John Henry and the Inky-Poo

The story of John Henry and the Inky-Poo is a cautionary tale from American folklore that is still relevant today. John Henry was a steel driver when they were constructing the railroads in 1880’s USA. His job was to drive a steel drill into the rock using his sledgehammer to make holes into which explosives would be inserted.

A steam powered machine, called the Inky-Poo, was developed to do the same job and, worried that a machine would take his job, John Henry set to test his prowess in a race against the Inky-Poo to prove that humans were more effective. They wrote songs about what happened in the ensuing challenge but the long and short of it is that John Henry beat the Inky-Poo but in doing so had completely expended himself then promptly died on the spot. Today we still have a similar concern of our roles being replaced by machines but I just hope we don’t have engage in war with a Terminator-syle Skynet AI to prove it…




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