Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Gail Hareven's "The Slows" (short story, enhanced humans, free): Days of normal slowly-growing humans are numbered

Illustration accompanying the short story titled The Slows by Gail Hareven, translated to English from original Hebrew by Yaacov Jeffrey Green."Accelerated Offspring Growth (A.O.G.)" medical procedure, probably coupled with artificial fertilization & incubation, has enabled humans to mature very rapidly from being a baby to being an adult. Colonization of other worlds has ensured there is no worry about population, & having dozens of kids who in turn begin reproducing quickly is the norm. Of course, without affecting the kids' life expectancy. This also ensures the parent/child bond is rather weak.

But some people stick to conventional ways of child birth & rearing. They are "Slows", also called "savages", live on fringes of society, & are now very few in numbers.

The paranoid normals have been attributing the reversal of some of their colonies to nature-ordained child rearing to some sort of infection they might be getting from the Slows. So it's time to wipe out the remaining Slows population...


Did author wonder about how big a number exponential growth ensures across even a few generations? There is a popular story in India.

Someone did something to make the king very happy. King wants the man to name a gift which the treasury will fulfill. Man, wanting to teach the king a lesson that some things money cannot buy, asks for rice - in very precise quantity:

Place one single grain of rice on a square of a chessboard. Place double as many on the next square. Keep doubling till all squares are filled. That's the quantity of rice the man wants!

Exercise: Calculate how much quantity that would be.

See also.

  1. Ted Chiang's "Catching the Crumbs from the Table" (2000): Normal humans living an uncomfortable & unhappy existence alongside "metahumans" - of vastly superior intelligence. Anyone can become metahuman, but treatment is prenatal. Problem is: this makes the parents appear as morons compared to their own (super)kids - reason most people stay opted out.
  2. Lester del Rey's "Kindness" (1944): A mutation has diverged humanity into supers & normal - normals dying out over time. This is the story of the last normal - his extreme discomfort in a society where he's too dumb compared to everyone else.
  3. Robert Arthur's "Evolution's End" (1941): A mutation has turned humans into supers, & these supers look at normals as vastly inferior & keep them as slaves. But one super has been gazing at the future of his race, & has come to an unusual conclusion that demands a very uncomfortable action.

Fact sheet.

First published: ?
This post is based on the English translation in The New Yorker, 4 May 2009, by Yaacov Jeffrey Green from original Hebrew.
Rating: B.
Download full text of English translation from The New Yorker.


anis malaysia said...

hello there.
I'm from malaysia and a student.
i'm doing a research on gail's short story,the slow.
I'm so grateful to actually found your blog!
i dont actually understand WHY gail wrote something like tis?
WHAT is it got to do with the contemporary American?
I now she's a jewish,but my prof insisted us to find the relation to american contemporary world.
Is the short story based on her nation's history,when the israeli and zionist had a war before?
what are the political views that she's trying to convey in the ss?
why did she wrote about the future?
i really hope you can help me,
lots of love,anis :)