The silent man awoke at exactly 0700. He didn’t use an alarm clock; he’d woken up at this time every day of his life. It was written on his genes. He got out of his bed without any fuss and folded it back into the wall of his home. At three meters wide, four meters long, and two meters high, the silent man’s apartment was of exactly average size. The silent man’s breakfast was already provided for him on the small table set in the opposite wall of his room. The synthesized food had the appearance and flavor of great platefuls of muffins, pancakes, bacon, eggs, ham, and more, but in reality, the whole ensemble provided a similar caloric and nutritional value to what the silent man’s distant forebears would have gotten from a bowl of fruit. The silent man picked up a muffin, took a bite, and then dropped the thing back on the table. No, he simply wasn’t hungry today. The silent man went for the door, intending to go to work now. The helpers would take away the uneaten food and re-synthesize it for future meals. However, as the silent man grasped the door, he hesitated. The silent man decided that he didn’t want to go out naked today. He rarely did. The silent man grabbed his silver jumpsuit from the floor and stretched it over his hairless body. Finally, he opened the door and went out to his garage.

The garage was one meter by two meters in area, just large enough for the silent man and his automobile. An automobile was a machine containing a plush armchair, covered by a strong metal shell; just large enough for the passenger to be comfortable in his seat and carried by three silent wheels. The silent man sat down in his automobile, thought of his place of work, and felt the sensation of motion. A modern automobile was a nearly indestructible construct; in the highly unlikely event that two of these self-directed machines collided, the passengers within were unlikely to even notice, largely due to the fact that the metal shell of the invincible automobile didn’t contain so much as a shard of glass in it. The silent man knew that the vehicle would descend from his apartment and drive out into the little 18-lane street, but he could not see beyond the walls of the machine to see the thousands of similar vehicles with their thousands of similar passengers joining him on similar journeys.

The silent man worked for the government. Everyone did. When the vehicle finally opened, he could see that he was in his office. The silent man climbed out of the armchair of his vehicle and into the armchair of his workplace. A pair of electrodes hung down from the ceiling, and the silent man stuck one to each of his temples. Since the invention of the synthesizer, man no longer had to work for his bread. Since the invention of the helpers, the remainder of the work necessary to maintain society had been offloaded onto machines. Man’s sole lot in life was to govern. Every day, billions of men and women would wear electrodes just like these, lending their brain-power to the World Computer, which in turn commanded the helpers. The silent man’s own reasoning ability was distilled into an electrical impulse and averaged out with the thoughts of every other adult human on the planet to form a universal will of the people, according to which the helpers ran the world. In this way, the World State was the world’s first true democracy. From the armchair in his office, the silent man voted on laws, sat on juries, managed factory labor, and more. Or at least, that’s how he assumed it worked. Due to the often confidential and private nature of governmental decision-making, the silent man’s memory of the workday was always painlessly and instantly erased at the end of his shift. When the electrodes fell off of the silent man’s head, it seemed to him that he had been sitting only a moment. In reality, ten hours had passed.

The silent man went back to his automobile and thought of home. No, not home. The silent man wanted to do something today. Anything. The silent man thought of the museum. The little vehicle descended from the tall office building and made its way, unseen, through the crowded city. At last, the automobile opened. The silent man stepped outside. It was now, on Fourthday, at 1802, that the silent man saw other humans for the first time that week. About a dozen of them were milling silently between their automobiles and the museum entrance. Human beings were manufactured in two sexes and in three stocks. The sexes were male and female. The stocks were Chinesian, Black, and Coffee. The silent man himself was of the Coffee stock. With modern surgical techniques, it was quick and costless for humans to change their sex or their stock, but this was rarely done. It was simple as well for humans to design custom sexes and custom stocks, even to the point of incorporating inhuman features into their bodies. This, of course, was even rarer. It was therefore a small herd of people with beige, black, and brown skins that the silent man saw, all wearing the same silver jumpsuit as him, with the exception of one or two naked bodies.

The silent man stepped through the holographic projection which served as the museum’s door. The hall was sparsely dotted with human beings silently grazing at the exhibits with their eyes. A helper, a little metal disk with a touchscreen and powerful mechanical arms, floated its way toward the silent man.

“Good evening, sir, and welcome to the museum. I am the curator of all that you see. Would you like me to guide you through the fascinating history of the human species?”

The silent man shook his head. The helper wished him a good day, and floated away to cheerily offer its assistance to others.

History, as presented in the museum, began with the invention of the synthesizer. The ancient world had been divided into social units called “nations,” and each nation was governed by its own state. Each state was composed of only a few individuals, and each one ostensibly provided for the needs of the people of its nation. But when the synthesizer was invented, the synthesizer provided for the needs of the people. The nations of the world hadn’t realized that they had been structured around scarcity. In the ancient world, man had to work for a living. In the synthesized world, why should he? Poverty was over. He had a machine which could create food, clothing, and organs, if not literally from thin air, then effectively so. Man found himself with no incentive to fill the countless small positions necessary for the function of society. Governance, policing, the manufacture of inorganic materials: all these things ceased to be. Man became aimless, and his civilization floundered.

The nations of the world needed a solution. The states of the world found one in the helpers. Intelligent machines were created to do the work that man no longer had any reason to do. Once the first batch of them was built, the helpers were able to build more of themselves without human supervision, and from there they built themselves into the largest workforce the world had ever seen. The helpers built the roads and raised up the towers; the helpers administered to the sick and brought justice to the wicked; and the helpers built and repaired the synthesizers.

