Help me identify the author and title of this sci fi story

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  • MetalDog 13 Aug 2012 13:46:31 23,697 posts
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    A colleague is desperate to find out and it sounded kind of familiar to me, I think it's been mentioned here at some point. What he remembers is this:

    A man is the last employed man on Earth. His job is to push a button randomly, because they haven't got a machine that can do that, unlike all the other jobs.
    They eventually invent a machine that can push the button randomly and he's put out of a job.

    Anyone know what that is and who it is by?

    -- boobs do nothing for me, I want moustaches and chest hair.

  • LeoliansBro 13 Aug 2012 13:47:23 43,672 posts
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    Sounds like an Asimov short story.

    This is mainly because 'sounds like an Asimov short story' is my default response. But it does ring a bell.

    LB, you really are a massive geek.

  • muttler 13 Aug 2012 13:50:35 3,976 posts
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    Probably a Ray Bradbury short story.
  • MetalDog 13 Aug 2012 13:52:40 23,697 posts
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    Bradbury, Asimov or Ellison seem likely, but ... which one?

    -- boobs do nothing for me, I want moustaches and chest hair.

  • glaeken 13 Aug 2012 13:56:39 11,134 posts
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    Piano Player by Kurt Vonnegut has a similar theme but not quite to the level where there is only one employee left.
  • LeoliansBro 13 Aug 2012 13:57:40 43,672 posts
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    I bought a book of Asimov's short fiction in a church book sale Friday before last, for £1. I owned it for all of 5 hours before I left it in a pub :(

    LB, you really are a massive geek.

  • heyyo 13 Aug 2012 14:06:18 14,374 posts
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    Strikebreaker by Asimov?
  • MetalDog 13 Aug 2012 14:23:57 23,697 posts
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    Piano player most likely contender so far... I'll wave the summary under his nose

    -- boobs do nothing for me, I want moustaches and chest hair.

  • MetalDog 13 Aug 2012 14:25:41 23,697 posts
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    I'll send him the summary of Strikebreaker too. Memory is a funny thing, but the summaries should provide a clear yes or no from him.

    -- boobs do nothing for me, I want moustaches and chest hair.

  • MetalDog 13 Aug 2012 15:51:55 23,697 posts
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    Nope, neither of those, although he says he's going to read the Vonnegut for sure now.

    Any other contenders? Button pushing job he is firm upon remembering.

    -- boobs do nothing for me, I want moustaches and chest hair.

  • disusedgenius 13 Aug 2012 15:56:16 5,271 posts
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    MetalDog wrote:
    A man is the last employed man on Earth. His job is to push a button randomly, because they haven't got a machine that can do that, unlike all the other jobs.
    I know it's not the point of this thread - but I'm going to say it anyway:

    Sounds like a slightly unfortunate outline for a story - doing something truly randomly is actually waaaay easier from machines and next to impossible for us.

    Carry on! :)
  • neilka 13 Aug 2012 15:56:22 15,831 posts
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    Is it Enemy Mine by Barry B. Longyear?
  • Salaman 13 Aug 2012 15:56:27 18,953 posts
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    Enemy Mine?

    /runs
  • glaeken 13 Aug 2012 15:58:35 11,134 posts
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    It does sound vaguely familiar but I doubt that helps. All I can suggest is maybe also consider Phillip K Dick as it sounds like the sort of thing he might have written.
  • MetalDog 13 Aug 2012 15:58:42 23,697 posts
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    Machines don't really do random though. They just fake randomness - although they're reaching a point where the method of fakery is so complex it makes next to no odds. It used to be quite hard to coax a random number out though and I suspect this story is getting on in years.

    If it helps at all, he reckons its a short story.

    -- boobs do nothing for me, I want moustaches and chest hair.

  • disusedgenius 13 Aug 2012 16:01:03 5,271 posts
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    MetalDog wrote:
    Machines don't really do random though. They just fake randomness - although they're reaching a point where the method of fakery is so complex it makes next to no odds. It used to be quite hard to coax a random number out though and I suspect this story is getting on in years.
    They can though, usually they use something like static to produce the numbers rather than the pseudo-random stuff, iirc. Either way, we're supremely shit at it.
  • Rusty_M 13 Aug 2012 16:01:42 4,640 posts
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    You wait all day then two come along at once.

    The world is going mad. Me? I'm doing fine.

  • Bremenacht 13 Aug 2012 16:03:09 17,712 posts
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    It's not one of the I, Robot stories is it?
  • CosmicFuzz 13 Aug 2012 16:04:40 23,789 posts
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    Interesting job, brother.

    Episode 5 of our gaming podcast Open Source is a Gamescom Special. Check it out here!

  • Deckard1 13 Aug 2012 16:05:45 27,612 posts
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    One million two hundred and twenty one thousand four hundred and seventy two.


    Take that machines!!

    Hush you ponce

  • MetalDog 13 Aug 2012 16:06:52 23,697 posts
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    Not I Robot, I would remember if it were. Also rules out 'The Rest of the Robots'.

    -- boobs do nothing for me, I want moustaches and chest hair.

  • Salaman 13 Aug 2012 16:13:32 18,953 posts
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    Rusty_M wrote:
    You wait all day then two come along at once.
    He even put in the author and beat me by 5 seconds. :-(
  • MightyMetalMonkey 13 Aug 2012 16:16:50 600 posts
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    glaeken wrote:
    It does sound vaguely familiar but I doubt that helps. All I can suggest is maybe also consider Phillip K Dick as it sounds like the sort of thing he might have written.
    It's a bit like the start of 'Galactic Pot Healer' by PKD.
    The main character is stuck in a meaningless job, but gets offered the opportunity to do something that will really matter...
  • Bremenacht 12 Aug 2013 20:57:52 17,712 posts
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    Did you ever find out what book it was?
  • MetalDog 12 Aug 2013 21:03:11 23,697 posts
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    I didn't! But it no longer matters =)

    -- boobs do nothing for me, I want moustaches and chest hair.

  • phAge 12 Aug 2013 21:30:06 24,344 posts
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    MetalDog wrote:
    Machines don't really do random though. They just fake randomness - although they're reaching a point where the method of fakery is so complex it makes next to no odds. It used to be quite hard to coax a random number out though and I suspect this story is getting on in years.

    If it helps at all, he reckons its a short story.
    AFAIK the NSA and other government organisations use what are essentially lava lamps hooked up to photographic sensors to create random numbers. Particle decay detectors (a la Schrödinger) are also pretty random - although I suppose you could say that neither get their randomness from the machine component.

    Anyhoo - sounds like an interesting story. Some wonderful sci-fi short stories out there.
  • dominalien 12 Aug 2013 21:30:16 6,848 posts
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    I don't know the story, but isn't that the one Lost is based on?

    PSN: DonOsito

  • Tonka 12 Aug 2013 21:54:26 20,168 posts
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    Unpossable. Lost has no coherence in any way what so ever so it couldn't possibly be based on anything written.

    If you can read this you really need to fiddle with your forum settings.

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