Cyborg drama

Coincidentally I had several conversations today, with different people, on the topic of ideas for dramas involving cyborgs or robots. Maybe some karmic quota of such discussions needed to be filled, which is why these conversations got squeezed into the very last day of the year.

After all, one can have only so many discussions about how Jennifer Lawrence in “American Hustle” is, on a formal level, a eerily precise reiteration of Heath Ledger as the Joker.

The first of today’s conversations concerned the topic of space pirates. Everybody knows that a self-respecting scurvy pirate is supposed to wear an eye patch. To be without one would be as inappropriate, in fictional pirate social circles, as being caught without a parrot on one’s shoulder. But what about scurvy pirates in science fiction? Should these futuristic miscreants be held to the same high monocular standard?

We debated the point for a bit, and finally agreed that any self-respecting sci-fi pirate should indeed sport an eye patch, but that the patch should cover a cybernetic eye, useful for seeing through walls, and perhaps also functioning as a laser weapon. This would satisfy the formal requirements of both genres.

The second conversation concerned the near simultaneous evolution (lately in the news) of airborne delivery drones by Amazon and self-driving vehicles by Google. As each of these two types of vehicle develops ever more advanced artificial intelligence capabilities, the two species of robot may find themselves competing for the same economic niche.

Imagine being the very first autonomously self-driving truck to successfully replace a Federal Express delivery van, only so find yourself almost instantly obsoleted by a swarm of pesky little quadrocopters. If I were that robot truck, my feelings would definitely be hurt.

One could imagine someone writing a sweeping saga that follows the clash between these two rising classes of working robot, terrestrial and airborne. It would be a twenty first century version of those epic conflicts about labor unions that were once so popular. I supposed they could call it “How Green was my Silicon Valley”.

That was probably more than enough conversation, for one day, about cyborg drama.

One thought on “Cyborg drama”

  1. This post calls for my favourite pirate ‘fact’ (i.e. it’s too much fun to check for truthiness): the patch was so they always had one dark-adapted eye, so they could immediately see when going below decks in the dim environment.

    The self-driving cars are coming, and the quadcopters are already here, but I think the difference is not so much terrestrial and airborne but human-carrying and not. If it turns out to suit a delivery vehicle to be made of plastic and have some rotors to permit more direct routes (or even just to hop over a bit of inconvenient geography), then I don’t think that would be a problem. The requirements for something to support a human in comfort are quite a different thing.

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