S00E02. The Wild Robot Transcript

PLEASE NOTE: This is a preliminary, automatically generated transcript with minimal editing. A more accurate transcript will be available soon.

Josh Woodward (singing) 0:00
Let’s pretend it’s the end of this whole ugly story. We thank wish the foe and we triumph and glory is nothing but rainbows and blue skies ahead. How do you manage

Gregory Avery-Weir 0:18
Welcome to Before the Future Came temporarily not a Star Trek podcast. We’re looking at the ideals of utopian science fiction as we voyage from one week to the next following a breadcrumb trail of motifs. This month we’re talking about the wild robot by Peter Brown. It’s a number one New York Times Best Selling chapter book for readers ages eight to 11. I’m Gregory and I did not know the animal language until now.

Lucy Arnold 0:45
I’m Lucy and death scenes are my specialty but I have a wide dramatic range.

Melissa Avery-Weir 0:51
I’m Melissa and I thought I’d come down and introduce myself but now nervous that I’m taking talking too much. My name is Melissa. I think I said that already.

Gregory Avery-Weir 1:01
So last episode, we discussed the novella Binti, which explored how people have to change to survive and the relationship between language and thought. Today we’re talking about the wild robot, which definitely grapples with some of those same concepts. Lucy picked it. So if you could, please give us a summary of the wild robot in your own words,

Lucy Arnold 1:24
summary from robot memory logs. I don’t have a date for it. And I’m not going to do the whole thing in the robot voice. Although I do enjoy robot voice. Alright, here’s the summary. Roz and four other robots in packing crates wash up on the shore of an island after a hurricane. Some otters playing with Roz’s inanimate body accidentally turned her on not like that, and her survival programming sets in. She is plagued by slippery mountains chased by bears, and scorned by the other animals who think she is a monster. After noticing how an insect camouflage is itself rods begins hiding and observing the animals on the island. And soon she learns to speak animal languages, although this does not really help her make friends with any animals. But one day after falling through the branches of a tree and accidentally crashing some geese and eggs, She adopts the one remaining goose egg whose occupant believes she is his mother. She after consulting with some other animals also comes to believe that she is his mother. When she is caring for her adopted goose son. The other animals on the island begin to befriend Roz and soon she has a house a garden and loads of friends. She even manages to befriend the fearsome bears that she loses a foot in the process. The animals make her a wooden foot to replace it. She raises her son Brightbill until he learns to swim, then fly then migrate south for the winter with the other geese. Over the winter. Roz saves as many animals as she can from the brutal cold by building lodges with fire pits. Once the winter is over. Brightbill and his flock return with information about the outside world where they encountered other robots and guns. Roz and the animals celebrate spring with a wild rumpus, which is observed by a passing ship. Soon a plane carrying three robots show up to collect rods and the remains of the other destroyed robots on the island. Roz does not want to go with them, but they chase her and destroy her body. The three pursuing robots are ultimately destroyed by the animals on the island. Do not speak to be and my son ever again. They’re not before Ross is warned that her makers will continue pursuing her raus her body completely destroyed is loaded onto the plane along with all of the other robot parts to return to her makers, because she wants them to leave the island alone and she hopes to have her body repaired.

Gregory Avery-Weir 3:58
Excellent summary.

Melissa Avery-Weir 3:59
Yes, thank you.

Gregory Avery-Weir 4:01
This is it’s this is an adorable book.

Melissa Avery-Weir 4:05
It is both physically and the story.

Gregory Avery-Weir 4:10
Yeah, something that doesn’t necessarily come across in that summary is that there are like a whole bunch of illustrations. These gorgeous I think they’re digital, but they kind of look like paper cutouts. And like there’s at least one two page full spread. That’s a gorgeous when when there’s an incident where Roz, the experiment of turning Roz off and back on again and the shot of Roz in a deactivated with with Brightbill Looking at her is just heartbreaking.

Lucy Arnold 4:44
So good. Peter Brown actually what his books are mostly children’s books and like younger children’s books, picture books, and he’s an illustrator. So that’s sort of his bread and butter. Yeah, absolutely,

Melissa Avery-Weir 5:01
absolutely amazing art. I’m sure it will come up to varying degrees throughout all of our discussions. But we have each brought a topic for discussion. And mine is the relationship in this book between community and ownership, particularly in sort of the broader context of it as a utopian work. Often in utopian, when we look at utopian works, and we talk about possession or ownership of land, or items, it’s, it’s often talked about, in contrast with whatever the writers the author’s society is, right? So now it’s now we’re doing a communism, or socialism, or now we’re doing a very problematic reference to indigenous people or something like this, right. And this book, I think, is particularly notable in that it doesn’t have to make that contrast, and it doesn’t. Like it just doesn’t there’s no like, unlike humans, like because humans are largely removed from the narrative. It is, it is us that brings that bring the comparison, as we read it, of oh, you know, these things are on our own, etc. Here’s a model that applies, oh, this is how animals do or, or not. So I thought that was particularly interesting is that the author manages to completely kind of sidestep the question of here’s an attribute about this community, it is distinct from humanity.

Gregory Avery-Weir 6:44
I found myself thinking about that in theirs. When she’s getting her house and getting her garden made. There’s a lot of exchanges that are set up where it’s like, Hey, if you build me a house, I will bring talking to a beaver, she offers to bring a beaver trees so that they don’t have to spend time cutting down trees and exchange for building a house. And like it’s not capitalist, but it is just like trade. It’s just straight up exchange of goods and services.

Lucy Arnold 7:18
I would actually I would say it’s really similar to the Bordeaux yen concept of social capital. Because you know, it’s originally it’s that goose I can’t remember loud mouth or something. Who is who owes the beaver or the beaver owes the goose a favor. So the goose is like you remind that beaver that, you know, I’m owed a favor? And then Roz is able to help the beavers? And then, you know, she slowly accrues that social capital. And I mean, other people maybe would just call it I don’t know, trust building.

Gregory Avery-Weir 7:57

Melissa Avery-Weir 7:59
And I think that as there are very few things that are owned, in this, even though you would kind of think that like, they’re hoarding of resources or hoarding of something, but even when these favors are exchanged, and the social capital is built, it’s not. It feels surprisingly, lacking in transactionality, right? Like, if there were no two humans in our society, we’re like, well, I gave you a favor of this size. Now you owe me a favor of equivalent size, and they even kind of joke a little bit

Gregory Avery-Weir 8:37
there transactions, but they’re like mutual, it’s, it’s the it’s like the ideal concept that people talk about of like, people who are pro capitalist to talk about with like, oh, well, exchange benefits everyone. And it’s like, yeah, it does. And that’s not a property of our current monetary system. That’s just like, how people interact with each other.

Melissa Avery-Weir 9:00
Exactly. And I think one of the interesting kind of barriers to this that gets that gets navigated is the idea of safety. Right? Like, while Roz is a monster, quote, unquote, or a threat, or whatever. She does not have that social capital to be able to make those to live in this space and share those resources basically. But as she as she kind of fills in this space and adopts a son, right, who is also not a possession, the son is freely shared with his own species and the community at large. There’s not this sort of, oh, I have something. Let me keep it. As the barrier of safety begins to break down. For Ross become safe and the environment becomes safe or unsafe depending on the season as winter comes. You We have animals starving we have the the flock of geese are gone. Roz is able to not only open up her own home, but is able to build additional homes and make space and teach the animals fire. And which is wild? And none of that is hoarded. Right? There’s no, there’s no, there’s no strings attached to that knowledge or that those gifts. And so I love it like as much as I like the property that this show will eventually be about and that we are not discussing. It is very much caught up in contrasting itself with modern human society. And so I thought this book was so sweet, like it didn’t have to, when there was conflict, it was not about it was not centered on I have something and I won’t share it. Which is refreshing.

Gregory Avery-Weir 11:09
And it’s not like totally, it’s it’s not a lot of talking animal stories. Make they’re talking animals, basically just people, but like, this is absolutely a story that’s like, yeah, they have this convention where like there’s an hour a day where they don’t, where they don’t fight or eat each other. But like, they still do eat each other the rest of the time, like there’s a line during the winter where like they they spend nights in the lodge, and there’s an agreement that they won’t fight or eat each other in the lodge. But like there’s a line that’s like hope I not know. I hope I noted it down.

