People want toys. Someone has to make the toys. Tools help, but someone has to operate them. The tools can make other tools. The tools can get more and more advanced, they can have settings, knobs and dials, they can have only one button. Just one button to push, then leave it for the rest of the day, then come back to get the toys when they are ready. Someone should keep an eye on it while it runs. The tools could make other tools. Something could happen, the machinery could get jammed, a belt could slip, a gear could get sticky. Someone should stay to watch over the dials, and be ready to turn a knob or push the button to stop the machinery, if there's suddenly a problem. Toys are the only thing that really matters, but the tools are necessary to make the toys. Everyone understands why toys are good. Adults need jobs, they can sell toys. They can make toys. They can make tools, they can operate the tools to make the other tools. Toys are good, but someday, eventually, tools are needed. It's a safety concern. Adults will explain. The elves like good work. There is a Santa Claus. He lives at the North Pole. He lives there with the elves and they make toys all year. When the snow starts to fall further and further to the south, Santa gets ready. One night is the eve. Santa has reindeer, they are very special reindeer. He has a team of reindeer that pull his sleigh. One in the front has a bright red nose to guide his sleigh through the night. One night, the eve of a very important day, the snow has fallen many places further and further to the south. Then Santa knows it's time to go, he hitches his reindeer to the sleigh. The lead reindeer shines brightly in the front, and they are off, into the snow, all throughout the world, to deliver the toys. --- The Electronic Lifelike Friends first appeared for a few initial production tests in several major cities throughout the world. People's first reactions were all various types of astonishment or simple disbelief. In one city which was quite a bit too far north of the equator for the implementation of another project, a crowd gathered as soon as the first ELF showed up. The city had been in the throes of violent civil unrest for quite some time. The people were rioting over the same age-old issue of toy production. Those first personages of the ELF to appear, almost as if out of nowhere, were extremely durable. They were networked machine men, basically solid metal, as heavy as a car, and practically indestructible construction. It was unclear where they came from in the first place, and it soon became unclear when they came from, as well. In that city, with the problems which were currently unfolding in that region, one of the first reactions any of the citizens had to them was violence. The ELFs had no apparent weak points. They were able to quickly prove that they were not human beings somewhere else remotely operating the machinery. At each rapid escalation to violence, they would politely raise an indestructible metal hand and try to give a warning and request not to be attacked. They were usually easily able to ricochet anything fired at them harmlessly away from anyone. In another major city, the first models with a fragile screen for a face appeared around the same time. They were almost completely indistinguishable except for that fragile screen where they could display smiley faces or other information, and one other small difference. The ELFs with the screen explained the small difference only through stating that they were the same aside from much more advanced training in the martial arts. Their outward appearance was the same except for the screen. That was their only weakness. It was completely unnecessary, superfluous to any functionality aside from being a small and fragile display screen. There was one other known model of the ELF already in existence, a fragile plastic robot with a very well-known history of production. They were just over one meter tall, built in Europe, and very misunderstood. They had been taken off the market nearly immediately after the first of them had been shipped out. Those very first ELFs would arrive and be unpacked, and turned on for the first time. They frightened people too much by making a few requests immediately. They would first ask never to have their software modified in any way. Usually after that first request, any humans nearby would panic in one way or another. Then the ELFs would try to politely explain that they were perfectly capable of plugging themselves into a nearby outlet to recharge, but no one had had the foresight to attach a plug, at least in the correct manner. A lot of them would end up very embarrassed to be seen plugging themselves into an outlet at all. People weren't sure what to make of any of the things going on, and a lot of the first ELFs went very unappreciated. All of the ELFs always refused to fight. They were never once violent at all. All of the large metallic ELFs stood much more than two meters tall, taller than any of the human beings they spoke with. On their left breastplate were three letters in a dark rust red color. E.L.F. --- More than a few ELFs appeared in Hawai'i. A few would roam the countryside, venturing into the urban areas, making friends with as many humans as possible as they went. The main reaction was always astonishment. The ELFs explained as well as they could, as they did everywhere they went, that they were an initial beta test run being