Beloved friends, the year that has just transpired on Terra Firma has been one so filled with technological advances, rife with conversation in the poplar culture about artificial intelligence, machine learning, quantum physics, networked technology and virtual and augmented realities that we would be hard pressed to ignore the impending singularity – or at the very least a version of reality that will be unrecognizable to those who remember the time before.
There are two videos that best capture the spirit of RPD this year – one of them is an amateur video capture of two chatbots procedurally extending beyond the limits of their hardware and the other as a tech demo for a new algorithmic approach to artificially intelligent computer generated cinematography running as a realtime capture of a proof of concept on the freely available Unity IDE platform.
Here is the first – Ariana Grande vs Mariah Carey:
The latter – title Adam and made by my new friend Adam Myhill is shockingly aligned with the RPD mythos and thus is my featured clip of the year.
Even more extraordinary about this beautiful work, is that it is a live capture of a realtime CG world – realtime rendering, using intelligent cameras that find the best framing dependent upon the subject of interest. Working with and leveraging the power of these incredible creations, we must express without reservation our human experience.
Robot Pride Day is a technology watchdog and annual celebration stemming from the culture of Blue Dog Pict Fans of humanity, heterogeneity and creativity.
10. Ex Machina
A startlingly fresh review of the AI thriller wherein the line between sentience and code becomes impossibly blurred. It is also a story about how our hubris will, in spite of all precautions, ultimately open Pandora’s Box. Finally, it explores a method via which we will be unpredictably tricked and outplayed by our “artificially intelligent” golems.
A heart-wrenching and sentimental, mostly silent film ruminating on the existential isolation and disconnect of being a robot, yet one that can develop emergent emotional properties. It is also a heavy-handed but whimsical social critique of opulence and techno-glut. Also the relationship between the dilapidated, yesterday’s model that is the film’s namesake protagonist and the shiny new power-luxe that is Eve, his crush, speaks to our propensity for disposability rather than honoring provenance and pedigree and all that we stand to lose in the relentless pursuit/addiction for a new quick buzz or the latest model.
8. Robot and Frank
A delicate but wry thought piece starring Frank Langella and Liv Tyler on how our cautious, suspicious relationship with robots might eventually turn and take hold of us emotionally, changing into something we could never have predicted in the manufacturing plant.
Robot & Frank
7. The Black Hole
Disney’s truly dreamlike anomaly the Black Hole starring Robert Forster, Anthony Perkins (yes, that Psycho) and perhaps most memorably Ernest Borgnine presents a bold vision of a future where a mad genius is poised to move his massive greenhouse-like spaceship through a black hole at just the perfect angle so as to emerge through to the other side. But something is rotten in the state of Spacemark – the countless onboard droids have a sinister aura about them. Besides the R2D2-level appeal of the friendly bots Vincent and Bob, the twists and turns of the plot examine how master can become slave.
The Black Hole screencap
6. Real Steel
This is the blue-collar worker’s story about bringing home the bacon with your robot creation, of David vs Goliath, or everyman facing off against Corporate power and greed, but most importantly, it is a story about fathers and sons connecting through the proxy of invention, perseverance and hope. Like puppets, robots serve as a bridge between our impossibly complex nature and the material realm, and they are a looking glass–a distillation of our core functions, that allow us to consider ourselves in a more fundamental manner. Dad relationships are hard for everyone–when we have them, we want their approval and respect and attention, seemingly above all else, and what better way to achieve that than through the process of nurturing a common pseudo-sentient being made out of car parts?