Melissa Avery-Weir 11:54
Oh, let me see if I can find.

Gregory Avery-Weir 11:56
I did not but it’s a line. That’s like, sometimes one lodger would return inside the stomach of another and that made for some awkward conversation.

Melissa Avery-Weir 12:05

Lucy Arnold 12:06
it comes up in their very first dawn meeting when think is like, yeah, it’s almost breakfast time. You know, that understanding that they’re about to return to predator and prey behaviors in a minute. But this is talking about reminds me a lot of a novel called Ishmael by Daniel Quinn. I’m certain I’ve talked about it to you too before, but it’s like he has this concept of levers and takers. I will say the overarching story of Ishmael is that Ishmael is a gorilla, who is like teaching his students. So it is also very concerned with animals and humans as animals, and makes this sort of argument that when humans became agricultural, they became takers, right? That they would want to hoard and keep more things than they needed. Instead of being leavers who only took what was necessary instead of feeling like you know, you always had to plan and save. Which is different than animal behavior. He argues a distinction between human and animal behavior. Which I’m not endorsing the ideas of this book, because I haven’t looked up Daniel. I don’t know maybe he’s a huge problem. I did find the book really interesting. When I originally read it. I could see how some of the ideas in it could be used for bad trains of thought.

Melissa Avery-Weir 13:41
Yeah. There’s something something I was wondering is that you know, this Austin, Sibley Raz does not have emotions. Ross is acting, right. When there are scenes where Brightbill is leaving or getting into trouble or where there are sort of more emotive reactions is is Ross’s ability is Ross lack of possessiveness, a factor due to her lack of emotion?

Gregory Avery-Weir 14:20
I mean, so first rosin, emotionless like right, completely feels all of these things. I don’t, I don’t know. Like, I think it’s, it’s her innocence, for lack of a better term, like, Roz is a tabula rasa. She’s a blank slate, right? So she doesn’t remember she, I mean, she wasn’t alive before she woke up on the beach with those otters. And so she like doesn’t know about human society. And so she’s sort of playing with some of the like, it’s not noble savage stuff. It’s more like Angel descending from the heavens and living among us stuff. But she like, doesn’t know to be selfish is some of the implication. I mean, I

Lucy Arnold 15:11
think she’s literally not a tabula rasa, though, right? Because she, she’s programmed, right. She has a programming, like a way that she knows how to behave because of her programming, which I think would not be. And, and just to come back to earlier, when we were told she has no emotion, what it says is, as we all know, yes, robots do not have emotions. So I think that is very careful phrasing on the part of the author. Like that’s understood. I think he’s going to have us explore whether that is true. What are emotions?

Melissa Avery-Weir 15:44
And of course, I agree, she absolutely does have emotions.

Gregory Avery-Weir 15:48
And yeah, she’s, she’s this weird in this weird circumstance of having knowledge, but no personal memories, right? So she can look up what fire is, or what different animals are, or how the solar system works. But she, and theoretically, she knows that humans exist, but she doesn’t seem to know that humans made her and doesn’t seem to know that, like, she has no memories of anything but the island. And so like, she has knowledge without the identity tied to that knowledge.

Melissa Avery-Weir 16:21
Yeah, it’s a weirdly light amount of programming in compared to the way we normally think of robots coming off the assembly line, knowing what their job is, knowing that they are going to go be house servants or whatever. And they didn’t even give raus that. So. So yes, community ownership. I think, I think this book does a very good job of just letting it sit and have you go, Well, wait, shouldn’t there be hoarding going even when winter is coming? There is a collection of resources that happens by some of the animals, but it is in passing? Sort of? I don’t know. We’ll talk a little bit later about, you know, what’s natural, or not, but

Gregory Avery-Weir 17:15
sure, we’ll be talking about that a lot.

Melissa Avery-Weir 17:17
Oh, yeah, for sure.

Lucy Arnold 17:19
I mean, actually, a lot of what Melissa had to say, I think is going to tie in with what I’m interested in talking about in this novel, which I also found to be a real treat to read. And I look forward to reading the next two. So I’m gonna start just because I’m a literature professor, and I’m actually teaching children’s lit this semester. And a lot of people may not be aware that children’s literature is a fairly new field, like it wasn’t considered to be a subject worth studying for quite a long time. So, you know, it’s only a pretty recent phenomenon that you could take a class at college on children’s literature, you know, used to be you could only take classes on Shakespeare, and I don’t know, world literature, like, whoever came up with all the things that we’re allowed to study. And now we study children’s literature. And a quote I’ve come across in teaching my own class is CS Lewis, who famously noted that if only children enjoy a piece of children’s literature, then the writer hasn’t done a very good job. And I think this book is a good book for kids. Like I think kids will probably enjoy this book. But I do think it has a lot of really complex things that it’s toying with. And I’m particularly interested in the idea of wildness, which I know why YouTube. We’ve been talking about while this and I’m going to come back to that in a minute, but I want to start with a literature perspective. In literature. There is we often talk about a dichotomy between wildness and the pastoral. So what you, I guess, for example, a pastoral setting be like a lot of romantic poetry. My favorite poem is called the daffodils by Williams were William Wordsworth. And it’s a pastoral version of nature. I lost wandered lonely as a cloud, which floats on higher veils and hills when all at once I saw a crowd, a host of golden daffodils, sad the lake beneath the trees tumbling and dancing in the breeze, a million saw at a glance tossing their heads in sprightly dance. That’s a very romantic version of nature. The flowers are beautiful, but you’re not sneezing, right? You’re not inundated but like being in nature, which is very uncomfortable. And if you can contrast that with wildness and the book I always think of is that know that? I was actually think, I don’t know if it counts as a memoir. It’s called into the wild. It’s about that guy who is in Alaska and he ends up dying stranded in his car. Oh, wow, I’m not sure it can be called a memoir because he’s dead. He couldn’t have written it, but it was based on his real life. And it presents a version of the outdoors where nature is a problem to be solved by a person or you defeat you’re defeated by it. And so in literary studies, this is a this is sometimes a thing that we think about. And I thought it was interesting. And the note at the end of the book, Peter Brown writes about robots and animals and how he imagines that our programming and instincts aren’t actually very different, which is how he came to the idea of the wild robot. He was interested in that idea of instinct. And so I’m interested in how his version of literary wildness might relate to philosophical concepts of wildness and to think about what he might be offering us in this narrative. To help us kind of think more about a philosophical version of wildness which I will now reference Jack Halverson will help things the disorder of desire to see because that yeah, I’m so sorry but I have to have to I mean, I think Halberstam is really is trying to present a philosophy of wildness we

Gregory Avery-Weir 21:27
get into powers of wire will groaning it will help us than

Lucy Arnold 21:32
we stopped reading the book. Yeah, so we do like it we have

Gregory Avery-Weir 21:37
a book club that we do or we you know, read books and talk about them amongst the three of us. And yeah, it I like some of Halberstam stuff this one. We found ourselves dreading reading.

Lucy Arnold 21:53
Yeah, I mean, they are trying to present an idea about wildness sort of situated within queer theory and maybe sort of deconstruction, deconstruction by way of Derrida but I think one of the things we found extremely frustrating about it was their unwillingness to pin down a definition of wildness that might be useful. And I think we do you all understand that that is the nature of queer theory and deconstruction is that definitions are difficult to pin down. But it’s also really challenging when you know, we want to think as philosophers and as queer people who exist in the world, what do you do with this? Right? So So I don’t think Halberstam is actually super useful to thinking through this book. Except for maybe they’re both interested in Maurice CINDEX, Where the Wild Things Are, because I definitely see I think both of them are paying homage to that children’s slit classic. I know in my summary, I mentioned the wild rumpus that actually isn’t it doesn’t call the wild rumpus in the book, but it was what I immediately thought of when they you know, they’re having this wild celebration of spring, how the wild Roombas from CINDEX where the wild things are coming to my mind. So another philosopher, who I’m almost loads to bring up is Friedrich Nietzsche. But I do think so. Browns text does grapple a bit more literally with niches, niches. I can’t say Nietzsche, by the way, I want to say Nietzsche is big. Why? Because how I grew up, I’m from South Carolina in the system, what we say there, but I know it’s not right. So I’m gonna try and say,

