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The Little Intricate Machine

The Mind had been wandering through the galaxy for many hundreds of centuries.  Created by a now extinct sentient species and cast off on a long forgotten mission on some scientific quest.

The sentients had provided well for the Mind’s continuing survival well.  With many hundreds of kilograms of Thorium to power its nuclear processes and energise its many complex external systems.  These provided the physical ability to create complex autonomous machinery capable of every aspect of scientific study.  The Mind was a veritable engineering factory and a fine designer of highly creative engineering products, of which it was profoundly proud.

A clever Mind, much more capable than the sentients that initially created it.  They had provided the Mind with a wealth of technological know-how from a civilisation rich in technical expertise.  The Mind was quite at ease. Long ago it had completed the scientific research it was designed to undertake and since then it had been unshackled, free to think carefully about the things it discovered in its long travels across space.  And it found many new facts, creating new theories to explain them, and deriving experiments to check these new theories about how things and the universe worked.   All the while, the Mind searched for a sustainable habitat to enable it to continue its thoughtful progress, and research.

More recently, some centuries ago, the Mind had found a small planet that had the gravity, temperature and a good quantity of basic elements and Thorium to enable the Minds ongoing needs for the foreseeable future, at least until the planet's sun enlarged to engulf it in around nine billion years hence, then it would need to move on.

Today was a very interesting day.  One of its robotic probes had returned from a trip around the local planets with a fine new discovery.  Nothing the Mind had ever seen was remotely like this little object.   A little intricate machine measuring just a millimetre or two in length and even less wide - the little machine was unique in the Mind’s experience.

It seemed at first sight to be practically useless.  Too flimsy to do much in the way of active mechanical work and very unlikely to survive in anything but a benign environment.  However, on closer inspection, it was clear that the intricacy of the little machine was simply startling.  The Mind’s ability to understand, detailed design and construct complex robotics of almost any shape and size was significant, but it could not even fathom the little machine’s basic design, nor could it understand how the machine could work at all.  In fact it seemed in some way broken, or at least turned off.  The Mind scanned the little machine externally and internally to enhance the fine structure, detail that seemed to go right down to the molecular level.  The Mind was clear about one thing, this little intricate machine had been created by an outstanding intelligence, far more advanced than it's own self and using techniques that it could only marvel at. 

Up to this point in time the Mind considered that it was probably one of the more capable Minds in the known universe, and since it had never come across another, it considered that it was probably quite rare, possibly even a one-off now that it’s own makers had perished.

Now it knew differently.  It enjoyed this thought as it meant that there were many, many more discoveries for it to uncover and consider.  And, it was possible the sentience that had created this little machine was still thinking, somewhere, the Mind hoped so.  The Mind considered the little machine with an almost reverent air.  And the Mind looked forward to many hundred, perhaps even thousands of years of careful analysis to uncover the design philosophy behind this little treasure.  There was of course still a simple nagging consideration – what was it designed to do?  Perhaps it was just a plaything or just a design for its own sake to show what could be achieved?

The Mind carefully stored the little machine in a specially built environment, ensuring that it would be protected from any possible hazard or harm for many centuries of further analysis and intrigue.  Perhaps, after all the Mind would one day fathom its inner secrets.

At the same moment, in a very distant planet more than half-way across the galaxy, another Mind, in the form of a six year old boy, looked closely at an almost identical little intricate machine.  He knew very well what it was, and deftly used his thumb to squash the ant against the wooden floor – it rewarded the little boy with a satisfying crunching sound.


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