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Sphere
by Michael Crichton


p.335 On your planet you have an animal called a bear. It is a large animal, sometimes larger than you, and it is clever and has ingenuity, and it has a brain as large as yours. but the bear differs from you in one important way. It cannot perform the activity you call imagining. It cannot make images of what reality might be. It cannot imagine what you call the past and what you call the future. That special ability of imagination is what has made your species as great as it is. Nothing else. It is not your ape-nature, not your tool-using nature, not language or your violence or your caring for young or your social groupings. It is none of those things which are found in other animals. Your greatness lies in imagination. The ability to imagine is the largest part of what call intelligence. You think the ability to imagine is merely a useful step on the way to solving a problem or making something happen. But imagining is what makes it happen. This is the gift of your species and this is the danger, because you do not choose to control your imaginings. you imagine wonderful things and you imagine terrible things, and you take no responsibility for the choice. You say you have inside you the power of good and the power of evil, the angel in the devil, but in truth you have one thing inside you and that is the ability to imagine.

p.363 "Well," Harry said, "look at it this way: Suppose you were an intelligent bacterium floating in space, and you came upon one of our communication satellites, in orbit around the Earth. You would think, What a strange, alien object it is, let's explore it. Suppose you opened it up and crawled inside. You would find it very interesting in there, with lots of huge things to puzzle over. But eventually you might climb into one of the fuel cells, and the hydrogen would kill you. And your last thought would be: This alien device was obviously made to test bacterial intelligence and to kill us if we make a false step.
     "Now, that would be correct from the standpoint of the dying bacterium. But that wouldn't be correct at all from the standpoint of those who made the satellite. From our point of view, the communication satellite has nothing to do with intelligent bacteria. We don't even know that there are intelligent bacteria out there. We're just trying to communicate, and we've made what we consider a quite ordinary device to do it."