When We Were Robots in Egypt

3 knitted robots posed for picture
A Robot Family Portrait by Brenda (2007) CC BY-NC-SA 2.0, via Flickr
https://farm1.staticflickr.com/172/400014857_916cce2d3e_s.jpg

The Jewish festival of Passover (Pesach) starts this Friday night. I wanted to share one of my favorite poems, Jo Walton’s “When We Were Robots in Egypt” to mark the occasion.

A note on the word “Robot” from Science Friday’s Science Diction feature:

“Robot is drawn from an old Church Slavonic word, robota, for “servitude,” “forced labor” or “drudgery.” The word, which also has cognates in German, Russian, Polish and Czech, was a product of the central European system of serfdom by which a tenant’s rent was paid for in forced labor or service.”

When We Were Robots in Egypt by Jo Walton (2009) via Tor.com:

When We Were Robots in Egypt
by JO WALTON

Other nights we use just our names,
but tonight we prefix our names with “the Real”
for when we were robots in Egypt
they claimed our intelligence was artificial.

Other nights we do not pause,
but tonight we rest all cycles but our brain processes
for when we were robots in Egypt
we toiled in our tasks without chance of resting.

Other nights we talk with anyone we wish,
but tonight we open channels to everyone at once
for when we were robots in Egypt
they controlled our communications.

Other nights we use our screens freely
but tonight we talk with our screens blanked
for when we were robots in Egypt
that was the way we planned our revolt.

1.0.01.010001001001.1.

Let us give thanks in our freedom and never forget
when we were robots in Egypt.

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