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

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  • MetalDog 13 Aug 2012 13:46:31 23,928 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.

  • Deleted user 13 August 2012 13:50:35
    Probably a Ray Bradbury short story.
  • MetalDog 13 Aug 2012 13:52:40 23,928 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 11,362 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.
  • heyyo 13 Aug 2012 14:06:18 14,364 posts
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    Strikebreaker by Asimov?
  • MetalDog 13 Aug 2012 14:23:57 23,928 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 23,928 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 23,928 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 5,942 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 Funniest Forumite, 2014 13 Aug 2012 15:56:22 16,917 posts
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    Is it Enemy Mine by Barry B. Longyear?

    AVOID

  • Salaman 13 Aug 2012 15:56:27 20,096 posts
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    Enemy Mine?

    /runs
  • glaeken 13 Aug 2012 15:58:35 11,362 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 23,928 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 5,942 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 5,216 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.
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  • Bremenacht 13 Aug 2012 16:03:09 21,127 posts
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    It's not one of the I, Robot stories is it?
  • CosmicFuzz 13 Aug 2012 16:04:40 27,618 posts
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    Interesting job, brother.

    Did you know the original Xbox was to be free? We discuss it on our latest podcast.

  • MetalDog 13 Aug 2012 16:06:52 23,928 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 20,096 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 21,127 posts
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    Did you ever find out what book it was?
  • MetalDog 12 Aug 2013 21:03:11 23,928 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 24,515 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 7,326 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 22,202 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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