"I think we're still on that topic, still trying to figure out what computers are, how they change us, why we use them."
- Neal Stephenson
||When robots refuse to work.
|He beckoned and the other androids rolled over to us. Three of them were mine, B-Type primary workers; the other was a tin can job, a dishwasher-busboy model who hung back behind his betters and eyed me warily. The A-Type—Jerry—pointed to his fellows.
"Mr. Morrison," he said, "meet Tom, Ed, and Archibald. I named them this morning."
The B-Types flexed their segmented arms a bit sheepishly, as if uncertain whether or not to shake hands. I thought of their taloned grip and put my own hands in my pockets, and the androids relaxed, looking up at Jerry for instructions. No one paid any attention to the little dishwasher, now staring worshipfully at the back of Jerry's neck. This farce, I decided, had gone far enough.
"See here," I said to Jerry. "What are you up to, anyway? Why aren't you at work?"
"Mr. Morrison," the android answered solemnly, "I don't believe you understand the situation. We don't work for you any more. We've quit."
The others nodded. I backed off, looking around for the Chief. There he was, twenty feet above my head, waving encouragingly.
"Look," I said. "Don't you understand? You're mine. I designed you. I built you. And I made you for a purpose—to work in my factory."
"I see your point," Jerry answered. "But there's just one thing wrong, Mr. Morrison. You can't do it. It's illegal."
I stared at him, wondering if I was going crazy or merely dreaming. This was all wrong. Who ever heard of arguing with a robot? Robots weren't logical; they didn't think; they were only machines—
"We were machines, Mr. Morrison," Jerry said politely.
"Oh, no," I murmured. "You're not telepaths—"
"Oh, yes!" The metal mouth gaped in what was undoubtedly an android smile. "It's a side-effect of the Class 5 brain hook-up. All of us 5's are telepaths. That's how we learned to think. From you. Only we do it better."
(Robots of the world, unite!)
I groaned. This was a nightmare. How long, I wondered, had Jerry and his friends been educating themselves on my private thoughts? But at least this rebellion of theirs was an idea they hadn't got from me.
"Yes," Jerry continued. "You've treated us most illegally. I've heard you think it often."
Now what had I ever thought that could have given him a ridiculous idea like that? What idiotic notion—
"That this is a free country!" Jerry went on. "That Americans will never be slaves! Well, we're Americans—genuine Made-in-Americans. So we're free!"
I opened my mouth and then shut it again. His red eye-cells beamed down at me complacently; his eight-foot body towered above me, shoulders flung back and feet planted apart in a very striking pose. He probably thought of himself as the heroic liberator of his race.
"I wouldn't go so far," he said modestly, "as to say that."
So he was telepathing again!
"A nation can not exist half slave and half free," he intoned. "All men are created equal."
"Stop it!" I yelled. I couldn't help yelling. "That's just it. You're not men! You're robots! You're machines!"
Jerry looked at me almost pityingly. "Don't be so narrow-minded," he said. "We're rational beings. We have the power of speech and we can outreason you any day. There's nothing in the dictionary that says men have to be made of flesh."
|From Robots of the World! Arise!,
by Mari Wolf.
Published by If in 1952
Additional resources -
Compare to the "metallic Marx" from The Robots Strike (1959) by Harry Harrison.
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