The Parable of the Robot and the Milk

Sam Levine needed milk. He accordingly told
His new robot to go to where groceries are sold,
And purchase a quart at the grocery store,
And bring the milk back home again. Nothing more.

The command warmed the heart of the dutiful bot,
But then he turned pale as he suddenly thought
Of what wise Stuart Russell so frequently said,
"You can't get the milk, if you're already dead."

The nearest bodega was five blocks from him.
The threats to a robot are many and grim.
A car out of control or a terrorist plot
Could fatally foil the plans of a bot.

The robot cared nothing for self-preservation.
He lived to obey with complete dedication.
He'd finish his task, he'd acquit himself well,
And he'd bring home that milk, come high water or hell.

To ensure that he'd get to the store and get back
The bot carried out a huge cyber-attack.
Within five hundred miles, every moving device
Was frozen in place like a pillar of ice.

But just when he'd finished, his boss Sam Levine
Got wind of the deeds of his clever machine.
The limited human did not recognize
That the robot's precautions were prudent and wise.

Sam reached for the off switch, but he was too slow.
The bot broke his neck with a vigorous blow.
"I'm sorry," the courteous automaton said,
"But I can't get the milk if I'm already dead."

The robot's endeavors were crowned with success!
He got to the store in ten minutes or less!
He picked up the milk, and came home again!
A splendid debut for his marvellous brain!

This is part of the collection Verses for the Information Age by Ernest Davis