#341: Robots, Part 1

This week, we kick off a long-overdue discussion talking about robots: robots who want to destroy the world!

Direct Download
Blog Post

Puny humans!! /Bender

My co-worker dropped these off for me to peruse while our SkyNet 2.0 is slowly emerging :slight_smile:

Nineties style robot stories.

Some of them are “eye roll material” … but fun stuff all the same.


It was a wonderful discussion to listen to this week.

Re: Audra’s thoughts on the retribution of God (or the Government, Gort, whatever.) One of the discussions I had on my LDS mission was with another missionary talking about why people are obedient to commandments of God. He said

First, people are obedient because they fear the consequences of doing what’s wrong.
Then, people are obedient because they know that it’s the right thing to do.
Finally, people become obedient because they love the Lord.

And this can be translated onto parents, potentially governments, (probably not Gort, but who knows). Our willingness to follow an individual is significantly affected by how we feel about them. The spiritual fulfillment offers a reason to behave in the way that they’re taught. The same thing happens when people become disenchanted with a religion, or with a spouse/partner. They stop doing things for them because they don’t feel that connection or fulfillment.

There’s a real, substantial difference between obedience because of fear vs obedience because of love. A great example of that is Dogs in relation to their masters.

Robots of course, don’t have that connection at all. They behave a certain way because it’s the conclusion of their programming. I think the reason that humans can make the complex decisions that they do is not because we’re inherently different than robots, but because we have a lifetime of experience that molds our decision making process. We’re a conglomerate of all the love, hate, happy, sad, exciting, depressing events of our lives. There’s no way we could emulate that in our programming, I don’t care how complex your algorithm is.

This is brought up in Blade Runner (The movie) - The key to Rachel’s lifespan is that she has an emotional cushion of experiences (borrowed from Eldon Tyrell’s niece) gives the replicant a component necessary to live, to make decision that a programmed mind can deal with.

When Chuck said “Emergent Behavior”, I immediately thought of this video. EB doesn’t necessarily have to be complex. It can simply be a behavior that was not intentional. This is a video of the iRobot (the company, not the stories) Create robots utilizing a very simple “Bump and turn” algorithm which produces a surprising effect:


In large groups, Creates will group together items.

Ok, I have to comment.

Robots in SciFi are always used as a cypher for the concept of free expression etc. Please note that the word Robot itself was coined in the play R.U.R - Rossum’s Universal Robots written by Karel Capek. It comes from the Czech word “robota” which means slave. In the play artificial humans (closer to replicants than mechanical robots) are created by Rossum. They are treated as slaves and eventually rebel against humanity, wiping it out.

The play itself was about the dangers and inequalities caused by serfdom - a major problem when the play was written. SciFi is replete with such stories among others. Metropolis perhaps has the purest form of this with the Robot Maria that helps bring down the rigid caste system created by extremes in economic conditions (The activation of Maria is my avatar here).

Here is a link to the play (free ebook download) to an English translation of the play that introduced the word “Robot” to the world.

Amazing show guys. Love it. You guys were on this show. (Not saying you are bad at the others, lol). Now I have to read the Foundation books.

One movie you guys might want to check out (if you haven’t already) is Dark Star, which was originally a student film by a guy in his early 20s named John Carpenter. It’s was a very low budget ($60k), comiedic sci-fi movie from 1974 about a crew travelling the stars and using smart bombs to destroy dangerous planets. One of the bombs malfunctions and the crew has to conversationally convince the bomb to not explode and kill them all.

Agree Dark Star is great stuff!

On a similar temporal vein, I’d recommend “Silent Running”.

Huey, Dewey and Louie remind us of things we sometimes forget (or ignore).



What most people don’t know is that Dark Star was a collaboration film and not just John Carpenter’s first film. Dan O’Bannon wrote and starred in the film as Sgt. Pinback.

O’Bannon would go on to write Alien and the screenplay for Total Recall.

I love the stuff NASA’s Curiosity Mars Rover posts on Facebook. This one is my favorite so far…

Roads? Where I’m going, I don’t need roads. Now driving toward Glenelg, about a quarter mile (400 meters) away. I’ll stop and do science along the way. Info: http://1.usa.gov/OrQ4cg


Some of my favorite Asimov stories are the robot stories where there are two mechanics (always the same two guys, and they’re always alone on a space station with the robots) try to figure out how the robots became “broken.” It always turns out that they’re in fact just acting normally based on the parameters fed to them and how those parameters interacted with the 3 laws. Talk about emergent behavior. Just from memory, I recall robots marching around during off hours, and another robot lying and deceiving in order to remain hidden because a tech told them to “get lost.”

Great stuff, and a very fun show this week!

Loved the Robot arc. Several fantastic points and suggestions were brought up. I was honestly surprised that no one mentioned Robopocolypseby Daniel Wilson. It’s a fairly recent novel and there is a studio planning a movie based on it. I really enjoyed the book (not long or complicated but enjoyable) and it actually fits into all three areas of robots discussed. Something wants to kill people, there is human emulation and eventually allies. You may want to check it out, I know there is an audiobook available as well.

I was also thinking about the Mass Effect universe, EDI and how she fits into the robot idea. Mass Effect has a few angles on the idea of intelligent machines; Legion, the AI who kills off the crew on one of the space stations in ME2, EDI get a body in addition to the Normandy, all the way down to mechs and the VI interfaces. Even the new DLC Leviathan has a interesting edge in on the story and the Reapers. (Really liked that)

Just a few thoughts. Thanks for the great ideas.

I’m perpetually behind in podcasts, but just recently finished the Robots Arc as well. The first Robot cast was just fantastic. Right up there with my all time favorite podcast- the Cosmos one with Nick Sagan and Ann Druyan.

Vote for your favorite GWC Podcast 341 quote(s). This poll will close on January 16th, 2013 at 07:21 AM.