Monday, October 15, 2007

Robot Socrates

I built a robot Socrates, without ego or id,
I thought he might fare better than his predecessor did.
Free of all the weakness and temptation of the soul.
The answers he came up with would be accurate and cold.

Socrates (organic) always claimed that he was dumb.
That all he knew of knowledge was that knowledge wouldn’t come.
My robot felt the same way, though in his case it was strange,
Since his software came prepackaged with the knowledge of our age.

His programming instructed him to seek out those who knew,
Or claimed to know important things and if these things were true.
And then to ask them question after question all day long.
Until they weren’t sure if wrong was right or right was wrong.

I tested robot Socrates myself for many months.
Until he had convinced me I was really quite a dunce.
I sent him out into the world, for what else could I do?
He’d gladly be a gadfly to those without a clue.

I’d made him out of stainless steel and adamantium,
Because I had a hunch he’d share the fate of the Mark One.
Though hemlock was forbidden him by Asimov’s third law,
Many other methods of destruction I foresaw.

So Socrates (mechanical) sought out our greatest minds.
And one by one he showed them each some rather shocking finds.
And each one, stunned to find his life’s work came to naught,
Abandoned his philosophy, religion, math, or thought.

So, by and by, my robot brought his questions far and wide.
But no one would bring answers and soon no one even tried.
And pretty soon the world stopped thinking anything at all.
Why bother? When the robot came, the thoughts would all just fall.

Finally as industry around me slowed and stopped.
As cities crumbled round me, as the thought bubbles were popped.
I sought out robot Socrates and with a quiet click,
I flipped his secret off-switch which was hidden on his neck.

Of course, although the robot stopped the city didn’t start.
And I realized too late, my bot, though dumb, had been too smart.
With nothing but his questions and his lithium power cell,
He’d made a thriving world into a tired and empty shell.

3 comments:

Erin said...

Wow! That was excellent. Brilliant idea, brilliantly executed.

Lisa said...

your computer talk make me feel less smart, but I love the poem; I agree with the person above me: brilliant.

meredith said...

too bad no one thought to question his questions