When Robots Attack! Should We Fear a Singularity?
And yes, I realize I shouldn't have even bothered to watch it once I realized it was for a mainstream news outlet, but several people in my Twitter lists were tweeting it.
Unfortunately, this video turned out not to be for nerds or anyone who has ever thought about future robots or the Singularity. This video is for mainstream sheep. The only glimmer of hope was when he started pursuing the thread of asking why humans have this tendency to punish themselves in robot stories with a father figure or in the manner of Frankenstein. After a couple seconds of that we're dropped back into cliché city with "robot uprisings."
The Roomba is mentioned--and then--holy shit, iRobot makes military robots too! OMG! Wait...everybody knows that already. Big deal. I guess Time readers/watchers are really behind the...times. And sure, I'm not being fair--Time readers may not have heard of every robot company, after all. Thank goodness this video shows Big Dog and Robonaut, two unrelated robots made by other companies, wedged in between the iRobot clips while Malow lobs the old joke at us that the cleaning robots will decide to kill humans.
Sure, it's supposed to be funny. But it's not, because it's unoriginal and out of date and/or not real enough (some humor is effective because it's so close to the truth). As William Zinser said of humor writers:
They're not just fooling around. They are as serious in purpose as Hemingway or Faulkner--in fact, a national asset in forcing the country to see itself clearly.
Occasionally I do see a humor piece on the web that achieves this, sometimes even from big places like Cracked.com or The Onion.
Partly, it's just a matter of taste. Surely some people found Malow's robot/singularity video funny; after all, millions of people out there paid money to see Meet the Fockers and Little Fockers. Millions of people...laughing when they're told to at tired jokes and clichés.
Of course, maybe it's too difficult to be funny with robots--you have to be creative and you're not sure what your target audience will grok. But, please, if you're going to make yet another joke about the "robot uprising," at least make it a new joke.
If you think I'm biased against people making fun of robots or my company, think again: The Daily Show beat Malow to the punch and made fun of iRobot in 2009 ("Roombas of Doom"), and it was much funnier than Malow's attempt, although still very far removed from reality:
So why do I even bother ranting about mainstream tropes and lack of creativity? Well, the problem is it's infecting even those not in the mainstream. Almost every person, even if they are scientists or engineers, seems to be obligated to mention AI overlords and robot uprisings as if there are no possible other hooks available. Every single military robot related article I have seen on the Internet mentions Terminator. It's as if the bulk of our culture has been reduced to a mere handful of common concepts, and more and more people are being sucked into this pit of mental inbreeding.