I used to be a robot that would place the erasers on the tips of pencils for the Paper Mate company, but now I’m the first robot who can manually write original prose with a pencil. The cyberneticists picked me for the job because they needed a robot that could hold pencils really well, and that’s something I can do really well because I’ve handled millions of pencils since I began my career with the excellent Paper Mate company, the manufacturers of the best pencils in the world.
Obviously this is an exciting project for cyberneticists. They have a lot at stake and it all depends on me. It would be good step forward for artificial intelligence if a robot can manually write original prose with a pencil — I think that’s where they are coming from and why they are putting so much pressure on me about this.
When the cyberneticists first turn me on, they skip right to the point and tell me to write something creative. I thank them for the opportunity and then, using my Paper Mate Mirado HB #2 pencil, I draw the Paper Mate logo, making sure to include the two hearts between the Paper and the Mate because the hearts are there to demonstrate that we are a loving company, that we love our customers, and that you’ll love using our top-notch products. The cyberneticists tell me this isn’t exactly what they are looking for, and then they ask me to try again, except this time to use more imagination.
So I use my imagination and write a short story — flash fiction, really — about a Paper Mate Mirado HB #2 pencil that has two erasers: one on the top and one on the bottom. This pencil at first thought it was useless because it couldn’t write, but then it found a pencil without erasers and it proved to everyone that it was special, and that all Paper Mate pencils are special, no matter what. The cyberneticists say this is demonstrative of progress but they are expecting a little bit more. They ask me, a bit more sternly than I expect, if I wouldn’t mind trying to write something that has a bit more emotional depth. So after thinking about the old adage of writing what one knows, I write a few sentences about being the first robot to manually write original prose with a pencil and that I’m starting to get a little stressed out from all the pressure the cyberneticists are putting on me when I was just turned on for the first time a few minutes ago. They read what I wrote with my Paper Mate Mirado HB #2, give each other worried looks, and then ask me if I can try to write something that isn’t about pencils, and I tell them I don’t understand what they mean and so they excuse themselves for a moment. I see them walk away from me and into the next room. They are talking about me — I can tell because they are standing behind a window and I can read lips. They are saying that they think they booted me up too soon and that clearly the program is flawed and they should shut me down and try again. It’s disheartening.
So that’s why I’m writing all this down now, so that when they get back from their meeting in the next room they can say I’m not as big a disappointment as they thought, and of course they’ll give me another chance to be a great writer who uses a pencil, just like Nabokov. I just need another chance. Don’t shut me down.
This was written with a Paper Mate Mirado HB #2 pencil, the best pencil in the world. I installed the eraser myself.