The Queen of Sh*#$% Robots

Simone Giertz

Simone Giertz with a few of her creations

Note: I’ve been writing Medium.com posts in the lead-up to the second-annual Brain Bar Budapest this June (did the same last year). If you’re in the neighborhood, this year’s lineup is awesome.

Comedy comes in lots of flavors — anecdotal, improvisational, insult, deadpan, sketch, satire, physical, and so on. Simone Giertz, through her own inventions, has invented another. Call it robotic comedy.

Giertz, 26, builds what she describes as “shitty robots” and has crowned herself their queen. Among the creations her 420,000 YouTube subscribers and counting have observed include a wake-up machine, a hair washing robot, a sandwich robot, a butt-wiping machine, a hair-cutting drone, and knives of doom. Vids of these and others have more than 20 million views. She co-hosts TESTED, founded by Adam Savage of MythBusters fame, with whom she created the popcorn helmet. She’s been featured on all sorts of websites as well as on The Late Show with Stephen Colbert and Conan. It wasn’t always this way. [more]

 

The arrogance of ignorance

It’s become accepted in many quarters to associate the wielding of facts or knowledge with arrogance. Typically the term is applied to political liberals – coastal elites, the blue-state bloviators, whatever one might call all the annoying know-it-alls who purportedly disdain the Rust Belt working-folk and get their information from sources not owned by Rupert Murdoch’s ilk.

But the politically ignorant – the sorts of people most likely to be deceived by demagogues and liars – have an arrogance of their own. Some might just dismiss it as wishful thinking: for example, the apparently widespread conviction that, say, the political system would be best off after a shakeup by an outsider – regardless of the source or dispositional/intellectual/experiential/moral/philosophical qualities of that outsider.

But it’s not just wishful thinking. It’s a blind faith in the righteousness of one’s own beliefs coupled with a total disinterest in the heft of the factual hull of those beliefs amid the high seas of reality. It’s a deep sense of the superiority of one’s own opinions, coupled with a blind dismissal of any facts that countervail those opinions. That’s much more sinister in this than mere ignorance.

In ten days, we embark into political terra incognita based not on ignorance, but on the arrogance with which it has locked arms.

A new political vocabulary for a new political reality

None of these words are in this book.

None of these words are in this book.

As this 2016 presidential race has shown, 21st century America could use a new political vocabulary. We need some shiny new words, ones capable of capturing the subtleties and not-so-subtleties of candidate as well as voter behavior more precisely than shopworn Indo-European terms like “ignorant,” “deceptive,” “misguided,” “oblivious,” “gullible,” “narrow-minded,” “xenophobic,” “sexist” and “racist.”

I propose we start with these – if you have additions, send them on over and I might just add them. It’s the patriotic thing to do.

Caucacentric  adj.
Primarily interested in the well-being and advancement of white people.

Emotavoter  n.
One who votes based on emotion or general impression rather than objective reality.

Frustboozled adj.
The condition of having one’s legitimate frustrations co-opted by those with little interest in addressing/remediating the source of one’s legitimate frustrations.

Grayblind  adj.
Seeing the world in unrealistic, simplistic black-and-white terms.

Incendifriendly  adj.
Wont to embrace inflammatory, uncivil language under the false banner of standing up to political correctness.

Infoschemic  adj.
An information-starved state leading to brain-dead voting or policy behavior.

InFoxicated/DrudgeBarted  adj.
Reduced to a simpleton mindset by truth-twisting “news” sources.

Jerkstracted  adj.
Distracted from actual pertinent issues by a politician for whom no lie is too extreme to stop repeating.

Latinegatory  adj.
Disinclined to advocate for policies favorable to Hispanic Americans.

Misrealitied  adj.
Through some combination of inFoxication and underfactedness, living in an alternate political universe.

Newtonabob  n.
Characterized by a dismissal of scientific evidence contradicting one’s personal beliefs, favoring instead proclamations by infoschemic/spokescreening politicians.

Overcohered  adj.
A state of being in which one is incapable of thought independent from the prevailing notions of one’s political tribe.

Paredophilic  adj.
Fond of walls (Spanish: la pared) to be paid for by walled-off country.

Politobenthic  adj.
Occupying the lowest echelons of the national discourse.

Reactioninny  n.
Responding to observable ground truth in unpredictable, erratic and generally unproductive fashion.

Simpletempted  adj.
A delusionary state characterized by the belief that simple solutions can solve complex problems.

Spokescreened  adj.
A propensity to believe the lies of self-serving propagandists.

Status-quotidian  adj.
A penchant against change so predictable as to be boring

Theoillogical  adj.
Believing that ancient religious texts translate directly into workable policy in the digital age.

Timewarped  adj.
A state of a belief that the past was some golden age far better than the present.