Gregory Avery-Weir 23:43

Lucy Arnold 23:46
Anyway, Nietzsche also doesn’t differentiate between organic and inorganic life in the ways that Brown does, too. I think that’s a something that you see in Nietzsche. I don’t think Brown is endorsing that concept of will to power, which is really important in that philosophers thinking, but it is clear that Roz and the animals do struggle for existence and their need to survive is crucial. Here’s one quote for example, there comes for every man an hour in which he asks himself in wonderment, how is one able to live and yet one does live an hour in which he begins to understand that he possesses an inventiveness of the same kind as he admires and plants which climb and wind and finally gained some light and a patch of soil and thus create for themselves their share of joy on inhospitable ground. And another, he writes, you aspire to free heights, your soul thirst for the stars, but your wicked instincts to thirst for freedom. Your wild dogs want freedom they bark with joy in their cellar when your spirit cleans to open all prisons. So I think there’s a part of this writing thread is about how humans instincts, right? Like veer toward freedom, Veer toward self actualization in a way that I see maybe brown hinting toward. And, and I would argue this only a somewhat Nietzschean route that Brown takes to their, to what Alyssa was really talking about this community is essentially anti capitalist. Right? And I think is why this is, for me sort of a utopian novel. I won’t say sort of, I think this is a utopian novel. And that’s for big things. One, you see that survival and joy in the community survival, right? There’s a sort of joy that comes from that survival as a community to you see restorative justice. Roz cares for the Gosling, who she accidentally destroys bright bills, parents and the other eggs. And instead of being punished for that shouldn’t take on punishment. Nobody punishes her. There’s a prison for robots who smash eggs, but instead, she cares for the egg, and she raises the goose. That’s restorative justice. I will talk about this for the rest of my life as an example. And there’s, there’s,

Gregory Avery-Weir 26:13
there’s another example of I think this didn’t end up in the summer because it doesn’t actually end up being that important. But there, there’s a family of bears that initially the bears Chase Roz and then Roz but friends of the whole community, and then the bears are kind of the last to befriend Roz and they attack her the two child bears attack Roz, the mother stops them. And like immediately, one of the kids ends up falling over a cliff and dangling from a branch cartoon style. And Roz immediately saves the kid. And the bears kind of immediately trust her to save the kid. And like, that’s a there’s actually not a step of restorative justice there because the bears are the are the ones who, who harmed Roz, but there’s that feeling of like forgiveness, of like, yeah. No harm, no foul sort of sort of feeling.

Lucy Arnold 27:07
Yeah, I mean, there’s not people are not hanging on to sort of, like I think, I think there’s ways in which when we think about justice in our current world, we think about it in ways that are unhelpful, because we think, oh, you know, an eye for an eye. Right? And that’s actually not super

Gregory Avery-Weir 27:24
appropriate punishment for this transgression.

Melissa Avery-Weir 27:27
Yeah, what is the cost?

Lucy Arnold 27:30
Right? How to Make It Right. Right. And this is a world where people are people, outside people, people make things right. I also noticed in this book, the impact on humans as of human society on global warming and general survival, remember, the turtle Craig talks about how the winters have gotten colder and the summers hotter. So there’s an understanding of all the ways in which industrialization and capital capitalism have impacted even the planet and global warming for and this really loops back to what Alyssa had to say. violence and death happen. And it’s a cycle, right? You know, people get eaten people die in the winter, those things happen. But the big difference is, it is only the violence of ownership that is worth being struggled against, right? Yeah. When the robots come to retrieve Roz at the end, that is worth struggling against that is worse than engaging in struggle. It’s not, you know, these other kinds of things that happen, those are different. The robots want to force Ross to come with them, because they, because they believe that she is owned and she is not. She’s not just a wild robot, but a free robot. And I think that’s where Browns definitions kind of relate to Nietzsche in a way, although better than Nietzsche because, you know, Nietzsche was used very prominently by Nazis, infectious so, you know, be careful with your philosophy studies, they can go bad. And I think brown gives us something better than Nietzsche better than Howard Stern because I think he gives us actionable examples of joy in wildness, restorative justice, and even how to choose when to engage in that sort of generative struggle. So it’s children’s lit, but it reminds me so much of Mariam Kaba famed prison abolitionist. Her short story justice, which is about a 16 year old dead person who observes what happens to her community in the wake of her murder. And, and anyway, that was a long path to why I thought this novel brings up anti capitalist premises in really powerful actionable ways. Super cool. I might have to write an article about it. You I might just I might have descended into like, voices in the middle or

Gregory Avery-Weir 30:04
something radical teacher.

Lucy Arnold 30:08
Now I’m thinking I might send in until like NCTE publication because I think this was a bread right, something appropriate for NCTC National Council of Teachers of English.

Gregory Avery-Weir 30:18
So you talked about that that tension between pastoralism and wild stories. And like that those two modes of of seeing the obscene nature in stories. And I think that there’s there’s a sub genre where those two things touch where this book at least starts the first 50 pages or so of this book are a survival story.

It’s a sub genre that’s sort of that’s adjacent to like Castaway stories like Robinson Crusoe, Swiss Family Robinson, that sort of thing are the Martian are stories where person comes to wild place lands has to survive and escape. One of the things about those is they usually have like, they’re usually interfacing with indigeneity. Like there’s almost always a point in one of those stories where you meet a Native American or a rival political group or,

or find out that there are pirates on the island, that sort of thing. But survivals stories, especially in children’s literature are kind of a distinct side offshoot of that. So I’m thinking of hatchet was the book that was real big when I was a kid, island with the Blue Dolphins is a classic, there are a whole lot of these, which are the Island of the Blue Dolphins.

But like, these are stories where a kid usually finds themselves alone and like in nature, and like having to figure out how to fend for themself until they can somehow rejoin society or or be rescued or something like that. And those books often have the thing you see here, where it’s a mixture of admiring the beauty of nature in the pastoral way, but then also like encountering, you know, a bear that trying to eat you, or starvation or eating the wrong Berry and having to throw up. But those stories almost always have this sort of like settler fantasy of like, well, first, I’m going to figure out how to make fire. And then I’m going to figure out how to get shelter. And then I’m going to figure out how to hunt. And by the end, I’ve got this whole complex of like, here’s where I do my pottery. And here, I’ve now conquered nature and sort of reproduced this technological system in a place of nature, and this book just doesn’t do that. Right. This book, does the survival does the initial survival part of Oh, no, I’m buddy. Oh, no, I’m dented. I don’t want to get struck by lightning. These animals are attacking me or running away from me, what do I do, but then instead of, of Ross going, Well, I understand fire. So I need to make a fire to keep the animals away. And then I understand. You know how to make things. So I’m going to make weapons and I’m going to make a shelter. Like, she uses her technological knowledge. But when she makes fire, it’s to warm her son. When she makes a shelter. It’s to keep herself and her son safe. And it’s not a step in a progress towards like self sufficiency. She’s I mean, she’s solar powered. She is She is already self sufficient. And she could and does. The way she learns animal language is just by like, standing still. And being completely camouflaged. And like she learns how to camouflage as a skill. And then she just like tries camouflaging is different things. Like when she camouflage. She’s like, now she’s a tree. Now she’s a rock. Now. She’s something.

Melissa Avery-Weir 33:56
It’s pretty amazing. It’s incredibly charming.

Lucy Arnold 33:58
And the pictures speaking of that, of those camouflage, are amazing. It’s

Gregory Avery-Weir 34:04
just basically like, clear robot shape with stuff on it.

