert paused as he recollected his past. Then continued “you were a restless kid, Jonn. Always stretching for what was just outside your reach. Now you’re building companies on the Moon with robots for goodness sake. Don’t forget you are human just like the rest of us”.

That night, Jonn watched the full moon from the balcony of the house he grew up in. His eyes processed the light that reflected off Earth’s life-long cosmic companion but his mind was with the firmness of his feet as gravity held him close to the ground.

The next day, employees of Stellar Technologies received the following email:

Stellar Family,

Since the company’s founding, our purpose has been and continues to be: expanding humanity’s perspective and knowledge through space travel.

We have brought people together of all backgrounds to explore the solar system and our fundamental commonalities.

As we take on today’s tasks, take a moment to acknowledge each other’s contributions to our shared mission and appreciate the great responsibility that we have chosen to serve.

The world is increasingly polarized and divided; we will undoubtedly be tempted to pick a side on issues and identify with a group.

Let us discuss critically different perspectives and remember the to keep open the possibility that the truth is not yet known.

Thank you for all that you do.