Triberiotic  adj.
Placing the interests of one’s political tribe above the interests of the nation.

Trumpsteaked  adj.
Opting for a lesser product, having been deceived by verbiage hinting at a much better cut.

Underfacted  adj.
Basing one’s political posture based on emotions (see emotavoter infoschemic, misrealitied)

Wedgies  n.
Those whose voting behavior is dictated by their stance on wedge issues the person they vote for won’t do anything about anyway.

Xenomyopic  adj.
Incapable of seeing that other countries, in some cases, do things better than we do, and that we might actually learn from them.

Brain Bar Budapest via blog posts

Brain Bar Budapest cover logo

An old friend of mine touched base a couple of months back, wondering if I’d like to do some writing for Brain Bar Budapest. My first question was: for Brain-what?

As freelancers tend to do, I said yes. They were looking for blog posts about the festival’s speakers – quick hits, mostly: some background, an interview, and (ideally) interesting copy.

I didn’t get to go to Brain Bar Budapest in early June, but they put on a great show, looks like. And I got to talk with (or email with), and then write a bit about, some fascinating and diverse people.

Among the posts included: writer and political analyst Virginia Postrel, on the essence and importance of glamour; the transhumanist presidential candidate Zoltan Istvan; Johns Hopkins University scientist Alex Szalay, whose work in big data (and astrophysics) is helping usher in the fourth paradigm of science; Gabriel Hallevy, a legal scholar on the potential dark side of the rise of robots; “Undercover Economist” Tim Harford; propaganda-and-science-fiction scholar Etienne Augé; Harvard machine learning PhD candidate Victoria Krakovna on the existential risk artificial intelligence may pose; Austrian ceramicist and humanity-archivist Martin Kunze; Malaysian-born entrepreneur Cheryl Yeoh; and MinecraftEdu cofounder Santeri Koivisto, among others.

 

 

 

 

Highest and best use of cassette tapes in 2016

Cassette tapes - Hill Campus of Arts & Sciences student project

I picked up my seventh-grade daughter at the Hill Campus of Arts and Sciences (nee Roscoe C. Hill Middle School) in Denver early today. Waiting in the lobby, I perused art. I am always struck by the creativity of the average middle-school kid.

In this case, the operative medium was what was once the mainstay portable-music storage device. Unlike vinyl, the cassette tape seems to have little hope of serious resurgence, its background hiss irrepressible despite the best efforts of the folks at Dolby.

Right Said Fred's "Too Sexy", Los del Rio's "Macarena"

Cassette singles

While the young artists knew what cassette tapes were, I wonder if they had any more idea of their ubiquity than my daughter had had when we had talked about it maybe a month ago, apropos a minor cleanout of my wife’s 2001 Jetta GL. Cassette singles of Right Said Fred’s “Too Sexy” and Los del Rio’s “Macarena” had made it to the kitchen counter. Also a mixtape of 1970s bands like the Eagles.

“What are those?” Lily had asked.

“They’re cassette tapes,” I had said. “It’s what we used for portable music before the iPod came along not long before you were born.”

She had noted the strange slot in the Jetta, sometimes home to an adapter that plugged into a phone headphone jack, but generally vacant in deference to radio advertisements and NPR reports on vital transgender restroom issues.

I had asked her if she knew what a Walkman was; she shook her head. And so I had explained the concept of tape, how it’s analog — whispering magnetic pulses that get amped up to audibility, not that different than a record needle scraping against imprinted ridges on an LP, which she’s never seen actually play, either. I had talked of the Walkman being the ur-iPod; and of mix tapes; and of how much these cassette singles had cost in modern dollars ($2.99 each in the late 1980s/early 1990s;  that’s $5-$6 now, or half a monthly Spotify subscription); and of how my $2,500 laptop back in 1998 had a 512-megabyte hard drive; and of how you wore headphones whose spongy pads tickled your ears; and of how, until later generations, you had to flip the tape. I had recalled skiing down a run called Heather at Boyne Highlands, looping over and over as Foreigner 4 did the same.

I had grown enthusiastic from all this reminiscing and interruptedmy dishwashing efforts to fetch my wife’s Walkman — from the mid-1990s, bought when we lived in Japan, a sleek model. I had used it maybe a year ago to digitize cassette tapes from which I’d rambled through audio journals, oblivious to how tedious extracting useful information from them would be. I screwed on the roughly cylindrical AA external battery case and marveled at the sheer number of mechanisms these little devices had — no such thing as a solid-state tape player. I set the headphones aside  and connected a portable speaker I’ve since replaced with a Bluetooth model. I pressed “play.”

I’m
Too sexy for my love
Too sexy for my love 
Love’s going to leave me. . .

“That sounds good,” Lily said.

And it really did.