Pelorat said, “We historians are familiar with the process, Dom. There is a certain preference for the fable. ‘The falsely dramatic drives out the truly dull,’ said Liebel Gennerat about fifteen centuries ago. It’s called Gennerat’s Law now.”
“Is it?” said Dom. “And I thought the notion was a cynical invention of my own. Well, Gennerat’s Law fills our past history with glamour and uncertainty. – Do you know what a robot is?”
“We found one on Sayshell,” said Trevize dryly.
“You saw one?”
“No. We were asked the question and, when we answered in the negative, it was explained to us.”
“I understand. – Humanity once lived with robots, you know, but it didn’t work well.”
“So we were told.”
“The robots were deeply indoctrinated with what are called the Three Laws of Robotics, which date back into prehistory. There are several versions of what those Three Laws might have been. The orthodox view has the following reading: ‘1) A robot may not harm a human being or, through inaction, allow a human being to come to harm; 2) A robot must obey the orders given it by human beings, except where such orders would conflict with he First Law; 3) A robot must protect its own existence, as long as such protection does not conflict with he First or Second Law.’
“As robots grew more intelligent and versatile, they interpreted these Laws, especially the all overriding First, more and more generously and assumed, to a greater and greater degree, the role of protector of humanity. The protection stifled the people and grew unbearable.
“Every robotic advance grew steadily more like human beings in appearance, but they were unmistakably robots in behavior and being humanoid made them more repulsive. So, of course, it had to come to an end.”
“Why ‘of course’?” asked Pelorat, who had been listening intently.
Dom said, “It’s a matter of following logic to the bitter end. Eventually, the robots grew advanced enough to become just sufficiently human to appreciate why human beings should resent being deprived of everything human in the name of their own good. In the long run, the robots were forced to decide that humanity might be better off caring for themselves, however carelessly and ineffectively.
“Therefore, it is said, it was the robots who established Eternity somehow and became the Eternals. They located a Reality in which they felt that human beings could be as secure as possible – alone in the Galaxy. Then, having done what they could to guard us and in order to fulfill the First Law in the truest sense, the robots of their own accord ceased to function and ever since we have been human beings – advancing, however we can, alone.”
Dom paused. He looked from Trevise to Pelorat, and then said, “Well, do you believe all that?”
Trevize shook his head slowly. “No. There is nothing like this in any historical record I have heard of. How about you, Janov?”
Pelorat said, “There are myths that are similar in some ways.”
“Come, Janov, there are myths that would match anything that any of us could make up, given sufficiently ingenious interpretation. I’m talking about history – reliable records.”
“Oh, well. Nothing there, as far as I know.”
Dom said, I’m not surprised. Before the robots withdrew, many parties of human beings left to colonize robotless worlds in deeper space, in order to take their own measure of freedom. They came particularly from overcrowded earth, with its long history of resistance to robots. The new worlds were founded fresh and they did not even want to remember their bitter humiliation as children under robot nursemaids. They kept no records of it and they forgot.”
Trevize said, “This is unlikely.”
Pelorat turned to him. “No, Golan. It is not at all unlikely. Societies create their own history and tend to wipe out lowly beginnings, either by forgetting them or inventing totally fictitious heroic rescues. The Imperial government made attempts to suppress knowledge of the pre-Imperial past in order to strengthen the mystic aura of eternal rule. Then, too, there are almost no records of the days before hyperspatial travel – and you know that the very existence of Earth is unknown to most people today.”
Trevize said, “You can’t have it both ways, Janov. If the Galaxy has forgotten the robots, how is it that Gaia remembers?”
Bliss intervened with a sudden lilt of soprano laughter. “We’re different.”
“Yes?” said Trevise. In what way?”
Dom said, “Now, Bliss, leave this to me. We are different, men of Terminus. Of all the refugee groups fleeing from robotic domination, we who eventually reached Gaia (following in the track of others who reached Sayshell) were the only ones who had learned the craft of telepathy from the robots.
“It is a craft, you know. It is inherent in the human mind, but it must be developed in a very subtle and difficult manner. It takes many generations to reach its full potential, but once well begun, it feeds on itself. We have been at it for over twenty thousand years and the sense-of-Gaia is that full potential has even now not been reached. It was long ago that our development of telepathy made us aware of group consciousness – first only of human beings; then animals; then plants; and finally, not many centuries ago, the inanimate structure of the planet itself.”
“Because we traced this back to the robots, we did not forget them. We considered them not our nursemaids but our teachers. We felt they had opened our mind to something we would never for one moment want them closed to. We remember them with gratitude.”
“Trevize stared blankly for several moments, then muttered, “There go our history books!” He shook his head and said in louder tone of voice, “That was rather cowardly of Gaia, wasn’t it, to do so?” said Trevize. “He was your responsibility.”
“You are right. But once we finally turned our eyes upon the galaxy, we saw what until then we had been blind to, so that the tragedy of the Mule proved a life-saving matter to us. It was then that we recognized that a dangerous crisis would come upon us. And it has – but not before we were able to take measures, thanks to the incident of the Mule.”
“What sort of crisis?”
“One that threatens us with destruction.”
“I can’t believe that. You held off Empire, the Mule, and Sayshell. You have a group consciousness that can pluck a ship out of space at a distance of millions of kilometers. What can you have to fear? – Look at Bliss. She doesn’t look the least bit perturbed. She doesn’t think there’s a crisis.”
Bliss placed one shapely leg over the arm of the chair and wriggled her toes at him. “Of course I’m not worried, Trev. You’ll handle it.”
Trev said forcefully, “Me?”
Dom said, “Gaia has brought you here by means of a hundred gentle manipulations. It is you who must face our crisis.”
Trev stared at him and slowly his face turned from stupefaction into gathering rage. “Me? Why, in all of space, me?” I have nothing to do with this.”
“Nevertheless, Trev,” said Dom with an almost hypnotic calmness, “you. Only you. In all of space, only you.”
excerpt from Foundation’s Edge, by Isaac Asimov
Ballantine Books, Del Rey edition, pp. 361-365