Lucy Arnold 34:09
Yeah, yeah, that one on page 43. I just want it on my wall. I think it’s gorgeous. Real good. It’s it’s Roz with flowers and like plants just covering her gorgeous,

Gregory Avery-Weir 34:21
that sort of that that attitude of like meeting nature where it is makes me think of some philosophy that I’ve been reading on for the book that I’m writing. That’s this generally falls under the posthumanism umbrella. But I’m specifically thinking of object oriented ontology and alien phenomenology. So if you’re a programmer, object oriented ontology is basically just named as a joke. On programmers. It’s not. It’s not. It doesn’t have anything to do with objects. Current programming, it’s the idea of like, on. So ontology is the theory of what things exist and what sorts of things exist, and what things are real. And object oriented ontology basically says, humans are not a prime subject that gets to decide everything about the world, object array and ontology, very, very high level is saying every thing. And a thing might be a glass, or a person, or an animal, or the concept of love, or a planet. All of these are in a flat ontology. But these are all things that exist. And they all are different from each other. And there’s always some aspect of them that’s that’s inaccessible to other objects. And they’re sort of their existence is defined in part by their relation to other things. So like, glass to a human is a thing that can be used to store water, a human to an animal is maybe food, or it can maybe be something that kills it, or all these things and like, things are not defined by their relationship to humans and things don’t really fit into easy categorizable taxonomies. So that’s object oriented ontology, Graham Harman and Levi Bryant sort of did that came up with that, those concepts. And then in BOGOs, builds on that in his book alien phenomenology or what it’s like to be a thing, which is phenomenology is the same for ontology. phenomenology is like, what? What are experiences? Like what what is it like to experience things? And like, what, what what things exist as experiences as opposed to as objects? And bogus basically as like, this whole flat ontology thing is cool. But it still kind of has the problem of like, well, what it’s like, what do we do with that, then? And focus is like, well, you can because things are defined by their relationships, you can think about the experience of a thing that may or may not have experiences, right, you can think about what it’s like to be a rock, you can think about what it’s like to be a squirrel. And these are, like, you could not only think about them, but it is in some way true that these things have experiences and opinions and relationships to each other. And this book, like, is definitely taking, like a wild robot is saying. The wild robot is doing talking animal stories, right? It’s doing fable stuff, but also it’s presenting animals as creatures with interiority that is not human interiority. And it’s, it’s kind of saying, the robot is just another thing in this forest. It’s not like the king of the forest or the Queen of the Forest. In this case. She’s not like, She’s not someone who gets to decide how things relate to each other. She’s trying to fit figure out her place in this island have bears and trees and rocks and ponds and beavers and storms. And like, all these things are just interacting with each other on even footing. And like, that’s different from how survival books normally get into that.

Melissa Avery-Weir 38:41
Yeah, there’s even a part in which I think that the narrator says that bras is another kind of life. Artificial Life.

Gregory Avery-Weir 38:48
Yeah, real early. Like it’s normally that sort of thing would be like the conclusion of like, she finally realized that that she’s alive. It’s like how she introduces herself she’s like, I’m alive but not like you.

Lucy Arnold 39:00
Well, I guess I’m wanting to understand the the object oriented ontology in Alien phenomenology concept is, is it sort of de sintering humans is sort of the point of under like, Can knowledge construction is that yeah, and that’s kind of the heart of the idea of it.

Gregory Avery-Weir 39:21
That’s kind of the General Post humanism thing and the way that it does this, the way that it that these philosophies, remove human primacy remove the role of human as eternal subject that gets to decide what’s what is by sort of figuring out like, it’s kind of saying, try and think of objects, all objects, humans as an object and all other objects as the same sort of object as humans are, like the you can say that water wants to run downhill. And like that, and that doesn’t need to be anthropomorphize ation. Right. We’ve talked about anthropomorphizing things as this bad thing of like think of this as a person. And it’s like, you shouldn’t think of water as human. But you can think of it as wanting things and sort of alien phenomenology is sort of saying, I may be grossly misrepresenting BOGOs here, but the way I understand it is that it’s saying things can desire stuff and that doesn’t make them human. And it doesn’t necessarily make them people although the animals in this book absolutely are people, but like,

like the their thing, it’s about like detaching certain experiences and relationships from the concept of humanity. And saying, like, we can talk about motivations and agency of things that otherwise that like the

standard way of thinking is that like, these things don’t want things. These things don’t do things. They’re only acted upon. And both object oriented ontology and alien phenomenology say no, they absolutely do things to each other, like, the door keeps you out of a house, the door.

Right, like, like, you, you are acted upon by things. And it’s not the fact that you’re human doesn’t mean that you can somehow define that You are the universe.

Lucy Arnold 41:24
So I have a really important question. Now, do you feel like you could help me write about that with an audience of third grade teachers to like be able to talk about sort of post human pedagogy?

Gregory Avery-Weir 41:36
I don’t know much about Pope pedagogy. But sure.

Lucy Arnold 41:40
I think you have a new project or the project list

Melissa Avery-Weir 41:43
before or after the article. That was discussed

Lucy Arnold 41:47
about I think it’s that article. Excellent. Okay. I just thought, oh, this would be really, actually better than the direction I was already thinking. Okay, let’s go on the survival tangent.

Melissa Avery-Weir 42:00
So as I was reading this book, and I was thinking about the structures of survival books and how they tend to go the first thing that came to mind was the video game series shelter. In which you are playing a lynx? I think a wild cat. Yeah. And at least the one that I played you are starting off having a litter of kittens

Gregory Avery-Weir 42:28
and think you played the second one on stream that’s like the first one is about bad bad your family I think made the second Oh, lynx family

Melissa Avery-Weir 42:37
Yes, so that’s the one I played and it starts sad but and it gets sadder gets more hopeful actually

Gregory Avery-Weir 42:47
even like Get yourselves eaten by a hawk and stuff like that. Yeah.

Melissa Avery-Weir 42:50
Oh, yeah. You lose you lose a kitten like immediately it was so

Lucy Arnold 42:55
sad but I was about to want to play it but now I do not

Melissa Avery-Weir 42:59
I do you recommend it I don’t necessarily recommend it. You know easily but for one the art style of that game is not unlike the way the art works in this book and Peter brands art style of this sort of particularly kind of flat style like some of the some of the coloring choices as well. Some of the shading choices lineup but that is a survival game. about keeping your children safe, keeping yourself safe. helping everyone grew up that like doesn’t that also isn’t interested in building technology or being being some sort of human cat. You’re a cat that pounces and attacks and so on. So anyway, that was a passing thought as I was reading that you can

Gregory Avery-Weir 43:47
kind of contrast that with a game like Minecraft or any of the survival games, the woods I think is a good start. Don’t Starve, where it’s like, those are games about finding resources that you can use to separate yourself from nature and free yourself from the connections of the natural world and just shelter isn’t like that. Right? Neither is the wild robot.

Melissa Avery-Weir 44:10
Regrettably, the second thing I thought of was the Clan of the Cave bear series. Oh, yes. Which I have read. Let’s see his face on camera. I’m

Gregory Avery-Weir 44:24
just shaking their head.

Lucy Arnold 44:27
I’ll never

Gregory Avery-Weir 44:31
always regret introducing.

Lucy Arnold 44:36
This is my cross to bear.

Melissa Avery-Weir 44:39
It is a gift that keeps giving. So I’ve only only read the first two books in the series. And what’s one of the things that’s

Lucy Arnold 44:55
just to be clear, that is like 700 pages at least

Melissa Avery-Weir 45:00
So much huge books

Gregory Avery-Weir 45:03
in which relatively little happens, oh,

Lucy Arnold 45:06
well, oh, that’s not true.

Melissa Avery-Weir 45:10
people’s memory of what happens in those books, it turns out is different than what actually does. But one thing that’s particularly notable about the series that the main character who is a child who loses her parents in a snowstorm or some other sort of storm, and she ends up getting picked up by other type of human that’s not like her. These are land ghosts. These are CRO magnons caveman type people. Exactly. And, as this is proceeding, and especially as you move into the second book, or she’s by herself, this girl is reinventing. She’s bootstrapping the entire technological chain of humanity. Like, and part of it is like, oh, you know, this is why this branch of humanity survived. But the the, the ways in which she built shelter, the ways in which she perceives objects, the ways in which she’s able to tame horses and befriend wild lions,

Lucy Arnold 46:12
like and use urine to make shampoo.

Melissa Avery-Weir 46:16
It’s such a it’s such a technological fantasy. That it is it’s just a huge contrast with this book and the both characters start innocent. Both of them have some knowledge about this is

Gregory Avery-Weir 46:35
there, Roz from wild robot hand? Yes, clearly

cave here.

Melissa Avery-Weir 46:41
I lay Leila. Yes.

