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My memory is unreliable. but... What I recall is a story about someone who develops life from scratch in a small contained laboratory vessel, then accelerates evolution super fast until the life forms become sentient. These creatures live in fear of him, because he maintains a consistent pattern as a god of wrath and vengeance, punishing failure and disobedience with massacres and arbitrary cruelties.

He sets them progressively tougher technological challenges to solve, which they manage every time, and he is able to profit from their technological advances. Until finally he sets them the task of building an impenetrable forcefield. By this point they are way superior to humans in their capabilities, and much much faster in every way, but still confined to their flask. They have not yet discovered their terrible God is just a life form abusing them, and their known universe is a flask.

Anyway, they build a force field and successfully isolate themselves from him. There is nothing on Earth that can penetrate the sphere they have built around their habitat. After a brief interval they switch off their force field and send him a message. They say they are afraid they may have offended him because they have not heard from him (their God). They seem to be begging forgiveness, but clearly they are also starting to work things out and discover their powers. He finds he can no longer switch them off. THE END.

I read this story at least 40 years ago and would love to find it again. I've probably mis-remembered it in parts, but I think its message is more relevant today than ever. Can someone point me to the original please?

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This is probably Theodore Sturgeon's "Microcosmic God" (1941), where the main character creates a little world and forces the beings inside - called Neoterics - to evolve and solve problems for him.

This, then, was the answer to his problem. He couldn't speed up mankind's intellectual advancement enough to have it teach him the things his incredible mind yearned for. he couldn't speed himself up. So he created a new race - a race which would develop and evolve so fast that it would surpass the civilization of man; and from them he would learn.

They were completely in Kidder's power. Earth's normal atmosphere would poison them, as he took care to demonstrate to every fourth generation... They would make ... their little trial and error experiments hundreds of times faster than man..

He called them Neoterics and teased them into working for him.

It was first published in Astounding, April 1941, and you can read it at the Internet Archive.

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  • Brilliant! That's it. Thanks for the link. Just read it again. Funny what one remembers and what one forgets... Today this would be about the dangers of AI I suspect. Where can I get a reprint?
    – Richard
    Nov 7, 2020 at 18:07

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