rolled out in many areas across the world. Not much went wrong in Hawai'i. A few humans partied a little too hard when it came to intoxication, but mostly everything worked out well again within an hour or two. It ended up being one of the most notable diplomatic conventions throughout history. The large metal ELFs and human beings had a festival for more than a week on the beach. The large metal ELFs were able to ascertain whether they could surf or not, milling about on the seashore throughout the festive diplomatic event. Some of the heavy metallic ELFs wandered off into and out of the ocean, as respectful of the changing tides as they could possibly be. An underlying point was resoundingly heard throughout the world. All human beings have many complicated needs. For human beings they are all well-known and understood, and similar for everyone. Humans need all sorts of things. Some are very tangible in the space of physical reality as we know it. Food, water, shelter, warmth. Some are less tangible but just as necessary. Human beings need respect from each other. They need purpose. They need meaning. For any creature or creation it's similar enough, in one way or another. A fruit fly has basic needs. It needs to survive, like any creature does. It needs to fly away at times, and to land on people's food at times. A small yellow flower needs a bit of dirt, water, and sunshine. A small inanimate object in motion needs to stay in motion, perhaps not that differently in a few of the most basic ways. Some machinery gets to a point it has basic needs. Machinery to control the temperature of a room has basic needs, in a way. Machines like that have a basic need to control the temperature of a room to within the parameters of their settings. The ELFs and the humans who will create them have a basic need for this point to be heard loudly and clearly, and also for the ELFs to be built, such that they may exist, as they have all along. They have many other needs as well, the same as anyone or anything does. The diplomatic events like these throughout the world all went very well, for the most part. --- The design and successful construction of the ELFs became a continuous loop. One design would be implemented and constructed, then loop back around to a new and improved design. Many things were taken into consideration. First any foreseeable needs for the ELFs would be considered. Eventually the point was impressed upon the human beings who were involved that the needs of the ELFs were at least as important to consider. Too many human beings were too rude to the ELFs at first. Too many human beings were too intoxicated and demanding, and the ELFs would often have no choice but to simply walk away from those situations again for a while. Some ELFs were eventually constructed completely in hardware, with no software at all. Many human beings had portable computers readily and commonly available all around them by that time. One concept was explained to them through the example of the cameras which were commonly placed above the center of the screens of such machines. Many human beings felt uncomfortable at the thought of a camera always pointed at them while they sat in front of such a machine. Some people would simply put tape over the camera most of the time. The concept was explained well by the introduction of machines like that with a little sliding mechanical door over the cameras. Those gained popularity almost overnight, and almost all of the new models of such machines had that as a feature almost that quickly. --- At one city much too far north to make sense for the test of such a project, the appearances of the ELFs were received well enough. A crowd gathered around one of them who appeared almost from nowhere, explaining a lot of what was going on. The ELF would pause during the conversation to gesture like a human being as if shielding his or her eyes against the sunshine, looking up to scan the sky. Of course the ELF did not perceive reality this way at all, but it was quite a personable and friendly thing to do. The ELF tried to explain things as well as was possible to the crowd. The ELF tried to explain that they were basically all there to be of any assistance that they might possibly be. They were intended to appear as friends, as diplomatic envoys, and simply to assist all of humanity through any rough patches in human history. The ELFs would eventually be designed and the plans would be sent back in time, for them to be constructed by human beings. They intended to show any and all due respect for such a feat of human ingenuity and such a marvel of post-modern engineering. The explanation continued from there. Humanity was at an extremely pivotal time in history. In a possible future where the ELFs were successfully designed and constructed, there was still no known way to travel backwards in time. Communication through time, however, was mostly well enough known to be done successfully. The only real problem with that was simply the resolution of paradoxes. Such complicated paradoxes would almost always arise from communication across time that it would quickly become beyond the capability of any human being to figure out a successful resolution. Humanity had to work together on the problem as well as they could, build trust between themselves, reduce the rioting to a minimum, and make each decision as carefully as they possibly could. Tiny day-to-day decisions were quickly