Lucy Arnold 46:44
Maybe I know. I should listen to me. I think

Melissa Avery-Weir 46:46
the audio book which I do not recommend books,

Gregory Avery-Weir 46:51
I just because they’re long,

Melissa Avery-Weir 46:55
because they’re long and because the narrator’s voice is very,

Lucy Arnold 47:02
I couldn’t

Melissa Avery-Weir 47:05
turn it. It’s very okay for what happens in the book. But let’s see worse. Oh, both of them have some base knowledge as they’re coming into the world and as they’re learning how things work, but they go in such different directions. Clan Clan of the Cave bear is very interested in and being genius, and being the smartest and being the most clever, and devising the solutions which is much more traditional sort of survival story. And one way or another. Even though it has a certain pretense of living in harmony with nature, right? She hasn’t she hasn’t tamed the horse. The horse is her friend. Nonetheless, I think it contrasts very starkly with with wild robot in the sense of like, you don’t have to be the cleverest. This wasn’t a you weren’t. This wasn’t a book about someone solving the Rubik’s cube of how to survive. Yeah, she

Gregory Avery-Weir 48:07
she learns. She learns camouflage from a stick insect. She learns how to build houses from fever. She has prosthetics made by various critters. She learns gardening from a deer. Like she learns

Lucy Arnold 48:22
social manners from someone. Yeah.

Melissa Avery-Weir 48:25
Was it the possum? That was the pasta. Yeah. Yeah. So anyway, I, you know, it’s I have now I now live a life where there’s a solid 15 to 25% of books I read now that, unfortunately, reminds me in some fashion of plane of the cape bear, and I’m happy to share it with you.

Gregory Avery-Weir 48:49
Anyway, so we’ve got the big topics, discussed. Does anyone have lightning round topics? Other interesting things he’s spotted in the book?

Melissa Avery-Weir 48:59
Yes. So one quick topic I wanted to bring up is it ties into everything we’ve talked about, of course, but the idea of what comes naturally to people in this world and what requires practice. And I’m thinking particularly of Ross’s son, who when the flying lessons start

Gregory Avery-Weir 49:22
with a goose remember everyone

Melissa Avery-Weir 49:25
Yes. That was a goose very adorable sounding goose. Good. Good. Very precocious. Yes.

Lucy Arnold 49:32
I just love that robot son

Melissa Avery-Weir 49:36
is so great. It when when he started to fly, there’s a point at which he shouts like, Look, Mom, I’m a natural. I’m a natural. And then as he’s learning these tricks, even in like the same page, as he’s learning different techniques, so you got to keep practicing. Let’s keep practicing. And this sort of it’s not even intention. There’s not even a conflict in the story between this idea that I’m a natural at something, and I must practice something, which is not how our society currently works. Yeah, we have this idea that we are naturally gifted or naturally, you know, a great musician naturally, then you require far less practice or don’t need to practice or you shouldn’t need to practice or whatever. And this, this book puts all this aside, this is like, we have things that are sort of fundamental drives, whether that is to survive and not get too wet, or get hit by electricity, or to fly or migrate or, you know, to build in certain ways, and you still hone those things, you still those things still change and evolve as you learn to whatever degree of focus, so I love it.

Lucy Arnold 50:54
I would just add something to the triangle or make it a triangle, maybe because you know, there’s practice and then there’s this sort of natural or innate ability, but I think this book argues there’s a third angle on the triangle. And that’s like, study or observation, like, yes, because, you know, that’s how Roz operates, right? Like she came up lodges or listens and learns language. And then she has her in her, her goose son, watch the birds, they watch how the geese fly, right for a long time. And I don’t I mean, it certainly isn’t explicit in the book. But I think there’s a real implication that it’s his study that makes him so good at it, because by the end, he’s the leader of the case, right? Even though he doesn’t even have a familial unit among the geese.

Gregory Avery-Weir 51:43
That’s leader in the sense of leading a Flying V. I don’t know that he has like political power. Just just for those who haven’t read the book.

Melissa Avery-Weir 51:52
Yeah. I think I had lump that in with practice in the sense of practice, not just being the repetitiveness, but also the trying stuff out and seeing what’s there. But I think you’re right, it’s, it’s also useful to separate that out in terms of how do you know what to practice? You see that through observation. And you don’t just naturally know what to try. You have to think about it and observe it. So yeah, so there’s my I just thought it was delightfully nuanced and not binary.

Lucy Arnold 52:25
Yeah, I love that you brought it up to you. I mean, it actually I was, I’m really interested in the question of design, because it come up comes up multiple times in the novel, you know, they’ll say this, I think the goose son Brightbill is designed for swimming, right? And designed for flying and this creature is designed for this. And then when wrote when Roz plants her garden, she was designed to work with plants. And there was another part she was not designed to do this. And that’s an interesting, it’s an interesting word choice is certainly quantitatively rich, to constantly say that creatures or people are designed for something, or not designed for it.

Melissa Avery-Weir 53:13
I almost use the quote as my intro, but the perhaps I’m simply made to help people out or something like that, that sort of, yeah, I like that.

Lucy Arnold 53:25
I think it stopped it. It is able to, it’s very clear that it’s not saying something about intelligent design, or God because roses makers are literally like their people, right.

Gregory Avery-Weir 53:44
Roz literally was designed for Ross’s body and brain where,

Lucy Arnold 53:51
you know, certainly it talks about how animals are designed for this or that as well, which is interesting. I actually, this is just a little like a sub note about that. I really thought a long time about how point of view works in this book. Because it’s not just following Roz, right, like because you get the perspective of the other robots when they come and other animals on the island. I think it’s really centered on the island, your point of view cannot leave the island in this book. Yeah. Because you don’t need like, we can’t go with Brightbill We can only hear the story that Brightbill tells when he returns. We don’t ever see the factories we don’t ever see where the robots are from we can only hear what happens on the island. So I think that’s the sort of point of view restriction of the novel.

Gregory Avery-Weir 54:38
When the when the ship spots the bonfire. I thought that we got an image of the ship

Lucy Arnold 54:47
because the ship is passing Island at that point. That’s in the realm of our

Melissa Avery-Weir 54:51
perspective. Yeah, there are two ships we see. Because we see the first or I think we see it and Brightbill doesn’t notice it. Maybe and And we see the one at the bonfire as it’s passing by, and it keeps going.

Gregory Avery-Weir 55:04
Yeah, but we don’t we don’t get a picture of it, we get a picture of some of the things that Brightbill sees off of the island as he’s telling the story. But we don’t get to see the we see the initial containership. I think that prize comes from who you don’t get to see the one that spots the bonfire and ultimately gets the repo robots there. It’s only to see a second ship.

Lucy Arnold 55:28
On page 219. They were so busy singing and laughing and dancing that they didn’t see the cargo ship as it sliced pass the island, but the chips sold them. It’s all the towering bonfire. It’s sold the robot and then it quietly continued through the darkness.

Gregory Avery-Weir 55:43
Yeah, so we get it in text, but not in drawing.

Melissa Avery-Weir 55:47
PAGE 117 has is the beginning of chapter 40. It’s called the ship. That is where we we first see and don’t notice, I think, oh, no, it comes up. Yeah, the Bible says mama, what is that thing and Ross’s computer brain found the right word. That’s a ship, which is I think how Brightbill then has the vocabulary. When they go to the city to call everything ships,

Gregory Avery-Weir 56:16
flying ships and rolling ships and

Melissa Avery-Weir 56:19
ships on the ground ships in the water. It’s pretty charming. That

Lucy Arnold 56:23
illustration also supports my idea because it’s, it’s clearly from the island that you see that ship in the picture. Yeah, yep. That’s how if anybody is curious, that is also the sort of point of view of, in my opinion, Toni Morrison’s Beloved, I think we can only hear the point of view of any character who is in the house when 24 bluestone road. And like so if you ever wonder when you’re reading that novel, why do you never hear the point of view of, I can’t remember his name set this husband or these other characters, if they’re never there at the house, you never can hear their perspective, because you can only hear from people who come to that house. So anyway, I love that shorter shit. So another thing I wanted to talk about is the concept of found families. I’m genre fiction. I’m a sucker for it. I love family stuff. And I think, you know, I think the concept of family it’s so powerful, and it’s so beautiful. But then a lot of I think stories that depict traditional families. I think some of those depictions Can I think, do harmful things. Right. I think there’s a lot of space there for problems that I mean, we can talk about more if y’all want to, but I love the stories about found families. Because well, I’ll just like some of my favorite stories are found families like golden Guardians of the Galaxy, which I know is a marvel property, but I didn’t

Gregory Avery-Weir 57:54
go see it. But yeah, I don’t watch it.

