Robots-Creepy Little Robots

I don’t take the newspaper anymore. I don’t have time to read it. The Sunday paper is usually more ads than news. I cancelled my subscription about two years ago. My neighbor, down the sidewalk here on the cove, does take the paper and graciously brings it to my back porch, sometimes with a couple of bananas or a candy bar, every Sunday morning. It is a pleasant comfort to have it in the afternoons after church.

I flipped through yesterday, and saw this horrifying and ridiculous picture on the front of the business section.

IMG_4318.JPG.jpeg

Several thoughts simultaneously rushed into the mushy matter between my ears.

  1. Why didn’t they make this creepy little robot average human height. They built a hobbit robot, not a human robot. Notice how both the humans in this picture have to look down at the little guy. They are breeding a robot that will have a built-in Napoleon complex before it ever gets started. Is hard white plastic that hard to get that you didn’t have any extra to make it a little longer?
  2. You can’t fool me. This is not really a robot. Look at it closely. It seems to be a plastic doll on a Rhoomba that has an iPad taped to it. Reminds me of Phil Dunphy’s homemade Skypebot. UnknownFor reals, I saw something like it at the hospital a couple of months ago. A doctor on FaceTime was taped to a remote controlled mannequin and making rounds. No lie.
  3.  Never in a million years would I buy something like this. Never. Have the people who make such things never seen the movies? It is just a few years between that cute plastic walking emoji and The Terminator. They’ll be back.
  4. This robot’s name is Pepper, and according to the caption under the picture (because I am not about to read the whole article) it is designed to assist seniors. I assume that means senior adults rather than seniors in high school or college. If so, then NEWSFLASH–senior adults don’t adapt real well to technology. This thing would be a very creepy and expensive statue in the corner. Seriously, you should see my mother work the Dish Network screen. I can only imagine her with this thing.
  5. Check out the link to the article here. If you do, you’ll see the picture of the robot looks just like the crazy robots form the Asimov-inspired Will Smith thriller I, Robot. They could be twinsies.   To save you time, I put the side-by-side here.
  6. What’s with all the power cords this thing is plugged into. I don’t get it. An electric car can drive from here to Dallas nonstop. Why does this thing need to be plugged in to go across the carpet and harass the woman who looks like she wants to kick it?

 

Sorry to take up so much of your time ranting, but I had to tell someone, and no one else is in the office right now.

 

TOP THREE BOOKS: SCIENCE FICTION

The first book I ever read, from cover to cover, was H. G. Well’s War of the Worlds.  From that moment on, I was hooked.

It is dangerous to compose a list of favorites for science fiction because sci-fi readers are the most opinionated and passionate of enthsiasts.  I’ve seen near-death blows exchanged as people argue over the right genre category for something.

“It’s dystopia, you idiot,” he replied.

His friend, undaunted, said, “Moron.  Any fool can clearly understand that this is science fantasy.”

Their co-worker called out in an angry voice from across the room, “Both of you are unlearned Philistines.  This bit of speculative fiction is neither.  It is quite simply superhero fiction.  There is nothing science about it, I will admit to a layer of fantasy, but that is merely an homage to Tolkien.”

These divisions can be as angry and emotional as theological debates between Calvinists and Arminians.  I’ve never seen Sherlock Holmes fans go after Harry Potter fans fans like that.

Complicating it even more, most people have their favorite work or writer to whom they are loyal.  Stalwarts will point to Jules Verne and H.G. Wells and say that after them, everyone else is just a copycat.  People who love Frank Herbert’s Dune will never back down from the opinion that it is the greatest science fiction ever, just as those who think that Authur C. Clarke’s 2001: A Space Odyssey is the best ever will never admit anything other than that could possibly be worthy of honor.  Into this contentious field, I now submit my three favorite science fiction books.

Fahrenheit 451, Ray Bradbury
Ray Bradbury
The cat in this photo creeps me out

Fahrenheit 451 is not the most enjoyable Ray Bradbury book for me. That distinction goes to The Martian Chronicles.  I really enjoy The Martian Chronicles, they are fun and playful. However, Fahrenheit 451 is rated above it because deep in my gut I appreciate the societal commentary and meaning of it.  Fahrenheit 451 is therefore a better book than The Martian Chronicles and bumps it up on my favorites list.

A Canticle For Leibowitz, Walter M. Miller
A Canticle for Leibowitz
A Monk in Texarkana

I love this book for three reasons.  The first reason is that it seriously deals with the tension, in metaphor and in plot, between science and faith.  The second reason is that as a historian, the book credibly and I might add, persuasively, creates a historical timeline of societal progress.  The third reason is that the name of the kingdom that emerges from post-atomic war America is called Texarkana.  As an East Texas boy, all I can say is that is very cool.

Nightfall, Isaac Asimov

Okay, I’m cheating here.  Nightfall is not a book.  It is a short story that Asimov wrote in 1941.  Fifty years later it was turned into a novel, but I’m not interested in that.  The short story Nightfall is perhaps the most fully developed and well-told short ever.  In that single work we can find all of the themes that later will find their way into Asimov’s Robots and Foundation novels–the tension between science, belief, and the dysfunction of human society.  Nightfall is sometimes referred to as the greatest science fiction story every written.  I do believe that given the body of work, Asimov stands head and shoulder as the greatest science fiction writer ever.

As you can probably tell, I have a specific taste for science fiction of the mid-20th century.  There was something about the intensity of the writing during that time period that was fresh, innovative, and if I may be so bold, prophetic.  It was as if these writers, with one foot in the pre-technological world before mass communication and atomic weapons and one foot in it, are giving scalding commentary on the modern life we now live.  We can’t see ourselves today as clearly as they saw us 60 years ago.

The Most Influential Books

Top Three Books:  Classic Fiction

Top Three Books:  Contemporary Fiction

So these are my top three science fiction books (well, two books and one short story) and I would love to know what yours are.

 

images from favimages.com and wikipedia