Rwanda and I sat on a park bench. Above us the birds fluttered
gracefully through a shamefully blue sky. Out of habit, I
identified the surveillance drones; a CIA sparrow, an FBI robin, a
bluetit from the Men In Black, and a flock of honking ducks that was
probably one of the Illuminati’s newfangled distributed devices. The
sun was partially obscured by a few thin streamers of
cloud; just enough to let us look up at the sky without wincing, not
enough to change the feeling of sunniness. It was an indecently
perfect day, as if someone had broken into NASA’s satellite weather
system and made a few modifications.

“So, have you ever really looked at a rainbow?” Rwanda was saying, her
legs dangling over the park bench.

“Well, yeah,” I said.

“And the colors are bunched up? They come in bands?”

“Well, yeah,” I said again. Then I saw where she was going. “Hey,
yeah. If rainbows are really caused by diffraction effects, then the
frequency should change smoothly.” I started laughing.
“I’m such a moron! I can’t believe I didn’t see that one before! So
what do you suppose they really are?”

She smiled. “Well, suppose that those UFOs we keep seeing aren’t
really working with the Trilateral Commission…” She trailed off,
looking to my right. I turned my head.

A thin, scruffy man, in a dirty brown overcoat, was walking towards our
bench. His eyes were wild. “I’ve got it!” he hissed. “I’ve got it all
worked out!”

Rwanda and I scooted closer to listen.

“It’s all so simple,” he said, pausing dramatically. “ Lee Harvey
Oswald, acting alone, shot John F. Kennedy! 

I heard Rwanda’s sharp intake of breath, and my eyes grew wide. “Hey,
man, be careful,” I hissed. “There’s a bluetit from the Men In Black
listening to us not five feet away!”

“The Men In Black?” he asked scornfully. “There’s no such thing! And a
bluetit? What kind of paranoid fantasy is that? There’s nobody
listening to us.”

I let out a disappointed breath. It was just another nutter. We’ve
been getting those from time to time, ever since they started using
Windows NT on the Orbital Mind Control Lasers. The Men In Black would
probably be around to pick him up shortly.

Rwanda must have felt sympathetic, since she kept on talking to him.
“But you must know that the Men In Black exist,” she said gently.
“Didn’t you see that movie?”

The man started eyeing us nervously, like we were the nutters. “Yes,”
he said, “but it was just a movie.”

“Well,” Rwanda said, “have you ever seen one of those little flashing
memory-eraser devices?”

“No,” said the man.

“So you don’t ever remember seeing one of them?”

“No,” said the man.

“Well,” Rwanda said cheerfully, “there you go.”

The man started to speak, then halted. “Oh, that’s just bloody
nonsense,” he sputtered. I grabbed Rwanda’s arm. “Don’t argue with
him,” I whispered. “He could be dangerous.”

Fortunately, at that moment, the limousine pulled up. I let out a
breath, relaxed. “You took your sweet time,” I said.

One of the Men In Black nodded. “Sorry, sir. Ever since we started
using Windows CE in the bluetits, it’s been nothing but trouble.” The
other two MIBs grabbed the crazy by the arm and started wrestling him
into the car.

“Don’t listen to them!” he shrieked. “Lee Harvey Oswald, acting alone,
shot John F. Kennedy! Lee Harvey Oswald, acting alone, shot John F.
Kennedy! Lee Harvey Oswald -”

The limousine door closed on his outburst, leaving the park in blessed
silence. The Man In Black held up a blinky-flashy thing. “If
I could trouble you to look over here, sir? And please take off those

I blinked. “The glasses? Oh, I’d forgotten I had those on.
Certainly.” I took the glasses off my face, looked, blinked and –

“…aren’t really working with the Trilateral Commission,” Rwanda was
saying. I had an odd feeling of disorientation that cued me to glance
down; sure enough, I was holding my glasses in my hands, though I had
no memory of removing them.

I nudged her. “Hey, Rwanda. MIBs again.”

This document is ©2000 by Eliezer Yudkowsky and free under the Creative Commons Attribution-No Derivative Works 3.0 License for copying and distribution, so long as the work is attributed and the text is unaltered.

Eliezer Yudkowsky’s work is supported by the Machine Intelligence Research Institute .

If you think the world could use some more rationality, consider blogging this page.

Praise, condemnation, and feedback are always welcome . The web address of this page is .

Originally posted to the Extropians mailing list in 2000. Revised 2005.