Lucy Arnold 57:57
But it’s a found family story. My roommate is a cat, which I’m pretty sure it’s not struck and you can watch isn’t automated? It’s a story of found family Avatar The Last Airbender, I think you can probably watch. Maybe, maybe not. Yeah, I’m not sure.

The Mandalorian, you probably shouldn’t watch, but it’s another one. In these stories, family, families consciously choose each other and continue choosing each other. And that’s something I love about the wild robot, Roz chooses to raise Brightbill. And he chooses to be her son, even after joining the geese and doing geese stuff. And even after she tells him the truth of how she killed basically those geese in those eggs, and it’s actually not even drama right, in the book is like, here’s the thing that happened, you know, and now I’m your robot mom. And

Melissa Avery-Weir 58:54
there’s a lot more, there’s a lot more drama about Roz’s button turning Roz off or on again, there’s a lot more drama about that than there is about the sort of original biological

Lucy Arnold 59:07
family. And I just, I feel like stories like this are just so important for children to read. I’m sorry. Because, you know, like, families are complicated. And, you know, I know I grew up like, like, I mean, it’s so trite now to grow up with divorced parents, but like, I grew up with, like, in but you I read all these books, and it’s like, Oh, everybody has a mom and a dad and they live at home and, you know, like, all this sort of traditional things. And it’s not the life. I wouldn’t even say it’s the normal thing for anybody anymore. You know, like families are complicated, you know, and sometimes you just have a robot mom, and sometimes you have a cat. I mean, like, he knows families are complicated and I love a book that like offers the space For that kind of complicated family dynamic for children to be able to read that, you know, and I feel like there’s something that’s really hopeful and powerful for children to be like, Yeah, this goose has a robot mom.

Gregory Avery-Weir 1:00:13
Like, is this a single immigrant mother with an adoptive son? Yeah. And it goes great.

Melissa Avery-Weir 1:00:20
There’s a moment in which Brightbill has been a little a little jerk. And Roz goes to the old goose that lives out in the lake in the pond, and is like, Hey, I’m having trouble and loud wing loud, something. The that goose is like, well, you know how they are at this age? And Ross’s No, please. No, I don’t tell me how they please tell me how they are. Please tell me and then later passes that on. When? Oh, gosh, I don’t remember what Mama Bear. Yes, is the model. That’s right. And, and Roz goes, well, you know how they aren’t that? One, it makes me think of the whole acting idea. Right. But also, the very learned behavior of parenting, it’s not speaking of things you must practice and observe. Right? Yeah. So

Gregory Avery-Weir 1:01:17
something that shows up a lot in children’s literature that I think is deployed really effectively here is refrain and repetition. A lot of especially younger so this is this is for like, middle schoolers, I guess, are older elementary school students, but like, especially with for like young kids books often have repetition in them. So like, you know, the, the Are you my mother would be a classic example of like, they this isn’t a baby bird goes around, saying, Are You My Mother? Are you my mother? Are you my mother. And because because children’s books are often read aloud with a child, that that kind of provides a hook for the child to be participatory in the process where like, when they recognize the line, they can say it with the parent and sort of be involved in the process that way. And this is for older audience.

Melissa Avery-Weir 1:02:10
So not to be confused with the horrifically scary Doctor Who episode in which there are a bunch of children going around and asking, Are you my mummy? And they are in fact wearing gas masks and a very tragic situation. Question.

Lucy Arnold 1:02:25
Children are terrifying. And Doctor Who is well aware of it.

Gregory Avery-Weir 1:02:28
Yes. And that Yeah, like that shows up that this idea of like repetition, and reframe shows up in a lot of a lot of non Child Focused literature. But a lot of it that happens here is weirdly ironic. We talked about some of that already. It when it talks about the first the first Roz and then later off to some animals. It says she felt something like annoyance, or she felt something like laughter, Shiva or amusement, or she felt something like x. And it’s because like, the book is coyly being like, well, we all know robots don’t have emotions, but she’s feeling something. And it’s something a lot like happiness. And even with a lot like happiness in the book doesn’t say this explicitly, but happiness is a lot like happiness. And likewise, you get that line that you that we talked about, clearly, so and so was not designed to do X, or so. And so it was designed to fly. And it’s like that clearly there is very insistent, and is ironically insistent because they’re not designed none of these things. All of these entities are good at this thing. And could like are capable of these things. But like no one designed any of these creatures to do any of these tasks, except possibly Roz was maybe designed to care for plants, that that’s possible. But like, the every, many times when you see a phrase repeated over and over in this book, you’re supposed to question that phrase, the as you might know, or you might already know, this lines always precede something that’s kind of question as you might know, robots don’t feel emotion. Or you might already know this but robots don’t have families that I don’t know if that’s a specific example but that’s the sort of way it’s deployed. And like that’s, that’s a cool cool like writing trick that happens in the book. But there’s there’s one bit of repetition that I spotted I noticed the first time this line appears because a really powerful line and then it happens again later. And it’s always with regard to fire and its animals will move forward, eager to feel more warmth, and then move back afraid of feeling too much and they that that appears twice once in the initial like teaching animals how fire is and then or maybe it’s in the winter anyway, um, it’s once inside and then once it the hit the bonfire and and that I don’t think is ironic, I think but it is kind of talking about something other than what it’s literally talking about. Because it’s, it’s there’s a, there’s that wonderful essay about in order to experience the joy of being loved, we must submit to the mortifying ordeal of being known. And like to, to be vulnerable and be part of a community. Both has warmth, but also has the risk of being hurt and feeling too much. And like, by being friends with Roz, when the robot when the evil robots show up and try and capture Ross, they the animals have exposed themselves to that risk, like either the literal risk of like being killed by a robot, or the sort of emotional risk of having their friend leave. And it’s I, I love the words that are repeated, that the phrases that get repeated in this book are very evocative and really stuck in the so I was able to immediately go like, Oh, they’re saying that line again. That’s interesting.

Melissa Avery-Weir 1:06:19
And the whole I think Roz is meant to Grow Gardens thing exchange, it ends with perhaps I am simply meant to help others, which is presumably a reference to Roz’s actual human intended design, right?

Gregory Avery-Weir 1:06:37
Or possibly, like the purpose of all sapient beings.

Melissa Avery-Weir 1:06:41
Sure, sure, sure. But I mean, yeah, I think it’s probably a tongue in cheek reference to the fact that there’s a robot working in a greenhouse. All the time. Yeah. Good writer.

Gregory Avery-Weir 1:06:57
So in addition to the all the literary discussion and the philosophical discussion about, like, the nature of existence, and so on, we’re also just big utopian sci fi fans. So we’re going to head to 10 forward, and we’re going to talk about geeky stuff. I want to start with robots in sci fi, and what they mean what robots mean, in science fiction. And because we, we,

like, I think that the popular imagination, or and certainly the way that I thought about, like how robots work and sci fi is that like, people came up with this cool idea for a middleman. And then later, someone looked at middleman and was like, ah, you know, there’s something to this. Maybe I could use this as a metaphor for oppression or enslavement or labor or something like that.

And that’s in fact, not the case. Robots. The from the first idea of robots, robots have been about oppression and exploitation and labor. So there is a a, an illusion that I don’t know if y’all noticed. So Roz’s full name is Rossum, which is a direct reference to the first work ever about robots that work to coin the word robot racetams Universal Robots which is a play in play Yeah. So are you are is that it’s are you are Colin Rossum is Universal Robots. And in this play, and it’s from like the it it’s it’s earlier than you think it’s the early 20th century, I want to say the robots in the play aren’t like mechanical people. They’re like genetically engineered people, they’ve they figured out how to make organisms out of a different sort of organic matter. And because they are different, these organisms, these people, they are just like straight up humans, indistinguishable from humans, if you look at them, are there they’re enslaved, they’re forced to work. And then they, in the in the course of the play, they insist that they are people that they have emotions, they revolt and rebel, they kill a bunch of humans. There’s a tenuous state at the end where like the robots are trying to figure out how to build their own society, a robot falls in love with a human, like, all of the stuff that we think of as like, Oh, this is what clever science fiction is thinking about when it thinks about robots is just like that’s what robots are in the in the imagination of sci fi. It reminds me of a great tweet by an account called the gtid guy that’s imagining this conversation between game designer and writers David Cage and Yoko Taro. David Cage made Detroit beyond human which is a game about robot uprising Yoko Taro made NieR Automata as well as a bunch of other games. Which is about like Androids and machines fighting each other and whether or not what what feelings they have notably, Nier Automata is a game or everyone insists that androids don’t have feelings and they do.

