I guess this text belongs to Asimov, but I might be wrong. It was an investigation (auditory) about the economic output of countries and continents. There was a super computer that could predict it, people were still distrusting the computer work a little bit, but some of the story's characters were sure the matter was more a political issue than a mistake made by the super computer. The tale happens in planet Earth, probably few centuries in the future, in a time where countries started to merge and integrate, but still not fully.

I need to use it as a reference for some graduation work in economy, but can't find the text. Does anyone knows it's title, author, book where it can be found etc?

  • Hi, welcome to SF&F. Is this a story you have read, or one you have merely heard about? If you've read it, do you have any idea when that was, or where you found it (book, magazine, online)? By "auditory" do you mean "audit?"
    – DavidW
    Aug 12 at 16:51
  • 1
    Multiivac is a fictional computer that appears in more than a dozen of Asimov's stories. It's a computer that can predict (amongst other things) economic futures.
    – Valorum
    Aug 12 at 16:58
  • Yes, it might be the multivac. I read this story, not heard of. I know Asimov and Clarke for about a decade, so I've read it in some short-story ebook. Can remember which one Aug 12 at 17:05

1 Answer 1


This sounds like "The Evitable Conflict" by Isaac Asimov.

Following on from the previous story 'Evidence,' in the year 2052, Stephen Byerley has been elected World Co-ordinator for a second term. Earth is divided into four geographical regions, each with a powerful supercomputer known as a Machine managing its economy. Byerley is concerned as the Machines have recently made some errors leading to economic inefficiency. Consulting with the four regional Vice Co-ordinators, he finds that several prominent individuals and companies associated with the anti-Machine "Society for Humanity" have been damaged by the Machines' apparent mistakes.

Byerley believes that the Society is attempting to undermine the Machines by disobeying their instructions, with the goal of retaking power as humans, and proposes to have the movement suppressed. Susan Calvin tells him that this will not work, contending that the errors are in fact deliberate acts by the Machines. The Machines recognize their own necessity to humanity's continued peace and prosperity, and have thus inflicted a small amount of harm on selected individuals in order to protect themselves and continue guiding humanity's future. They keep their intent a secret to avoid anger and resistance by humans. Calvin concludes that the Machines have generalized the First Law to mean "No machine may harm humanity; or, through inaction, allow humanity to come to harm." (This is similar to the Zeroth Law which Asimov developed in later novels.)

In effect, the Machines have decided that the only way to follow the First Law is to take control of humanity.

It's often noted to be the origin of a "Zeroth Law" that a robot cannot allow humanity to come to harm, even if it means that an individual will come to harm.


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