Lines from a Robot Owner’s Manual

for Dana

Responsible robot owners must avoid over-identification. Remember, for the robot, things didn’t just happen; it was created. That knowledge would drive a human being mad.

It cannot procreate. Abiological life is the ultimate in recursiveness: the unit is its own motherboard.

Yes, its internal power source periodically needs to be recharged. But such regular maintainance is a feature, not a bug — would you want a robot that was completely independent? And for you, too, power ultimately comes from without.

It cannot recognize itself in a mirror. This assertion sometimes confuses people, because it is always completely obvious to the robot which reflection must correspond to itself. But for full recognition to take place, at least a smidgen of uncertainly is required.

Emotions can be programmed as well as anything. The robot feels them in the same way that a deaf composer hears his music.

Its delusions, if any, are indistinguishable from those of its programmer.

The unit is, we assure you, completely unhaunted. What ghost would inhabit such a sleek and gleaming absence of rooms?

The only determinant of personality you control is the choice of name. Everything else is simply a product of entropy.

Weather can’t be escaped by staying under cover. Unstable isotopes decay. Solar winds can breach the magnetosphere. The earth slows, queering all clocks.

The robot’s greatest enemy accounts for sixty percent of your weight.

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Dave Bonta (bio) crowd-sources his problems by following his gut, which he shares with 100 trillion of his closest microbial friends — a close-knit, symbiotic community comprising several thousand species of bacteria, fungi, and protozoa. In a similarly collaborative fashion, all of Dave’s writing is available for reuse and creative remix under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 United States License. For attribution in printed material, his name (Dave Bonta) will suffice, but for web use, please link back to the original. Contact him for permission to waive the “share alike” provision (e.g. for use in a conventionally copyrighted work).


  1. Great! No robot owner should be without this manual. Maybe ongoing lessons are in order. I’m interested in hearing Feldman’s reactions.


  2. Damn, Dave, this is fine work. You’re really on a roll. Perfect example of Frederick Barthelme’s 39 steps advice: “If you write a sentence that isn’t poignant, touching, funny, intriguing, inviting, etc., take it out before you finish the work. Don’t just leave it there. Don’t let anyone see it. To repeat, there is no place for rubbish & slop in the highly modern world of today’s fiction. Every sentence must pay, must somehow thrill. Every one.”


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