Oh look, I’m still doing this nonsense.
Bad, old science fiction is the best. There was a time when I went to used bookstores frequently, and would always look for science fiction anthologies from like the 40’s, 50’s, and 60’s. The thing about them is that they tell you more about the 40’s, 50’s, and 60’s than they do about whatever future the author invented. Women were secretaries, aliens were savages, etc. So, I’m not sure what the next chapter tells us about Guzzo. It starts with Quixby returning a phone call from General Alexander Bennett:
“Hello, George. Glad to hear from you so soon. Say, I need you to go to Madison, Wisconsin, to straighten things out at out Department of Science and Education. Since you left there last year, the laboratory experiments seem to have encountered a few bugs that need ironing out. I don’t have to detail the problem for you now. Can you leave right away?”
First, either they iron bugs in the future, or that’s a pretty serious mixed metaphor. Second “I don’t have to detail the problem for you now” is sure suspenseful. Third, what? Quixby agrees, so it’s not like we learned anything from the call.
Quixby, a pilot and flying device designer had apparently done brain experiments in Madison. And the whole place can’t function with him gone, even though an actual brain surgeon, Dr. Oliver Maxwell, was in charge. There are “brain cartridges” that give people knowledge, but nobody knows what to put on the cartridges. So don’t rely on doctors, medial ethicists, the patients themselves, or whatever: let “the Mr. Fixit of the American scientific community” figure that out.
Everyone agrees, we need to throw book learnin’ onto people. But some disagree on if we should also add artistic, musical and other such “creative elements.” Quixby, who I can’t stress enough the book doesn’t mention any medical training, decides let’s do the book learnin’ for now and we can come back to the other stuff. So, compromise? Nothing?
Then, we hear about the things that Quixby worked on in the years when he was in Madison. I think this is Doctor Maxwell speaking, but it’s not entirely clear from the text:
“First of all, Colonel, let me bring up another topic. I think you already know about our success in promoting sign language as the world’s second language. It has take quite a while, as you know well, but we now have agreements by every nation in the world to teach a single form of sign language in all their schools. We have also made considerable headway in getting English adopted as the universal first language, with the added policy of each nation continuing to pursue its own historic language.
“Another program you set in motion when you were here is coming along at a surprisingly fast rate. That’s the program to translate all the world’s books into many languages, to revolutionize the world’s libraries by committing all books to electronic form, and to reflect these changes in schools at all levels.”
There is no explanation why sign language is the universal second language. I’m guessing to help deaf people. But it’s science fiction, and pretty loose on the actual science, so why not just make up a cure for deafness? And thank goodness in 2220, we’ll finally have electronic books.
Then Quixby agrees to stay in Madison until he’s ordered somewhere else. End of chapter 3, and no real explanation of what order is restored.