i have a fine japanese ink pen

it never skips, never bleeds

is light and comfortable

always lays down a precise line

if i lost it i could replace it with its exact clone

for five dollars


i have a small two blade pocket knife

it opens easily and cuts precisely

all of its parts fit exactly

the handle covers are hand carved antique bone

if i lost it i could never find its twin

and i would pay many times more


the pen is made of plastic and metal

by lines of robots obeying lines of code

they fly out of the machines

seldom touched by human hands


the knife is made of metal and bone

laboriously punched, ground, sanded, shaped

assembled by a succession of skilled people

working on ancient machinery


when i use my pen

i see an expression of technology done right

of robots and precision machinery

computers, intricate software

committees of engineers and programmers

when i use my pocket knife

i see a woman smoothing and shaping metal

into parts that will become a creation of many hands

i see her at lunch eating a sandwich she made that morning

while getting the kids ready for school

or at church or watching sunday football with her old man


she and the others who made my knife are individuals

with dreams, disappointments, hopes and fears

the bots that made my pen are collections of parts

slavishly doing what they have been told

they are techno-slaves of our creation

what will happen when they begin behaving like they

have a consciousness as we do?

how will we know that they do not

when we don’t understand consciousness at all?

how can we then treat them as slaves?


would you let a bot move in next door

maybe marry your daughter?

Copyright Michael Douglas Scott