Still, the human species grumbled. The peoples of the world were afraid to place their destinies in the hands of the machines. The states of the world would undertake their last venture in solving this problem. On the last day of the ancient world, the states unveiled the World Computer, and then adjourned for the last time. The World Computer was not an intelligent machine in and of itself. Rather, its will was the averaged will of all humanity. Wielding true human will to control the helpers, the World Computer ensured that the human species would never lose control of its own destiny.

It was under the World Computer that man would face his last dilemma. With civilization in its fullest bloom, and the material needs of man in their greatest abundance, the human population swelled to unstable heights. The will of the majority rang clearly in the World Computer’s silicon ears. The helpers were managing everything else so well; why not entrust human reproduction to them as well? Sterilizing chemicals were administered to the whole planet in the sterilized food. The helpers began to manufacture sterile human beings in the three modern stocks with which the Silent Man was familiar: the Chinesian stock, which had originated in the ancient land of Chinesian; the Black stock, which hailed from the ancient land of Africa; and the Coffee stock, which had by this point arisen in all other parts of the world. Within a generation of this, the population had been brought down to a sustainable eighteen billion, and the synthesized era began in earnest.

The museum’s helper tapped on the silent man’s shoulder and made a sound suggestive of a throat being cleared.

“I beg your pardon, sir. I have been asked to deliver this pink slip to you.”

The pink rectangle on the helper’s screen was a request for a sexual encounter from another human being. The woman who had sent it stood stiffly a few feet behind the helper. She was Chinesian and fully nude. The stiff woman stared at the silent man with silent eyes. The silent man reached for the helper’s screen and tapped the word “no.”

“I’ll tell her the news, sir.”

The silent man didn’t stick around to see the stiff woman’s reaction. He knew that, in all likelihood, she wouldn’t have one. The silent man walked out of the museum and clambered into his automobile. He wanted to go somewhere, anywhere, perhaps some place with trees. Even with such vague instructions, the vehicle silently wheeled away from the museum. How long the journey was taking or where it was taking him, the silent man had no way to tell. After a while, though, the automobile began to drive over what was evidently a rougher road, and the ride became less silent. The sky was dark when the automobile opened.

The silent man stood on the edge of a small square of woods. The city loomed large behind him, but he looked to the trees instead. A clean, brick path rose with the neatly-wooded hill that lay before him. The silent man climbed it. A helper flew over to him from behind a tree.

“Oh, you don’t have to do all that walking yourself, sir. Let me carry you, I insist.”

The silent man ignored the machine. Though he seldom exercised, the silent man had been manufactured for excellent health, as all humans were. The slight incline of the wooded hill was no difficulty at all for his artificially powerful legs. The helper buzzed along behind him with curious movements, but did not speak again.

The first thing the silent man noticed upon reaching the top of the hill was the bear. The fact that bears are dangerous animals did not occur to the silent man, for indeed they were not. Animal reproduction was managed by the helpers as much as human, and the creatures that had terrorized the ancients were not made to be tame as lambs. The bear blinked at the silent man through its spectacles, got up, and trotted to his side. The silent man ran his fingers through the animal’s soft, conditioned fur for a moment, then walked on a bit further.

The other side of the hill presented not a gentle decline, but a sheer, 100-meter drop into another small square of woods. Beyond those lower woods, a lower city extended as far as the silent man could see.

An old holographic display flickered nearby. Words hovered above a static image, and spoke when the silent man read them.

“McColloh’s Leap. In Ninthmonth of the Ancient Year of 1777, Major Samuel McColloch, of the ancient nation of United States, was trapped between this ledge and Native American forces. Rather than risk capture, McColloch spurred his horse to the edge. Amazingly, both horse and man survived the leap, and McColloch safely rejoined United Statesian forces that day.”

The static image showed a man riding a horse over a cliff, with his pursuers frozen in shock. The man on the horse was of the ancient European stock. The ancient man’s long, golden hair blew from his scalp and chin, and his yellow eyebrows furrowed over his vibrant, blue eyes. The ancient man’s skin was pale, like some Chinesians, but had a strange, rosy hue to it. The ancient man’s eyes were set grimly on the ground below, where he expected to land, and the man showed no fear. His pursuers, of the ancient American stock, couldn’t help but look on their enemy with awe. Their muscled, bronze backs contorted and bulged as they threw up their arms in amazement.

Somehow, the static scene seemed very alive to the silent man. He knew that the Coffee stock was, in part, derived from the ancient European and American stocks. He wondered if he might not now be carrying genes that had passed through the men in that picture. He wondered if he might be able to have some golden hair planted in his scalp, or perhaps bright blue irises laid upon his eyes.

The helper tapped the silent man on the shoulder.

“Excuse me, sir; I do hope you don’t plan of staying out here all night. This site is to be leveled first thing in the morning, and a new processing station for the World Computer is to be erected here. You ought to go home now, before the construction helpers arrive.”

The silent man neither responded nor obeyed. Instead, he reached for the bespectacled bear and scratched its head for a while. When he tired of them, the silent man peeled his clothing off of his body, walked straight up to the edge, and dropped his jumpsuit into the woods below. A breeze caught the lightweight garment and carried it beyond the woods, and the silent man lost track of it somewhere in the city beyond.

The silent man leapt.

Before he had gone three meters, the helper dashed beneath the silent man and wove a web of soft, yet solid, light to catch him. The silent man felt not the slightest discomfort as the web gradually slowed his fall til he hung motionlessly above the treetops. The helper took the silent man down and gently set him on his feet.

“My word, sir, you must be positively exhausted. You very nearly fell down that cliff! Wait right here; I’ll fetch your automobile for you at once. You much go home, now. You must!”

The helper darted out of sight, toward the spot where the silent man had left his automobile.

The silent man sighed.