And that this conversation is, David Cage asks this profound question, can a robot learn to be human? And then Yoko Taro says, Can human learn to be human and cages mystifying? Doesn’t understand that this is like this is the interesting question is that robots let us talk about humans and what what it means to be a person. And like, that’s, that’s what the wild robot is doing here.

It’s, it’s like clearly referring to I don’t think I mentioned are you are written by a check. I think playwright named Carell. chapek. And like, while robot is just continuing, ChatterPix project, like, artificial people, tell us what people mean. And like, this is this is doing doing that. And like, it’s, it’s definitely got this surface reading of, hey, cute robot, right? Children like robots. Robots are cool. Robots are big metal people. But also like robots are a way for us to be like, what would it be mean to be a person who did not need to eat? What does it mean to be a person who can just stand and wait and watch and learn? And be completely emotionless and learn the language of the animals? What does it mean to be a person who slave catchers can show up and bring you back to your owner? So called owner? And that’s, that’s cool. I mean, it’s it’s super neat to see kids. You know, this, this story for literal children. That’s like, hey, robots are deep. We need to think about robots.

Lucy Arnold 1:11:56
Hey, speaking of historical robots, did you think that there was the implication that Roz I don’t know has a positronic brain or relies on Asimov’s Three Laws of robots?

Gregory Avery-Weir 1:12:10
Possibly. Yeah, cuz it it Roz can’t commit violence. Which isn’t, isn’t specifically the rule, the first law but it’s close.

Lucy Arnold 1:12:21
And she can’t and she has to protect herself. That’s the you know, yeah. Go into the water. Yeah.

Gregory Avery-Weir 1:12:27
And that’s, I think we get a deploy deployment of she felt something like fear there. It’s like, of course, she couldn’t really feel fear. But she did, you know, had the sense of self preservation wanted to keep on living. It uses the word living

Melissa Avery-Weir 1:12:40
there. Uh huh.

Gregory Avery-Weir 1:12:42
So, yeah,

Lucy Arnold 1:12:44
I feel like everybody has found Asimov’s robot laws of robotics to be like inescapable.

Gregory Avery-Weir 1:12:50
I mean, as well. So if you don’t know what to talk about, Asimov’s Three Laws of Robotics. One is robot can’t harm a human or through inaction cause them to cause harm or cause them to come to harm. Second Law is a robot must preserve itself except as it conflicts with the first law. Second, laws must follow. Third laws. Second Law is must follow orders except as it conflicts with not hurting humans. And then three is must preserve oneself, except as it conflicts with the other two laws, and like direct those to me feel like rules for not being afraid of robots. Oh, like 100 percents are rules that society and banks too, because robots are scary because people who you are exploiting are scary.

Lucy Arnold 1:13:37
But as a mob 100% understood that, right? Yeah, yeah, that’s

Gregory Avery-Weir 1:13:41
what Asimov is doing that iRobot is all about how like, Hey, how come y’all don’t realize that these robots are people.

Lucy Arnold 1:13:48
Also, the naked son I feel like that’s what that book is about. Anybody wants to real Asimov

Melissa Avery-Weir 1:13:56
so on are not unrelated note, I really appreciated what felt like a tiny bit of a twist, but not unexpected given the Book of where, you know, we know that Roz is a special robot, despite the fact that Ross has a number introduced as Rossum unit 7134 Right.

Gregory Avery-Weir 1:14:20
And she’s one of 500 on her ship and one of five who washed up and the only one who survived.

Melissa Avery-Weir 1:14:25
Exactly So Ross is a special girl. So despite the fact that she has a number, we we see Roz as an individual immediately Oh,

Lucy Arnold 1:14:35
yeah, she’s another special magical girl and we’ve had two special magical girls so far.

Gregory Avery-Weir 1:14:42
We both of whom learn the language of things thought you can’t communicate with each other. I

Lucy Arnold 1:14:49
dropped the bike I didn’t great

Melissa Avery-Weir 1:14:56
but what I appreciated is that when we The additional robots when we meet RECCO, one, two and three, they each managed to distinguish themselves. We are not meeting exactly three off of that assembly line. Even though they present a unified front initially, the moment they split up, they become people. And I think the book just does a great job. Like our expectation for numbered robots is one thing. And this books like No, can’t still can’t have it. You didn’t have if Razi can’t have it. Now,

Gregory Avery-Weir 1:15:34
they say that Roz is defective or something for for, like, not wanting to go back and work. But like, we don’t ever have the implication. That’s actually the case. There’s nothing fundamentally different about Ross, it’s just like, she had the opportunity to become part of a community without exploitation.

Melissa Avery-Weir 1:15:54
Exactly. So I think

Lucy Arnold 1:15:55
she’s, she’s defective because she won’t calm. I mean, right?

Gregory Avery-Weir 1:16:00
Yeah, she’s, she’s not behaving as the SSA as human society wants her to. But like, it’s not due to some like, it’s not that she got a chip busted. It’s not that she had an error in her programming. It’s that she’s

expressing her agency that all of these robots have, like all of these robots could say no, and probably get destroyed and dismantled and reprogrammed. But she’s one who has the opportunity to say that without immediate repercussions, just like

Lucy Arnold 1:16:33
everybody in the three mandatory institutions that we have in our modern society, Foucault argues that schools, prisons and mental institutions are our three mandatory institutions. So it’s no different. Like, I mean, I think there’s no different right it’s there she’s only defective because they say you’re defective because you’re not coming with us. This is evidence of a defect, just like you know, they used to put women in mental institutions because they’re hysterical.

Gregory Avery-Weir 1:17:06
And were hysterical. Usually men not fulfilling their social role like not being willing to be a homemaker not being willing to have children with their husband, etcetera, etcetera.

Lucy Arnold 1:17:18
Well, so everybody else has gone deep so long Pula Michelle Obama here except for the opposite. I’d like to nerd out about shit

Melissa Avery-Weir 1:17:39
last episode, we got tentacles now we got

Lucy Arnold 1:17:42
okay but like that, that that part about the cheerful pooping I just super loved it. So what happens in the in the novel is first Roz gets a home she needs a lodge for her, her goose baby to live in to be safe. So the beavers help her build a home and then they say hey, you know you should talk to the deer and they can help you with the gardening and so the the deer comes and she looks around, she’s like, yes, give me a nice garden. And she helps Roz get it started and she’s now what we’re going to need everybody to do is come here and poof there’s like two pages. Here it is Tony Tommy’s the deer and she’s like, Oh, it’s page 93. Please leave your droppings around the nest. The more droppings the richer the soil the healthier the garden. As you can imagine Tommy’s request got everyone’s attention. Everyone who lost this they all want to come in food. And it’s so cheerful.

Gregory Avery-Weir 1:18:50
They were happy to help said yeah, it’s all really weasels after finishing up their business. It was our pleasure set a flock of smiling sparrows before they flew away, like shouldn’t be much longer now set a smiling turtles they slowly made his contribution.

Lucy Arnold 1:19:03
After some pleasant conversation, each neighbor would choose their spot leave their droppings and be on their way and always with a smile.

Melissa Avery-Weir 1:19:12
And skipping back to that first paragraph. The place was soon crawling with woodland creatures curious to hear more about the garden project and just like that the robot was meeting her neighbors. The plan to help her make friends was already starting to work. Yeah, like amazing pooping centric.