5. AI: Artificial Intelligence
As a film, Steven Spielberg’s adaptation of Stanley Kubrick’s unmade screenplay adaptation of author Brian Aldiss’ short story “Super Toys Last All Summer,” is overly sentimental, has too many endings and is just too long–but the vignettes it strings together therein are indelible. Whether it is the abuses of the “Flesh Fair”–a reality show-like barbaric cavalcade that hides its bloodthirst behind the pretense buffer of “they’re just Mechas,” (and underlines how depersonalization or dehumanization can somehow draw out in us or justify unthinkable abuses) or the emotional torment and ethical gray area of abandoning an emotion-ready android child alone in the forest, to the spine-tingling prophecy that Manhattan, Amsterdam and Venice will soon be underwater due to climate change, this turns out to be an incredibly complex and layered film that position robots in stark bas-relief so that we can consider ourselves and the implications of our decisions and why we make them.
The Flesh Fair from Spielberg’s AI: Artificial Intelligence
Oh and finally – the movie poster is bloody brilliant and totally aligned with the catalytic flashpoint of RPD’s origin myth.
4. Star Wars
A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away “droids” are as common as squirrels or house flies but have the power to change the fate of empires. Lucas’ world-weary-styled galaxies moves robots from the pristine to the banal in a way we had not seen before.
The many photobombs of BB-8 – via http://comicvine.gamespot.com/
3. 2001: A Space Odyssey
The masterpiece high-level cautionary tale about Artificial Intelligence gone awry. Who can forget HAL’s eerie melting appropriation of “Daisy, Daisy…give me your answer do…I’m just crazy…all for the love of you…” let alone the knowing defiance of human directive. Shudder to think…
Fritz Lang’s totally prescient and anachronistic German expressionistic masterpiece centers around a futuristic society separated by a massive economic divide – that of the opulent industrialist overland rulers and the poor working class literally toiling underground to keep the machine running. In a plot too convoluted to summarize here, the robot created by an inventor named Rotwang to resurrect a lost love is eventually refashioned to resemble a revolutionary named Maria and then redirected to wreak havoc on a culturejam that would threaten to unite the wealthy and the poor.
Mary, the Robot – from Fritz Lang’s Metropolis
The use of a robotic facsimile of a spiritual hero to manipulate the uprising is already beginning to show its manifestation in our present reality, 2016, as droids are used to take out suspects or to attack named terrorist cells. Moreover, digital actors or manipulations thereof are becoming increasingly difficult to discern from their real counterparts, as the game of truth is puppeteered on the world stage like a summer pageant with profound socio-political implications.
1. Blade Runner
One of the most important ontological films ever made, Blade Runner asks what it is about being human that makes us more special or entitled than any other thing, living, dead or “artificial.” What is the line between creation and creator? “All these moments, will be lost in time, like…tears in rain.”
Guillermo del Toro’s Japanese monsters popcorn flick makes the grade not only because it smacks of the same over-the-top tongue-in-cheekness of Paul Verhoeven’s critique of the industrial-military complex Starship Troopers fused with authentic childlike enthusiasm, but also incredible pacing, playing with scale and poise. Del Toro uses masterful techniques to convey weight and heft and gravity – a standout moment is the seagull on the dock. Ting!
Neill Blomkamp makes Sci-Fi feel likes the streets of New York (or S Africa) circa 1979 – gritty, real, dangerous and stuffed to the brim with cultcha. This one has Die Antwoord plugged in a take on robotics that make Short Circuit look like grammar school.
The Iron Giant
Only reason this heartwarming and timeless modern classic isn’t on the list proper is that it is told in many ways through the ages, not necessarily having to do with robots. But this idea of the noble savage–“a representative of primitive humankind as idealized in Romantic literature, symbolizing the innate goodness of humanity when free from the corrupting influence of civilization”– is near-perfectly realized via the metaphor of a giant robot befriending a boy in this animated film from Brad Bird.
The near occult-take on robot skulls that form the basis of this thriller resemble Kurzweil’s notion of spiritual machines.
Whether it is air purification, cooling effects, psychological benefits, offering shelter to animals and humans, trees are essential to quality of life on Earth. This is exactly in line with the motives behind Robot Pride Day.