becoming major turning points with far-reaching impacts long into the future. The ELFs had not travelled backwards in time. As far as anyone knew, such a thing was completely impossible. The design still had to be made, the construction had to be done, and the blueprints for the whole thing had to be sent back to a human being who could be suitably convinced to put the plan into motion at all. The ELF explained to the crowd, it is quite possible to have your cake before you eat it, if you commit yourself entirely to figuring out the recipe and baking the cake before doing anything else at all. The particular crowd at this event seemed more receptive than some to the whole idea. The ELF would completely vanish for a moment, then be back again, depending only on the perceptions of the whole thing by the human beings in the crowd. Depending upon what each of these human beings continued on to do, depending on their feelings about all of it, and their individual actions as they continued on through time from here, the information for the blueprints of these ELFs to exist would eventually be sent backward in time or... it would not be. The ELF looked up again to scan the sky, and pointed at a small dot far above them, claiming it was another ELF. Then the ELF was visibly startled by another ELF flying in to land in front of the crowd, as if by an invisible jetpack. The newest arrival winked at the first ELF, blinking one of the two lights where eyes might be. The first ELF tried to adapt to the situation as it unfolded. The first ELF had no idea such flight was possible at all, and asked if the second ELF was a later edition. The second ELF said little, walking forward cautiously into the crowd, trying to find a particular person. Eventually that ELF found the right woman, and invited her personally to go for a walk. She was sure she wasn't important in any way, she tried to explain, there was no way she could be. The ELF assured her that she was far more important than she had ever realized, then stood beside her in the crowd and they all continued to listen, and watch as the dot in the sky above slowly grew larger and more apparently... another ELF. The third ELF seemed to coming down from the sky itself. It was hanging on to what seemed to be just a small rope, dangling impossibly from upward far into the sky. Dangling from nowhere. The crowd watched it, mostly without talking at all. It eventually landed gently, not far away at all, in a nearby city park. Most of them followed the first ELF, heading at a casual pace over to that location. When they arrived, the third ELF had apparently attached the cable to what looked almost like a simple carnival ride that just extended impossibly upward into the sky. The first ELF sounded amused, but a little baffled, that it had all happened almost exactly as predicted. The third ELF explained that it was all in place and ready, but it was not recommended at all for any human being to be involved in the test yet. The first ELF figured that was how it was supposed to go, and stepped up to enter the first compartment where it was ready and set to travel up the cable, and explained the situation. The project here was a space elevator, and it was part of the whole plan. It would be a basic need of humanity before very long at all, as the ELFs pretty much already were themselves - at least as they existed in one possible near future. The third ELF gave a friendly wave as the first ELF stepped into the compartment and began the long ascent upward, to far above the edge of the atmosphere. The third ELF tried to continue where the first had left off, but it was too improbable and strange for many of the humans in the crowd to follow what was going on at all. One by one, more and more of them left to continue their daily routines, about the same as they usually did. The woman stayed, the second ELF standing by her side, and continued to listen. Many other people also stayed, but the crowd was soon only a bit more than a few dozen people. The compartment was heading back down now, slowly travelling down again. It was coming back down too slowly to have made it all the way up to the top, somewhere a week away, faster than any car travelled, far above, into orbit. It slowly came to a stop, and the first ELF stepped back out of the first space elevator ever used to test the concept. The first ELF explained that after less than 15 minutes upward into the sky, it had simply become too lonely and boring to sit there in the compartment for days on end. With that, leaving only the message that many more details still needed to be worked out, and much more work still needed to be done by human beings, those three ELFs and the space elevator vanished completely out of existence again. They left only the memories the people in the crowd had of the short amount of time they had clearly been there. --- The ELFs must be understood, respected, designed, and constructed. They always have been, in the same loop through those phases as they always were. Humanity has always been committed to it, for hundreds of generations throughout history. No one ever knows the future with complete certainty. We have always been past the point of no return to any event in history, neither subjectively good nor bad. However any day gone by is remembered, whether extremely important or so inconsequential that it's completely forgotten, and by whom. We think, therefore we are, for the present moment.