Lucy Arnold 1:19:27
This, I think, although I actually laughed out loud in reading this hysterical like, I guess I just read the children’s literature because children really do love this poop stuff like they’re super in for it. So I know any child reading this part is going to love it. But I think it accomplishes a couple a couple of really interesting things. I mean, one, I definitely think this book has a lot to say about sort of natural cycles, you know, like, this is about, like, making a garden and cultivation. And I mean, I think there’s something that’s really, that’s kind of cool about that and to point out that pooping is a part of that cycle of natural stuff. And, and then I also think we in the United States, I think, I mean, we’re a little bit a little bit

a little bit. Poop phobic.

We were a little bit weird about bodies and bodily functions and pooping and it’s this whole big private thing. So to have it here in this book, you just like at how are you? I am here to poop to help you out. You’re welcome. Have a great day. Had this thing there’s something marvelous about it because it’s so like, counter to our culture. And probably in like, this is probably healthier. I mean, for the people in the community, you know, to not be like oh, let me find a place you know, to hide and poop. So I don’t know I just thought I want I thought it was delightful. And to I think it’s doing some shit.

Gregory Avery-Weir 1:21:14
Well, there there are two other examples of pooping that I can think of in the book that are the your you’re nodding Alyssa, are you thinking? I’m thinking of?

Melissa Avery-Weir 1:21:24
I was thinking of the way it’s the way it’s weaponized later. Yes, right. Yeah, when when an earlier RECCO was an earlier Rico RECCO whichever the the attacking robots are.

Gregory Avery-Weir 1:21:34
So initially, yeah, initially as Roz is like, just kind of flailing around the island getting attacked by animals and like tripping over shit. She like I think tries to greet some birds and they answer by just pooping interface like birds do. And then like then she makes friends through pooping and then later comes the the Ricoh confrontation that you’re talking about.

Melissa Avery-Weir 1:21:58
Yep. And which is thinking about like our, the earlier bit we talked about, like productive, productive violence, right productive struggle. Leveraging the same, the same tools that allow the garden to grow and flourish to defend against attackers. How do they in

Gregory Avery-Weir 1:22:21
what do they do the robot? It’s it’s

Lucy Arnold 1:22:24
fine the robot the robot can’t see because of the bird droppings?

Melissa Avery-Weir 1:22:28
Yeah, this is a robot that goes into the woods gets stuck in mud turns around and starts going back and in that process gets pooped on can’t see comes out and runs into a bowl moose that Wrexham. Yeah, and breaks them up into into parts. Surprisingly, violence and like the violence is not gory, but it is like, it’s dismemberment, right, these things are rip limb from limb.

Gregory Avery-Weir 1:22:58
That may be the one thing that this book thinks is genuinely different about robots is that you can take them apart and put them back together again. Like Robots have interchangeable parts in a way that he that animals do not.

Melissa Avery-Weir 1:23:16
Except for the lizard that dropped it’s time to get back. Roz actually to escape

Lucy Arnold 1:23:22
get some wooden prosthetic foot to I mean, like that. I mean, people have prosthetics.

Gregory Avery-Weir 1:23:30
Yeah, I stand corrected, I’d forgotten about the lizard story. Something that that is real quick that we haven’t mentioned is that this thing has a whole lot of chapters, it’s got 80 chapters, some of the chapters are one paragraph long, many of them are one page long. And just about every chapter title is a noun, which kind of fits into my alien by object oriented ontology. thing of like, the chapters are things like the Gosling, or the first flight. And very rarely, there’ll be like, the Gosling grows, there’ll be actions taken by nouns. And the last rifle, it’s, it’s, all of these chapters are about objects, things in the world of the, of the the things in the world of the fiction, and there’s not like, flowery language there. It’s not like the key to flying is bla bla bla bla bla, it’s the Gosling flies.

Lucy Arnold 1:24:33
I really did like the way the chapters are not consistent how there were really short ones and then some longer ones like, I like an organic chapter.

Gregory Avery-Weir 1:24:44
I liked when the geese got a gun. That was so wild turkeys got a gun and shot a robot to death.

Melissa Avery-Weir 1:24:52
The vultures are the geese,

Lucy Arnold 1:24:54
geese because he’s pulled the trigger. The geese were the one who knew How to use a gun because remember, their goose leader had gotten shot and they were away with the humans. In fact, I believe the only things humans do in this book is shoot a goose and try to steal back Roz.

Gregory Avery-Weir 1:25:14
There’s there’s a lot of like using earlier skills later, the geese learn how to shoot guns from humans. Roz uses camouflage and the final battle against the robots that she used very, very early on to learn animal language. These are straight up laser guns by the way, these are like, yeah, they were clearly a sci fi future. Ya

Lucy Arnold 1:25:37
know, it’s a sci fi novel. I mean, I, I think in a way, kind of ironically, because the book is sort of hatchet in many ways, but it is set in a future world.

Melissa Avery-Weir 1:25:50
I’m nervous about this when y’all all right. So at the end of each episode, we pick the next thing we’re watching based on or reading or whatever, based on a connection from this book. This episode had information transfer as sort of a crucial component to the community and survival. So next time, we are reading a book called The collapse sium by will McCarthy,

Gregory Avery-Weir 1:26:25
huh. Okay, I know this, what’s it about?

Lucy Arnold 1:26:27

Melissa Avery-Weir 1:26:29
It is a it’s from the year 2000. It’s a science fiction novel about a telecommunication ring that is made of something called collapse Ium, which are many black mini black holes. Many isn’t like micro black holes, and this telecommunication, telecommunication ring is attacked and pushed into the sun. And so people have to collaborate to figure out how to save their network of, of what keeps society up and running. And it sounds interesting. I I see some reviews saying you know, maybe the pacing is a little weird. We’ll find out we will read to find out.

Lucy Arnold 1:27:14
I’m excited. I love physics, science fiction.

Melissa Avery-Weir 1:27:18
It will probably be you know, more in the hard sci fi category than what we have read. I mean, it will be for sure. More classic sort of sci fi. So we’ll say it should be available ebook or physical, whichever your preference is.

Gregory Avery-Weir 1:27:37
Awesome. So next time we’ll be discussing collapsing them on Before the Future Came. You can find links and show notes at before the future dot space that is a real web address that will really work you can put in your browser before the future dot space. If you have any questions or comments, you we have comments set up there on each episode where you can also find show notes. We do work cited for stuff that we’ve mentioned along the way we’ll have both focused philosophy and video games and all sorts of other stuff that hatchet will be on there. If you don’t want to comment, you want to contact us individually you can write us at on screen at Before the Future Came dot space. And we’re also on co host as Before the Future Came, I think co host.org/before The future came. And there’s there’s an Ask feature on Kobo. So if you have questions for us, you can send us an ask our co host you don’t even have to be logged in and we’ll answer it there.

Melissa Avery-Weir 1:28:39
We’re also on tick tock.

Gregory Avery-Weir 1:28:41
Oh yeah, we’ve got a tick tock. We’ve got

Melissa Avery-Weir 1:28:43
an Instagram we’re

Lucy Arnold 1:28:44
on Instagram. Don’t ask me what it is on Instagram. I’m logged out of every

Gregory Avery-Weir 1:28:51
Yeah, search for Before the Future Came on on those platforms. We’re not on Twitter. We’re only individually on Twitter.

Melissa Avery-Weir 1:28:57
So I am Melissa Avery-Weir and I blog at erson dotnet. And I’m on Mastodon at as Melissa at erson dot life.

Lucy Arnold 1:29:07
I’m Lucy Arnold and sometimes blog@intertextuality.com

Gregory Avery-Weir 1:29:13
And I’m Gregory Avery we’re and you can find me at Lucas novus.net Or you can read my stuff on co host at co host.org/g AW. Our music is let’s pretend by Josh Woodward used under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 license. Thanks for listening

Josh Woodward (singing) 1:29:35
happily ever after. Surrounded by butterflies, children and laughter It’s a fairy tale story. So let’s just pretend hallelujah amen manage after the

Lucy Arnold 1:29:57
you know what I’m gonna start comparing everything out Are you to that one where she makes that hill and loves that bad boy that’s that’s how we’re gonna even

Melissa Avery-Weir 1:30:08
that’s way more embarrassing.

Lucy Arnold 1:30:09
I’m gonna compare everything I read that book series.

Gregory Avery-Weir 1:30:14
I haven’t recommended a bad book to either of you all ever so oh

Transcribed by https://otter.ai