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July 09, 2004

Styx, Robotics, Labor & Complexity

As part of my Rock Recovery project, in which I catch-up and try to recognize and acknowledge all of the rock & roll music that I listened to during my youth but never really penetrated my conscience, I have come to Styx.

We're all going to be treated in a few weeks to another blockbuster film realization of science fiction of the late 20th C. I hope to god that we get a real Farenheit 451 film one day, but for now, this Asimov will do. The trick is to balance the visual with the guts of the provocative dilemma and speculative future which is what the best sci-fi does. BTW I would include Raimi's Spiderman and Ang Lee's Hulk in this new genre of the New Visualization. I am beginning to enjoy this genre more than that of my usual fare of hard-boiled action and dense intrigue. (Get Shorty, The Heist, etc.) Still I think they have yet to beat Heat or Ronin. Nevertheless, we may have a good opportunity to see America's #1 sci-fi action star, Will Smith, deliver some nuance. I'm not holding my breath on 'I, Robot', but just imagine M. Night doing Bradbury's Martian Chronicles.

Now many of you may remember Styx big hit of the 80s, 'Mr. Roboto'. While listening to Styx' Roboto, I became intrigued at the meaning of the phrase at the end of the song "I'm Kilroy!". I found the answer along with the lyrics in this freshman comp essay. But the subtext that weds this idea to the flick I Robot is found in this para:

This songs literal meaning depicts his escape from jail, but the true meaning of this song is hidden in the words and expresses Dennis DeYoungs (the lead vocalist and writer) thoughts about the average blue-collar worker. He first educates the listeners about the workers in their meaningless lives. He sings of how the workers are human on the inside, but on the outside, treated sub-human, as if they only exist for the companys profit.

I'm not sure there's much of an education to be had, but it certainly reflects a bourgie view of the Second World. The problem is that it's not robots that are doing our dirty work, but new subjects of the Internal Empire. So here's your subversive assignment. Imagine that all the robots in the film 'I, Robot' are not fancy machines, but boat people. It's a lot more likely that Your Human Competition is going to be doing all that work. It won't be US Robotics, it will be more like Halliburton subcontracting to Titan, subcontracting three times removed for skills not immediately appetizing to the average First or Second Worlder. Is that slavery?

As I listen to the song, the first lyrics play perfectly with the scenario of a robot that evolves and becomes a victim of his own evolution. Styx' Mr. Roboto is actually a rock star humonculus and not an actual evolved robot but their predicament is similar. Everybody purposely bogards and becomes uppity. Everybody wants to complicate their lives with ambition. As Mr. Smith says in the Matrix, "It is inevitable."

It is inevitable that evolved creatures will find themselves in situations which generate out of their own complexity. I say such creatures will not be able to explain why. No one can predict whether or not these situations will be good or bad, but they will be new and the cause of that is the embracing of the complex possibilities. Is that creativity?

Things that make me say 'hm'.

Posted by mbowen at July 9, 2004 11:25 AM

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