Trying to find the original story (I read it in Russian translation, original was most likely English unless it was Lem).

The story plot had artificial birds designed to serve as cops. The birds started attacking humans who were percieved as being aggressive towards anything alive. So they created more advanced birds to protect against the first ones. This worked for a while until the second kind started attacking humans as well. It ended with the idea that they would need another generation to attack the second-generation birds.

The story wasn't very long. I read it a while back (mid-1980s, which means the original was written even earlier, probably before 1980).

Despite a somewhat Asimov-like "misbehaving robots" topic, I'm pretty sure it wasn't Asimov.

1 Answer 1


"Watchbird" by Robert Sheckley. Project Gutenberg etext. Here is a scanned copy of the original Galaxy publication with illustrations by Ed Emshwiller.

There was a TV adaptation. From Sheckley's Wikipedia page:

The short story "Watchbird" was adapted for the short-lived TV series Masters of Science Fiction. It did not initially air in the US, but on February 12, 2012, the Science Channel began airing the episodes, under the title Stephen Hawking's Sci-Fi Masters, beginning with the first domestic airing of the episode "Watchbirds".[10] It was included on the DVD set for the series.

By the way, the term "watchbird" was coined by Munro Leaf; here is an example of one of his watchbirds. I'm not sure if Munro Leaf's watchbirds were the inspiration for Sheckley's story.

  • 1
    The TV version was excellent.
    – Valorum
    Commented Feb 3, 2014 at 10:36

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