Monday, August 3, 2015

You Have My Attention Now And That Isn't A Good Thing

Oh The Humanity


I assumed that one idea behind Hitchbot (the solar-powered robot who could interact with humans on a limited basis, its travels tracked by a GPS chip) wasn't only a potential teaching moment around how we relate to technology.  The little robot was an electronic version of the kidnapped Lawn Gnome. It was impossible not to look at it and anthropomorphize.

The Canadian artists who created it knew that Hitchbot's progress required the good will and active assistance of humans who would (anthropomorphizing, again) treat it like a stranger or (given its size) a child who needed help.


The Bot was a visible extension of our better sensibilities towards each other. You could treat a fun-looking inanimate object with kindness -- the way you would hope to be treated if you had set out on a journey; On Your Own, With No Direction Home; needing a ride and shelter.


The Hitchbot turned into an event that people could photograph, Facebook about, Twitter about it.  Clearly, the Bot got taken to parties, and into people's homes; things occasionally got a little loose -- but the little guy was treated well. He was passed, hand to hand, through the world -- shared, in a way.  Proof the human community still functioned and small kindnesses were still offered, illusory as though all that may be.


None of this solved the sectarian religious struggles of the Middle East, or solved World Hunger™. It had nothing to do with politics, social inequality or the vanishing of the Megafauna. The Hitchbot was a symbol of good feelings; it went Trans-Canada without incident. It went all over Germany and the Netherlands, and returned home.

Then, its Canadian creators decided to send the little Hitchbot across America -- down the Northeast Corridor, and bound for California -- the label around its can-shaped head said, "San Francisco Or Bust!".  It got as far as Philadelphia before some lowlife wannabe gangsta punk kiddie stomped it into the gutter.

Pathetic Excuse For Sentient Life (Philly.com; Click To Enlarge)
The person who found what was left of the robot, and posted what appears to be security camera video (above) showing it being kicked to bits by its suck-ass nihilistic whorespawn assailant, did not say how they came by the footage. Some people floated the idea that the attack on the Hitchbot was "a prank", and the security cam video a fake.
It doesn't matter. Whatever the motivation, someone in fact deliberately smashed the Bot, and shit all over what it had come to symbolize in the process. It was a useless, pathetic gesture.

And, know what? I wasn't surprised. This is the US of A, the Land of Jo Benet and O.J. Simpson; "Lil' Boots" Bush and Crazy Moose Lady and Grand Turtlebear Bachmann; of Hillary! and Herr President Obama, and Larry Summers laughing with Kenneth Lay, and millions of people losing their jobs and their homes. It's obesity and Goldman-Sachs and on-demand porno -- and some stupid asshole wearing his baseball cap backwards (you can see it in the actual video) as he stomps on an electronic ambassador of good feelings, tears off its arms and its head. That's a lot of effort and violence; yeah; the whole world gets to see that.

Thanks, kiddie. That's your America; thanks for sharing.  And while it isn't an image of people being barrel-bombed in Syria, or having their homes destroyed by wildfires or tornadoes, it was the functional equivalent of beating a child or stomping a puppy to death -- just because you're living The Faux Thug Life and you're All That and want lots of hits on UTub.

Give Him The Keys. Now.

Tell you what -- if it's an avatar of chaos and thuggery that you want in America, let's resurrect Ed209. Make him the symbol of "community", but in a way that really represents the Good Ol' Boy USA, the Kiss-Up-Kick-Down USA.  That's the kind of country the pudgy little-dick in the video lives in.

And, since we live in a country where making others fear us is as axiomatic in foreign policy as it is on the street, Ed's reappearance wouldn't be given much notice. You know where we live: Drones. 400 channel digital teevee. Gigantor trucks. Email, Internet and Cellphone surveillance. Southern Megachurches and President Boner and Tubby Ol' Mr. Sessions; The Very Wealthy Koch Brothers  and The Very Serious People and the manufactured excitement of  Hillary!  Jebby!  

The Hitchbot was a small reminder that we can live in a different world; but this is one of those moments when I'm reminded that it's just as likely we're on our way down La Chute, where all Empires travel on their way to the bottom; where we'll get everything we deserve (and an extra helping, Because Freedom).

So let's put Ed209 back in action. Let him hitchhike across America. I'll bet he'd make it in record time.
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