Sample Essay 6

Ideas and Analysis: Score = 6
Development and Support: Score = 6
Organization: Score = 6
Language Use and Conventions: Score = 6


As technology improves, and more and more tasks are completed by machines instead of humans, the question is no longer about what we can do with machines, but rather what we should. Although the usage of machines increases efficiency and our standard of living, it detracts from the value of human life.

As machines increasingly perform all our basic tasks, society is able to produce more. The additional production adds material value to our society and frees people up from these low-skill tasks. This is in agreement with Perspective Two which claims that this industrialization leads to more prosperity. For example, in the 18th century, short-staple cotton that was grown in the Southern United States required an immense amount of labor in order to seperate the seeds from the fiber to process the cotton to make it marketable. However, in the mid-19th century, Eli Whitney, an American entrepreneur, invented the cotton gin, which allowed for automation of cotton processing. This machine replaced the need of a large work force for the process and greatly improved production. As a result of the cotton gin, short-staple cotton production skyrocketed, increasing by more than 10 times in the South while bringing prosperity to the region and setting in motion a new industrial era in America. This is in agreement with Perspective Three, which says that mechanization allows for “unimagined possibilities”. Although there are clearly many advantages to industrialization, there are also some heavy drawbacks.

The replacement of humans by machines leads to the loss of value to human life, an effect that outweighs the material gains of automation. The search to find human tasks that can be performed by machines inevitably leads to comparisons between the human and the machine. If a company executive wants to see if a inventory management team can be replaced by a robotic system, he will compare the two and determine which can do a better job. When this occurs, the people on the team are evaluated not for their worth as human beings, but for their effectiveness at performing a specific function—in essence, as we would evaluate a machine. In a larger sense, when we begin to think about humans in this way, the worth of a person’s life becomes dependent on only what they can do and no longer has any intrinsic value. As Perspective One states, we begin to lose our humanity. This new mindset and way of evaluating people, though seemingly harmless in the workplace, is devastating when it begins to pervade a society. If a person is judged only on his or her capability, there is no reason for a person to remain after they have served their function. This would warrant genocide against the elderly and the disabled because their burden on society would not be made up for by any production. Although the machines may seem to only fulfill the low skill jobs at the moment, there is no barrier to prevent the machines from replacing more. As the machines increase in intelligence, they will replace any tasks done by humans and render us unnecessary and worthless.

Due to the risks of dehumanization, the material benefits of machines are not enough to justify its increasing presence.

Scoring Explanation

Ideas and Analysis = 6
The writer generates an argument that engages critically with multiple perspectives. A nuanced, precise thesis—efficiency afforded by intelligent machines is ultimately detrimental to a society and to the human race more generally—propels the argument. In analyzing the issue and its perspectives, the argument employs a number of insightful contexts, juxtaposing the historical against the contemporary and framing a number of ethical and abstract tensions (prosperity and efficiency devalue human life; material benefits carry intangible costs). Against these conceptual backdrops, the writer examines the positive and negative effects of the increasing presence of intelligent machines, along with the implications and complexities of the given perspectives.

Development and Support = 6
The example of the cotton gin is simple yet effective at illustrating the writer’s concession that machines have indeed contributed to the greater financial good. Elsewhere, development is oriented toward reasoning rather than driven by example. The second body paragraph uses the concept of genocide, rather than a specific example of it, to refine and support the idea that comparisons between human and machine, even in the name of prosperity, reduce and devalue human qualities and pose a great danger to society. As the argument pushes forward, critical contexts broaden—the tension is heightened when we must weigh the established benefits of mechanization, as seen through history, against the risks of a future dominated by machines—and allow for deeper insight. All told, this integrated line of reasoning and illustration effectively conveys the meaning and import of the argument.

Organization = 6
This response is unified by a clear purpose. The logic of the argument is immediately apparent—this writer’s strategy is based on a framework of juxtaposition, one that sets out and explores two competing values in tension. This straightforward strategy allows for a logical progression of ideas, which is realized due in part to effective transitions that lead the reader to the writer’s conclusions. Examples, explanations, and references to the given perspectives are skillfully interwoven, allowing for the argument to advance even as its scope expands.

Language Use = 6
Conveying nuanced ideas, marshalling evidence for those ideas, establishing logical relationships—all these skills rely on the use of language. In this response, use of language is superior. Effective diction works in concert with varied syntax to relay complex notions with clarity. The writer establishes a formal, academic voice tone that is occasionally manipulated to persuasive effect—as the writer discusses the perceived dehumanizing effects of machines, her language conveys an increasing sense of alarm (devastating, render us unnecessary and worthless). In all, the command over language on display in this response enhances the argument and earns the highest possible score in this domain.