The Craftsmanship of Risk

I am working on a jewelry box that will have drawer runners set into the sides of the case. Since I am making multiples of everything I went to the milling machine to cut dados for the runners. Six dadoes on 6 pieces--36 slots to cut. Set the stops, dial in the depth of the cut, and just clamp the pieces in place for the operation. I only measured and marked on one piece--all the rest were cut with an assumption that the machine would not err.

 Cutting dados for drawer runners with a milling machine.

Cutting dados for drawer runners with a milling machine.

 David Pye, in his classic discourse on craftsmanship, calls craft the "workmanship of risk." His premise is that if the process and outcome are pre-determined and certain (the "workmanship of certainty"), there is no craftsmanship involved. When the machine keeps everything straight and true, what does the craftsman add to the operation? Pye struggled with his own definition however, recognizing that most tools are designed to add some amount of "certainty" to the process. In today's woodshop I could have even let the computer cut everything with one setup--would that be craftsmanship? I don't think so. When does the tool become the craftsman?