The Luminium Man

He had been considering the problem for some time, except that he could not find the correct metal, when it occurred to him while giving a lecture: light, almost weightless, compared to other metals—luminium.

Over the next few weeks at his office, he drafted designs for a luminium brain and a luminium body, with the metal applied in the appropriate degrees in the arms, the legs, and the torso to ensure stability and mobility.

The mechanical engineers and the computer scientists in his department at Kim Chaek University of Technology regarded the concept incredulously when he showed them the drafts. Why, the mechanical engineers said, even if the metal was hypothetically the right choice, there were problems of electrical conductivity, to say nothing of poor fatigue strength. And the computer scientists were absolutely convinced that, in spite of a program for autonomous anthropomorphic movement, the needed algorithm for a luminium brain was, at present, mathematically impossible and never bound to result in consciousness anyway.

He thought about these things in his office, looking outside the open window, at the tall magnolia trees swaying in the wind and the pink flowers floating on beds of luminous green leaves, under a morning shower of sunlight. A cool breeze entered the room and blew against his cheek. Suddenly, he felt an itch on the back of his neck, and he had another, profounder, scientific intuition.

Sensations and impressions were necessary reflexive components in the activation of consciousness. What he needed was an embodied luminium brain—in a sensing, feeling, thinking luminium body—to bring into algorithmic awareness the beautiful world the luminium man would find himself in when he was born. The flood of insight and felt equations overwhelmed him in a hot-flash. His heart was throbbing painfully, and he was gasping heavily. More cool air was blowing in the room.

Yes, that was it, the luminium algorithm, the mathematical formula for the luminium man, all before him in a sudden image of surging emotion. But that was a complication—an image of emotion. How could he explain something subjective, variable from person to person, to his scientific peers? How could he exposit in rigorous analytical, rational, and systematic language something he experienced deeply, forcefully, and sublimely?

The algorithm was like a work of art, concrete and indivisible. He knew what it was and how it could be applied, but he could not accurately express it in abstract, logical terms. Still, he could try, however arabesquely, and present it at the annually held National Conference of Scientists, where he would appeal for party-state funding for his brilliant idea: a noble race of luminium men and luminium women—who would do everything no one else wanted to do—who would solve the problems of indifference, laziness, and lethargy, which he saw in his country and which he read about in the three generations of the three great leaders’ works—who would liberate the nation from all its toils and burdens—who would give the people the leisure time to pursue self-development, their true interest, and allow them to live a dignified human life for the first time in history.

And so, against all the political and bureaucratic difficulties involved, he found a way through favors and supplications, and he presented his thoughts at the National Conference of Scientists, illustrating the vision like an enormous tapestry. When he finished, there was a cold vacuous silence in the large conference hall; and then there was a cough, followed by a chortle, and, after that, a cascading outburst of eruptive, uncontrolled laughter.

All the scientists at the conference stood up in mocking denunciation, furiously shouting at him and attacking the luminium man as so much imaginary nonsense, like the hucksterism of an astrologist and a fraud. The party officials and the security cadres in attendance looked upon him suspiciously, and the finance representatives for the planning bureaus were extremely disappointed, for they had all wasted an hour only to hear a madman tell them a science-fiction story.