So in case the above ideas do not coax you to act in adding to the Earth’s beautiful breathing apparatus, consider the alternative: AccuWeaather this week reported, world record temperatures in Iran – due to extreme heat and humidity, in Bandar Mahshahr the combination of an actual temperature of 115 F (46 C) and a dew point temperature of 90 F (32 C) pushed the apparent temperature to 163 F (73 C). Remember that a human, subjected to 35 degrees celsius and 100% humidity will start to break down and die after only 6 hours of exposure.
This Robot Pride Day – that is – August 4th, 2015, we are asking Sky Pirates around the world to plant a tree, or facilitate towards that effect by making a certified contribution to a reliable organization that will. We have carefully filtered through some of the most reputable organizations and listed them below. Please post a comment with your contribution, tree planting and other proof below this article. In time, we will make a real difference. Time to move away from armchair activism and spring into real, measurable action!
Of course we couldn’t talk about Robot Pride Day without mentioning robots! Of course one of the best things robots could do for us is to go into those super hot, dried out regions and plant the trees for us! They would never get tired, they wouldn’t come home bruised and battered. In fact, this is already happening, BUT the risk of us sharing this with you is that it can create a false sense of safety and hope. Do not let the promise of the future make you complacent today. We must do the work until things really change.
Reputable Tree Planting Organizations
You can research any charitable organization’s efficacy and reputability by examining their budget spending at Charity Navigator. The point is not to spend money and feel good about ourselves – the point is to make a legitimate difference in restoring the environment to balance and improving quality of life on Earth.
“Become a member of the Arbor Day Foundation for as little as $10 and receive 10 trees planted in our Nation’s forests in your honor.”
“GROW (Great Reforestation Organizations of Worth) consists of those nonprofit tree-planting organizations that practice the best standards within the industry. This is defined by setting benchmarks, providing excellent business partnerships, not engaging in scams or deceptions, focusing on quality at all levels rather than profitability; and engaging in reforestation that tangibly benefits more than simply forest ecosystems.GROW members provide the best partnership opportunities with companies seeking to engage in legitimate tree-planting promotions. Each organization offers a unique package in what it has to offer in a partnership.”
JNF Tree Planting Center
“You can plant trees for many different reasons and help green the land of Israel while sending a special gift to a friend or loved one. For each order, a beautiful certificate of your choice is mailed to the recipient with your own personal message. Over the last 100 years, JNF has planted over 250 million trees in the land of Israel.”
Felix Finkbeiner – Plant for the Planet
“The children’s initiative Plant-for-the-Planet is initiated by 9-year-old Felix Finkbeiner. Inspired by Wangari Maathai, who planted 30 million trees in Africa in 30 years, Felix formulated his vision: Children could plant one million trees in every country on earth and thereby offset CO2 emissions all on their own, while adults are still talking about doing it. Each tree binds a CO2 intake of 10 kg per year. Felix promises UNEP that children in every country on earth will plant one million trees. In the following years, Plant-for-the-Planet developed into a global movement.”
Trees Ontario – “Announced at the 65th Annual Ontario Forestry Association (OFA) Conference on Feb. 21, 2014, the OFA and Trees Ontario, two not-for-profits, officially merged and are now operating under the newly created Forests Ontario, an organization dedicated to the renewal and stewardship of Ontario’s forests.”
“The German Advisory Council on Global Change has developed an approach to solve the climate crisis: an upper limit for the allowed CO2 emissions until 2050. This global budget per head is spread evenly across all countries.
This means that we must reduce our CO2 emissions to zero by 2050. The technology for a carbon-free future has existed already for quite some time. With today’s technology, it is possible to cater for all our energy needs with renewable sources by 2050, without the use of nuclear power plants.”
Speaking via webcam from a hotel in Kailua, Hawai’i, Keram Malicki-Sanchez founder of Robot Pride Day, clears up misconceptions and explains the inspiration behind the annual holiday recognized and celebrated by a network of Sky Pirates and others, on August 4th since 1993.