I am looking for a short story I read in a collection some years ago.

The main character is a very busy jetsetting businessman who is always plugged into technology. He visits a factory or school which is producing robots that can learn, and when he is there they stop their tasks because they need a reason why.

This man keeps up with his family through a device which monitors their vital statistics and biorhythms. His son makes lists of ages, such as Age of Stone, Age of Bronze, and has added Age of Information. Like the robots, the son has become apathetic and depressed because he doesn't see the point.


Steamship Soldier on the Information Front by Nancy Kress. I read it in The Year's Best Science Fiction 15th Annual Collection edited by Gardner Dozois.

The businessman is Allan Haller. We find out right at the start of the story that he monitors his wife and son:

“It’s a PID—a personal-icon display,” he said to Grandma Money. “It shows the level of electronic interaction going on with my family—my wife Cathy here, my son and daughter on these two icons—and two of my chief business associates. Each of them is wired with a WIPE, a ‘weak interactive personal electronic field,’ in various items of clothing that communicate with each other through a faint current sent through their bodies.

The bit about the ages that his son wrote is:

But he had to do something to fill in seven minutes, besides intimidating Sanderson. The heavy data fire meant he couldn’t access his mesh-Net. Instead, Allan repeated to himself the personal-notes tablet on his son’s Twenty-Two. He had accessed the tablet from the plane, telling himself that parental duty outweighed teenage privacy.

Age of Reason … Age of Reason … Information Age … Age of Reasoning … Enlightenment? No no no … Start again Stone Age Iron Age Bronze Age … no no NO NO it’s here someplace—TO DO: do sections 84–86 homework for Tuesday find three examples of igneous rock buy mom a birthday present … AGE OF REASON … The girl I saw in the park was not wearing underwear!!!!!! … Age of Reason—

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