Robots Vs. Rewilding
Everyone knows I hate robots. I have hated them for as long as I can remember. They give me the chills and cause me to go into fits of anger. I never really understood it. I guess I just chalked it up to them representing everything I hate about civilization; technology, control over life, consumerism, hipster-novelty… and on and on.
This hatred came to a head when I attended the Daft Punk, Alive 2007 tour. As I stood in a crowd of people, all turned towards the stage where two men danced in robot suits, situated in the middle of a giant pyramid, I realized just why I hate robots so much.
Robots symbolize the future. I mean, obviously not the literal future, but the socially constructed future.
- 1923, from Eng. translation of 1920 play “R.U.R.” (“Rossum’s Universal Robots”), by Karel Capek (1890-1938), from Czech robotnik “slave,” from robota “forced labor, drudgery,” from robotiti “to work, drudge,” from an Old Czech source akin to Old Church Slavonic rabota “servitude,” from rabu “slave” (see orphan), from a Slavic stem related to Ger. Arbeit “work” (O.H.G. arabeit).
Robot means slave. Slave means the bottom of a class system. A class system means hierarchy. Here we have Daft Punk, two guys dressed as robots standing inside of a giant pyramid. Two symbols of hierarchy, tens of thousands of worshipers. Perhaps two wrong’s make a right? …Mm, No.
One motif of robot mythology I find fascinating involves the classic science fiction tale where the robot seeks to feel what humans feel; the robot quest. I can think of several; Terminator 2 (“I know now why you cry”), Short Circuit (Johnny-5 Alive!), Star Trek: the Next Generation (Data’s constant quest), and the recent film Electroma, written and directed by Daft Punk about the Daft Punk robots trying to become human. We can trace all of these back to Pinocchio, the puppet who wanted to live as a real boy. Perhaps the robot quest eludes to an animist mythology; that even inanimate objects can have feelings. Or maybe the robot quest symbolizes the slave class of civilization trying to reclaim their humanity. But I think those elements fall to the wayside.
The real myth of any robot quest looks like this: In the future, robots will have feelings too. I see several premises here. First, the future will have robots. Second, robots do not currently have feelings. This reflects two fundamental myths of civilization; that civilization will go on despite its inherent environmental destruction and that other than humans (whether they come as rocks, animals, plants or wind) do not have feelings, do not have life, but like the robots we build, have merely come into this world for us to exploit.
Now you might ask yourselves, “Why the hell did Urban Scout go to a Daft Punk show?!? You hate robots. They ‘give you the chills.'” Well, you got me there. Despite their robot costumes and pyramids, I love their music and my friend got me in for free. Oh, the hipocracy, I know! What can I say? Penny Scout and I made the exodus up to Seattle from Portland to see these robots perform live, and what a show! I felt blown away by the amazing light show they put on. Check out this dirty clip I took:
[kml_flashembed movie="http://www.youtube.com/v/20hLMCJtES4" width="425" height="350" wmode="transparent" /]
You really can’t get more civilized than this concert. Martin Prechtel says electronic music has no spirit, but that shows me one thing I just can’t agree on with him. When I hear their music, I want to dance.
In an interview called â€œPyramid Schemers,â€ Daft Punkâ€™s Thomas Bangalter says,
Itâ€™s definitely fun to invent characters and to play around with them. Itâ€™s almost this older concept of superheroes in comic books, where you have a line between fiction and reality, or between a regular and an animus character, and some kind of frantic image of another alter-egoâ€”which are those robots.
I think a lot of the things we’ve been doing since we evolved into robots is really the concept of technology versus humanity. The science fiction is fun and entertaining, but in a very humble way this whole robot thing is only a metaphor for technology and its place today in the world, and in music. That’s the whole idea behind the show.
In a funny way, the Daft Punk robots sort of symbolize the exact opposite of what I do. They dress up like their vision of the future; the technological complexity of robots, and I dress up like my vision of the future; the technological simplicity and elegance of the hunter-gatherer. Though their reality has no standing in the real world, since it takes an industrial economy to build machines, and it takes a civilization to have an industrial economy, and it takes agricultural practices to build a civilization. Since we know that agriculture destroys biodiversity, I will make a bet that any sustainable future does not include robots. I only hope that as time goes on, my work will inspire 10,000 people to come together to rewild and walk away from robots, from slavery.
I just hope that we can still make kick ass music! (and none of that hippie drum circle + didgeridoo bullshit)
Sorry. I know this chapter sucks. I tried to make it funny. Oh well.
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