This Week’s Results: Robots

Vishal Trivedi

Looper – My Robot

Robots are scary.

At least, that’s what the purveyors of sci-fi and pop culture would have us believe. Fantasy doomsayers from Arthur C. Clarke to Matt Groening have given us dystopic visions of an era in which artificial intelligences, sometimes in concert with extraterrestrials, have conspired to undermine (or mock, in the case of Bender) that unique soulfulness which makes humanity so special. Some portrayals of robots in pop culture are affectionate and charming, some are quite funny; some are insipid. Some are complete bastardizations of otherwise good robot literature.

In all this hubbub and fascination with robots, however, an important point gets lost: we haven’t actually been able to make a really cool, functional, humanoid-type robot yet. Seriously, this is the best we’ve got to show for our efforts so far. I’ve seen ASIMO in person; he’s not that impressive. Now of course at some level I too think that the idea of robots is cool. You can’t deny that the immense potential of robots ignites the imagination, but I’m not going to be truly excited about them until we have a robot that can actually do something veritably awesome. Playing chess well when you can literally extrapolate every possible move just isn’t that impressive. I want to see a robot do something unexpected, like bust out a freestyle rap or write a compelling novel that isn’t just cutting and pasting from stuff that humans have written. I want some robotic inspiration. I’m looking for more than computational power; give me some robotic intelligence.

So with that in mind, here’s a song which fairly encapsulates the sense of hope with which we regard robots, but also acknowledges the lack of real progress that robots have made to date, because as of now, they’re actually pretty useless.

Megan Costello

Rivers Cuomo – Blast Off

We’re still not sure when exactly the robots replaced weezer front man Rivers Cuomo with one of their kind. Was it immediately after Pinkerton was released or just before The Green Album? All we do know is that the Rivers who wrote Pinkerton is gone.
But somehow Rivers got something past his robot captors and reminded us why weezer was once good. The recent collection of Rivers Cuomo solo recordings gives the world (and not just the hardcore weezer fans who haunted message boards for mp3s) a peek at his lost opus Songs from the Black Hole. This opus was to be a rock opera taking place in outer space. Rivers experiments with harmonies, voice effets, and concepts unexplored in prior song writing efforts.
Most epic of the rock opera which gave birth to much of Pinkerton is the opening number, Blast Off. Blast Off is a 4 part conversation between 3 sailors on a ship blasting off to outer space and their robot navigator. Each character is sung by Rivers, who expresses their fears and hopes for their mission. Its all pretty clear except for the robot ‘mechanoid’ character that Rivers sings through a vocoder. It wasn’t until I read the lyrics that I could actually figure out what the robot was saying. Rivers’ robot captors must have gotten a hold of the master tape of the song before they reached the public, just to make sure he didn’t let anything slip out about where they have him.
In the end, it doesn’t really matter. For better or worse, whether you can understand it or not, nothing says robot like a vocoder.
Thank you Rivers for sneaking this past your robot guards. Now please come home and rectify the mistakes your robot captors have been releasing for the past 7 years.

Aaron Azlant

Para One – Dudun-Dun

Perhaps, when the robots finally do overpower us, they will use advanced weaponry to force us into a life of endless, back-breaking servitude. Or, perhaps they will appear to us instead as beautiful French models clad in lingerie and subdue us gently with e-z-break pillows. Either way, if they are soundtracked with Para One, heir apparent to the Ed Banger throne, I won’t complain. But I will prefer the models.

Dingoes ate your baby? Well cry me a river! Now you can…

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Filed under Aaron Azlant, Megan Costello, Response, Vishal Trivedi

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