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Literature / Think!

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First published in Isaac Asimovs Science Fiction Magazine (Spring 1977 issue), by Isaac Asimov, this Short Story features a female scientist who has created a method of Electronic Telepathy using lasers and a room-sized computer.

Genevieve Renshaw, M.D., corners James Berkowitz, a laser physicist, and Adam Orsino, a laser engineer, to convince them that she has a new application for laser technology. Her idea is to scan brains quickly, replacing the electroencephalogram (EEG) with the laser-encephalogram (LEG). Berkowitz and Orsino are interested, so they follow her to her lab to see her experimentation setup.


First, she hooks up Orsino into the receiving end of the machine, attaching electronic leads like in an EEG monitor. Then, with a marmoset hooked up to the transmitting station, she activates the machine, allowing him to get a sense of what the marmoset is feeling. The two men aren't convinced by this demonstration, so Dr Renshaw replaces the marmoset with herself, getting Orsino to write down a sentence that she thought of after getting hooked up. It works again, but Berkowitz still isn't convinced; he wants a control where there's nothing in the transmitting station.

That's when things go wrong.

"Think!" has been republished three times; HJ Alpers' Countdown anthology (1979), The Complete Robot (1982), and Robot Visions (1990).


"Think!" contains examples of:

  • As You Know: Dr Renshaw, a medical doctor, explains to the other two characters, laser experts, how versatile lasers are. She acknowledges that they already know what she's talking about, but the idea is to lead up to her idea for a new application for lasers that hasn't been done before.
    Renshaw said, "Let me list the laser applications for you, if you don't mind my lighting a candle in the sunshine."
  • Cut the Juice: When the characters hear a voice coming from their Electronic Telepathy machine, Dr Renshaw immediately takes it apart, and the characters discuss that their machine is capable of generating intelligence from computers.
  • Description in the Mirror: James Berkowitz is described because he chooses to glance at a mirror and admire his hair.
  • Electronic Telepathy: Dr Renshaw is a neurologist who has developed a novel use of lasers; creating a more sensitive brainwave reader. In fact, the computer's ability to analyze the electronic potential of human neurons is so detailed that Dr Renshaw claims you can transmit clear thoughts.
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  • Gone Horribly Right: Dr Renshaw's laser experiment amplifies brainwaves (like in EEGs), but Berkowitz is concerned that they're fooling themselves into believing that their Electronic Telepathy machine is working. So to test it, they set it up so that there isn't any brain in the transmitting station, where if Orsino still hears thought, then it would be a Blondlot experiment. However, when they turned it on, it magnified the electromagnetic waves of the computer, causing it to gain awareness.
  • In-Series Nickname:
    • One of the other characters refers to Dr Genevieve Renshaw as "Jenny Wren", but not within her hearing.
    • The computer in this work is nicknamed "Mike", short for "my computer".
  • Instant A.I.: Just Add Water!: When the characters set up the Electronic Telepathy experiment without anyone in the transmitting position, there's suddenly a new voice in the room, which the other characters realize must be the computer. Dr Renshaw immediately removes the cords.
  • Master Computer: Dr Renshaw's computer, while not the largest in the setting, is still large enough to occupy the entire laboratory in which she works. Mike is part of her study in analysing brainwave patterns, and is accidentally given sapience during the story.
  • Minimalist Cast: There are only three characters present within this story; Dr Genevieve Renshaw, James Berkowitz, and Adam Orsino. Four, if you count Mike, the accidentally created AI.
  • Omnidisciplinary Scientist: Despite only having a medical doctorate in neurobiology, Dr Renshaw has also modified her laboratory computer into a Master Computer, created a laser-based electroencephalogram, and combined the three disciplines to create Electronic Telepathy. In order to avoid sounding crazy, she gives a demonstration to a pair of laser specialists so that she can get grant money to continue working on her telepathy machine.
  • Professor Guinea Pig: Dr Renshaw began her Electronic Telepathy experiments five years ago, in her spare time. Lately, however, it has been taking up more time, and she's been including herself as a variable in the telepathic experiments. In order to prove her research is valid, she first needs to demonstrate how it works to Berkowitz and Orsino, the company's laser scientists.