Letter from R. Atwater to T Edison, circa 1869

Mr. Edison,

I have built an ingenious device that may be of interest to you. It is at the moment unfinished, but I hope that together we may work out the details presently. I believe I have made a final invention– one that may render ever device and idea obsolete, even our own.

I have built, though it may sound unreasonable, a creation machine: a device that takes, as its input, all the data of the world (census information, taxes, surveys of all types) and outputs an invention entirely its own, best suited for the data. It has already invented marvelous things– a machine that stamps letters on paper as fast as can be input, a glass sphere capable of producing enormous light, and even a system of wireless telegraphy by the induction of metal coils.

I believe this machine and its applications to our field may be astounding, but I have lately found myself at an impasse, which is why I write to you now. Though in the few days previous, many new inventions have been generated, the data has changed and it has since begun generating the self-same image with each application; its own. My machine has this one fatal flaw: it has determined the invention necessitated by the data is a machine with its exact specifications. I now have over twenty of my own machine, each one, I believe, capable only of generating itself again.

I have included the device’s schematics and will soon send you the data I have input in the hopes that your tinkering may produce more fruitful results. I believe we share a vested interest in the completion of this device, and I hope you do as well.


R. Atwater


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