And so machines cranked out poetry, and many the aspiring Wordsworth gave up the field of contest in despair. Machines painted such great art that many a future Michelangelo forgot their own creative drive in awe and wonder. Machines took over architecture and cooking, writing and music. Machines even began to beget machines so that man began to ask himself, “Am I then obsolete?”
“No!” Cried Ken Labori. No man is obsolete and no machine can triumph over man. “No machine can understand the subtlety and innovation required to be a true master of an art. Surely they can copy our best artists, surely they can produce faster and more accurately. But it is in the human feeling that true art lies.”
For you see, Ken Labori was a carpenter. A carpenter as had never been seen before on this world. Ken Labori made tables and chairs, cabinets and dressers, doors and handrails, and even some smaller decorative kitch. They were at once beautiful and useful. Full of idealism and yet pragmatic enough for the dullest utilitarian. To see a Labori table was to admire it; to see a Labori chair was to desire to sit in it. For the beauty of Labori’s workmanship stretched beyond mere appeal to the senses, it touched a man’s soul.
Day after day machines encroached upon the once sacred territory of the arts. Day after day they began to mass produce that which man could only painstakingly create by the sweat of his mind and hands. And day after day Ken Labori declared that no machine could make furniture better than he.
But the day after that day, Machines Making Machines Inc.™ took up Labori’s challenge. They made one great machine to print flyers. They made thousands of flying machines to deliver the brochures and they even made some machines just to read their pamphlets. The message to which all these machines dedicated their existence to delivering was simple yet bold, dashing yet… The leaflet said:
KEN LABORI’S CHALLENGE ACCEPTED. MACHINES MAKING MACHINES Inc.™ WILL MAKE A MACHINE THAT WILL MAKE ANY PIECE OF FURNITURE LABORI DECIDES IN HALF THE TIME AND WITH TWICE THE BEAUTY.
And so Labori met with the head (a literal giant machine head) of Machines Making Machines Inc™. They decided the terms of the contest, namely: each contestant would produce one table within two weeks. The quality of each piece of furniture would be determined by a jury composed of ⅔ humans and ⅓ machines. The head summoned a robot to shake Labori’s hand and the deal was made, the contest began.
As had the hardest two weeks of Labori’s life. He labored day and night. Without sleeping, without eating; he worked every minute of every day. He set out by travelling the globe, securing the choicest woods from the most beautiful trees in the most picturesque woods and forests. Using techniques long since forgotten, he slaved and lathed away until! Behold, a table.
Imagine the most beautiful table, handcrafted with intense attention to every intricate detail. Woodwork and carpentry such as no eye had ever seen before, or since. Lacquer shines so that it reminds one of lakes, hidden in deep grottos nestled in mountain top woods. The wood is of trees more ancient and beautiful than the continents to which they are rooted and as one gazes upon it they can feel the earth from whose lifeblood these trees have drunk. Legs both sturdy and slender hold up the flat top of the table. But to say flat is surely to mislabel the slab that summits this work of art, for it is no more flat than the world. Like that fabled table of Arthur it invites all to sit at it and be equal, and surely, though the table would fit in any room, there is room at it for everyone who has ever lived or died.
Such a table would be a sham, a perversion compared to the table that Labori crafted at the end of two weeks. However, he lost the contest. How you ask? Was the machine made table truly better? No. Don’t be stupid. Let me finish the story.
This is how.
Machines Making Machines Inc™ spent two days making a Table Making Machine® and about a hundred or so machines to assist it. These machines spent three days gathering, sorting and filtering materials and two days making a table. So at the end of one week the Machines Making Machines Inc™ Table Making Machine® made a table that was… Remember the lengthy description back there that started with “imagine the most beautiful table…”? That’s a pretty adequate description of the table representing Machines Making Machines Inc™. With a truly gentlemanly spirit, Machines Making Machines Inc™ refrained from making a machine in order to inform Ken Labori that he’d lost the race. Instead it dispatched a robot to inform him.
Not being a very innovative robot, the one dispatched by Machines Making Machines Inc™, after receiving no reply to its knock at Ken Labori’s door, choose to wait outside until it was opened.
It waited for exactly one week. At the end of the second week of the competition Machines Making Machines Inc™ sent another robot to summon Ken Labori and his table before the judges panel. The second robot was, fortunately, smarter than the first (and slightly more volatile). When Labori didn’t open the door despite the robots knocking, it knocked the door down. Inside was Ken Labori’s table. On Ken Labori’s table was the dead body of Ken Labori. The two robots gathered these two things and brought them before the judges.
The judges looked at the tables, looked at Ken Laboris body, looked at the Machines Making Machines Inc™ Table Making Machine® and unanimously reached their decision. The cyborg panel of judges ⅓ machine ⅔ human concluded that while Labori’s table was indubitably the better of the two, a table was hardly worth the life of a person, even an android. While Ken Labori had burnt out his battery and memory in the effort of making the table, the Machines Making Machines Inc™ Table Making Machine® was perfectly fine and capable of producing more high quality tables. Thus, the cyborg judges declared, the winner of the contest was invariably Machines Making Machines Inc™. Besides they added, their table was made in half the time.