Some other questions touched on the subject of Mike's absence near the end of the book. My question relates to the sudden absence in relation to Prof's death.

Here's why I think this:

  • Prof dies, Mike goes silent. This happens within just a few pages of each other.
  • Prof proves he's a genius puppet master during the whole book - to a large degree manipulating both Earth's and Luna's governments as well as his fellow revolutionists.
  • Prof and Manuel have a strong bond with each other, not unlike the relationship between Manuel and Mike.

Did Mike really have an awesome AI or was he just another of Prof's tools like Manny and Wyoh were?

  • 1
    I'm not quite sure what you are asking. Are you asking if there really was an AI as opposed to a voice in the box, take-no-notice-of-the-man-behind-the-curtain style?
    – Broklynite
    Commented Jan 18, 2016 at 14:59
  • 1
    Perhaps, I guess I found it curious that Mike and Prof 'go away' at the same time. And although Manny and Wyoh spoke at length with Mike, Prof had few dialogs with him.
    – Whome
    Commented Jan 18, 2016 at 15:02
  • @EricN: given that they were fighting a revolutionary war at the time, it is hardly surprising that more than one main character dies. Commented Jan 21, 2016 at 6:45
  • @Harry: No, he died after the revolution ended, after his victory speech...
    – Whome
    Commented Jan 21, 2016 at 18:53
  • @EricN: I always assumed the stress of the war was a contributing factor. But even if not, one natural death and one war casualty is hardly a stretch of coincidence. :-) Commented Jan 21, 2016 at 20:14

2 Answers 2


Mike really did have an awesome AI.

If you read Moon by itself, the question could be valid, but Mike, Mannie and Wyo all show up in later books, and, in fact, 'The Cat Who Walks thru Walls' has recovering Mike as a major plot point. The nature of his growth thru 'Moon' is a major reason they want to acquire him; Deety (a computer expert) points out that she doesn't think Mike's programs could have been developed by any other method than Mike used; that is to say, by the computer, out of necessity.

To Sail Beyond the Sunset then has Mike (in a slightly different form; they basically downloaded his programs and loaded them into an existing computer with massive memory, to allow the existing computer personality and Mike's to integrate; the resultant computer was referred to as 'Shiva', although it appeared that Mike could still manifest with his discrete personality at need) returning as a character, as a result of the events of 'Cat.' Had Mike just been a talking head for the Prof, it would have come out by this point.

  • 2
    Great answer, this was precisely what I was looking for. Prof's death still seems unnecessary, but I certainly got me thinking. I'll have to get 'cat' and read on.
    – Whome
    Commented Jan 18, 2016 at 15:08
  • Excellent point, but I’ll play devil’s advocate and note that later ret-cons do not necessarily reflect the author’s original intent, and are generally artistically inferior. Cp. the revisionism in If This Goes On (though I’m relying on secondary sources for the last installment.). Clearer examples from other Golden Age authors: Asimov et al.’s Foundation sequels, Clarke’s Childhood’s End novelization, and Smith’s Lensman series’ inconsistent integration with Triplanetary, and the addition of Arisian omniscience. Commented Dec 4, 2016 at 18:22

There is the simple issue that Mike was doing too many things at once for it to be Prof - he was the phone system, allowed null numbers to be routed to him, and was at the very least Adam Selene - holding joint conversations with Prof in the room, which would have required a perfect anticipation of everything the others might do or say for entire nights at a time.

There are also the incredibly complicated calculations, the fact that he was holding hundreds of conversations at once as Adam Selene, and the programming. When The Moon is a Harsh Mistress was written, computer programming took an incredibly long time in any format, and Manny explains some of these difficulties in terms of programming - for example - the rock strikes on earth. He gives Manny print outs of thousands or programs that the 'lesser' computer operating the secondary catapult might need - and which Manny would then have to key in by hand.

It's explained that Manny is the best computer man in Luna - and therefore cheaper than bringing up an expert from Earth every time was needed. Additionally, as a precursor to all of that, Prof was teaching him advanced math and eventually they ended up even with one another before Manny pulled ahead. In essence, Prof just wasn't good enough at math or computers to do a lot of what Mike does in the course of the novel - and the novel regularly points out the varied and diverse uses of the "self-aware" phone system and the ability to talk to many people at once, something Prof definitely couldn't do. And what Mike does do would be the life's work of a team of 1,000 mathematicians, scientists, political planners, marketing specialists and techs. Prof's good, but no one is that good.

Perhaps in modern times, it might be possible to program a system that would act like an AI without actually being one - but I doubt Heinlein ever even really thought of that. He lived - and died - long before computers could do more with graphics than make banners and homemade birthday cards with very pixilated, pre-selected graphics, not the modern CGI which has gotten so real it's created the idea of the uncanny valley. When Moon was written, computer programming was in its infancy - and the concept of a 'yes, no, maybe' computer was a brilliant but completely unrealistic idea of how computers would be made more flexible and able to "draw correct conclusions on limited data" (what Mike is designed to do). In essence, for Mike to have really been Prof would have required a greater suspension of disbelief when the novel was published in 1966 (or even when the author died in 1988) than that the computer was a full AI. And in some ways, the novel can be read in such a way that the rebellion is only the backdrop for Mike's story.

  • 3
    Welcome to Science Fiction & Fantasy! This would appear to be a well reasoned explanation, however, it would be best if you could try and edit in some sources to support your case, such as direct quotes. Also don't forget to register your account and if you haven't already take the tour!
    – TheLethalCarrot
    Commented Jul 30, 2018 at 10:19

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