Monday, March 22, 2010

I, Phobot

CameraheadSHHHH! Word has it The Pentagon is working 'round the clock to create a new race of ...(wait for it)... Photog-Robots! You heard me: autonomous camera-beings with enough spatiotemporal reasoning to interpret what they see; you know, tell a story about it! It's thought that such a sentient being would prove invaluable in combat zones, where a state of the art 'smart camera' could roam behind enemy lines unmanned - not just recording everything in its path - but using artificial intelligence to recognize scenarios, deduce possible outcomes and provide nuanced reporting --along with blistering visuals. Now, I'm all for national defense and I enjoyed the first Terminator film as much as the next pubescent, but there's just something about this latest quantum leap that leaves me a little jumpy. See, those old guys with the scrambled eggs on their hats got nothin' on the chiselers in charge of your average TV affiliate. One scintilla of success on the battlefield with these kind of 'Eyeborgs' and stations everywhere will fall in, until each and every overworked and underpaid human news-gatherer is replaced by a 'droid with an over-the horizon zoom lens and a penchant for similes. Sure, that might be a step up from the dreck your local station serves, but I ask you ... can it last?

Sure, you can create a machine that'll marry images with ideas, but can you design one that will regurgitate press releases in heavy mascara and hump-me pumps until they snag the eye of the area's most eligible bachelor? Well, yes - but it would probably be illegal in a few of the flyover states...

Okay, so you can probably teach a robot to aim, record and edit - but can an android find new places to hide in the same old building every day? Can it memorize whole fast food menu boards from three sperate counties? Can it sit around and brag about how cool they were back in film school? I guess you could, but why would you want to?

Say you did gussy up some metal cuss with an IQ suited for electronic news-gathering. What would it look like? Square jawed and overdressed? Scruffy and rusted? Curvy, flirtatious and vaguely Asian? Tattered and clad in a tropical top? By the way, do these metal chaps make my ass look fat?

Even if you could program some cyborg to shoot, decide and report, wouldn't it just compare everything to only the scenarios it knows,before boiling it all down to oversimplified tripe and delivering the data using only keywords, cliches and catch-phrases?

Hold that thought - The News is on...

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