Mark Hurst on robots vs. typewriters

by | Apr 27, 2024 | Uncategorized | 5 comments


Typewriter robot, as generated by a robot (Midjourney)


Mark Hurst, who recently interviewed me for his show Techtonic, has come up with the following list of ten differences between robots and typewriters.

Surveillance:  robots have multiple cameras and sensors to watch you and the surrounding environment, often sending surveillance data into the cloud for further processing. Typewriters, though, have no surveillance. None. Zero. No cameras, no sensors, no listening, no spying, no cloud.

• User autonomy: robots claim that they’ll do the job, so that people can attend to other things or just go to sleep. Typewriters demand that the writer step up and put in the work, because otherwise it won’t get done. If robots cause atrophy, typewriters encourage growth.

• Mechanism: robots hide their mechanical nature under a smooth android exterior (or a robot-seal fur coat) while presenting an illusion of sentience. Typewriters bare all, displaying their levers and typebars in plain view.

• Environmental impact: robots’ AI engines consume massive amounts of electricity and fresh water, not to mention the rare metals and chemicals used to construct the robot. Typewriters consume sheets of paper, an occasional ink ribbon, and manual power to press down the keys.

• Truth: robots express whatever version of reality was coded into them by their company’s engineers; typewriters invite the writer to express the truth however they can word it.

• Scale: robots run algorithms at ultrafast processor speeds, communicating with other devices through high-speed internet connections; typewriters operate at human scale, with finger-sized keys working at the speed of human thought. And communication uses postal mail.

• Value to Silicon Valley: robots, as the embodiment of AI, are seen as promising assets for future exponential growth. Typewriters, on the other hand, are considered by Big Tech to be bygone relics, irrelevant to the new tech age.

• Longevity: robots, like other digital devices, need to be replaced frequently to stay up-to-date; typewriters built 50, 80, even 100 years ago are still working faithfully with their original parts.

Business Model: robots, typically designed by growth-at-any-cost tech companies, rely on constant upgrades, monetization of surveillance data, and recurring fees; typewriters, once purchased, need no further investment or payment, beyond paper and an occasional repair.

Legacy: the impact of robots is ephemeral, lasting only as long as robots continue to function. Typewriters, on the other hand, produce the written page – which can last for hundreds of years and change lives and cultures based on the words it contains.

You might wonder what a robot would say on this topic. OK, here are ChatGPT’s ten comparisons between robots and typewriters, generated at my request.


Robots are designed for automation and performing tasks, often in industrial or service settings.

Typewriters are designed for human input to create written documents, which are typically used in office or personal writing.


Robots have a wide range of functionalities depending on their design, from manufacturing to household chores and even advanced AI-driven tasks like customer service.

Typewriters are limited to typing text on paper and do not have other functionalities beyond their primary purpose.


Robots incorporate advanced technologies like sensors, actuators, and AI algorithms to operate autonomously or under human control.
Typewriters are mechanical or electronic devices designed specifically for typing characters onto paper or digital media.


Robots can interact with their environment and humans, often through sensors, cameras, and programming that enables them to respond to stimuli.

Typewriters have no interaction capabilities beyond the manual input of keys by a human user.


Robots can be mobile, with wheels, legs, or other locomotion mechanisms, allowing them to move within a defined space or even across varied terrains.

Typewriters are stationary devices meant to be used on a desk or table, with no inherent mobility features.


Robots can be highly complex machines, with intricate designs and programming that allow them to perform sophisticated tasks autonomously.

Typewriters are relatively simple devices compared to robots, with mechanical or electronic components for typing characters.


Robots require regular maintenance, including software updates, hardware checks, and repairs to ensure optimal performance.

Typewriters also require maintenance, such as cleaning, lubrication, and occasional repairs, to keep them in working condition.


Robots can significantly increase productivity in various industries by performing tasks faster, more accurately, and tirelessly compared to human labor.

Typewriters helped increase productivity in offices before the digital era but have been largely replaced by computers and word processing software.


Robots can be customized and programmed for specific tasks, allowing for versatility in different applications and industries.

Typewriters have limited customization options beyond basic adjustments like typeface and margin settings.


Robots continue to evolve with advancements in robotics, AI, and automation technologies, leading to more capable and versatile robotic systems.

Typewriters have evolved into digital devices like computers and smartphones, rendering traditional mechanical typewriters nearly obsolete in modern contexts.


  1. Anonymous

    The thing I can't figure out is are we expanding collective consciousness or paving the way to the Butlerian Jihad. I figure on keeping the computers around me dumb and subservient while I still can. :D

  2. Richard P

    Man may not be replaced!

  3. Russ Mead

    Robots are lifeless. Typewriters have a soul.

  4. typewriter.works

    i'm beginning to think ken wilber is a madman. thought he was a genius 'till about 2021. if we're expanding the collective consciousness, i posit it's insane and probably needs to be stopped.

  5. typewriter.works

    this is fantastic. i tried something similar but there were too many curse words. (bows humbly before the master mark hurst)


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