Beat to the punch

Published 9:29 am Wednesday, September 3, 2014

The idea came to me with such force just past midnight that only by willpower did I not instantly sit up in bed.

Not wishing to awaken my betrothed, I slipped past the ticking wall clock, closed the door as it creaked behind and hustled into my study to record my thoughts. It is not often one is given such opportunity. Per chance my heart should cease within the hour, I shall share my inspiration with you, reader, that future generations might profit from such wondrous thought.

With furrowed brow and narrowed eyes I labored with such equations and designs to bring a particular device to fruition, a device never before constructed by the human race. It was a feverish moment of original thought that drove me to such passions the first rays of the morning sun were no interruption to my concentrated efforts. With one last stroke and one last gasp, I collapsed backward into my chair and marveled at my work of art.

For I had constructed on paper by ingenuity and design a self-perpetuating machine that acted both autonomously and intelligently. An apparatus, if you will, that was mobile across all terrain, could comprehend objects both close and afar, and had the capacity to generate its own fuel.

It could detect a malfunction in its components and take the necessary steps to repair or replace such components. Furthermore, this machine—this masterpiece!—could register and record those actions it deemed least efficient and most detrimental and erase the capacity for such actions in the future.

All beneficial concepts could be recorded and integrated such that any future actions might benefit from them. In essence, it could teach itself! Of no small consequence, this apparatus had the ability to detect the erosion and deterioration of its joints and mechanisms such that, when it deemed necessary, it could construct a entirely new one of itself, using some of its own components in conjunction with another. In effect, creating “offspring.”

As you might expect, with trembling hands I gathered up my papers and hastened toward the patent office, lest some thief rob me of my place in human history.

Stepping out my back door, I hurried down the sidewalk bent on my destination. Consumed by mission, my shoulder brushed a young gentleman headed in the opposite direction. He turned, glanced at me, and went about his way.

Then I stopped, thunderstruck. A slow realization seeped into my pores.

It had already been done.

Rex Alphin of Walters is a farmer, businessman, author, county supervisor and contributing columnist for The Tidewater News. His email address is