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Tycho / on Mon, Aug 10 2009 at 11:06 am

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Automata, Page Six

Page Six, which can be found here, completes the first chapter of Automata.  The project itself directly expresses a fairly narrow band of the universe, hopefully enough to make you curious about the rest of it, and how this came to be the state of play.

Usually when we’re making things here, it’s about something we like - something we are genuinely interested in investigating.  Automata isn’t really like that.  I don’t really want to know what their awful world is like, but it is always revealing itself, and it’s always worse than I would have thought.  One of the worst things is on Page Three, hiding up in an advertisement for the Swangee Corporation: that there are lobotomized robots (lobotoma?) who look just like Carl, but possess none of the higher functions, no personhood, and when he passes them on the street he might not know which is which.

For Lookouts and Automata both, I’m starting to wonder if I’m satisfied with the amount of time we can devote to them.  I have devised a few scenarios for their perpetuation, because - to be frank - they deserve more than we’re prepared to give them.

You may recall that we were invited to co-host an episode of 1 vs 100 Live last Friday, and seeing how they put together an episode was completely fascinating.  If you’ve ever been out driving on 148th in Redmond, you know that Microsoft has a prodigious number of buildings there, but they aren’t especially demonstrative regarding their purpose, and the mind quickly fills in the gaps.  One building might house illegal birds.  Another feeds a batch of hermetic cryopods, there to ensure corporate continuity.

One building is devoted to exclusively to vats.

The building we went to was very much like (which is to say, it is) a fully functioning studio for the manufacture of audio and video.  It was radically unlike any place I have ever been to with a connection to software development - it shares some similarities with a mo-cap studio, but it’s purpose is much more pure.  There is a widescreen monitor of the game proceedings above the main board, which really cements just how strange the affair of humans producing a digital show is.  When you are there playing at home, pressing one of four buttons to assert yourself on the game system, know that there are at least five people working in real time to make that possible.  They leap and caper in a frenzied state for our amusement.

Chris Cashman, the host, has a different version of the game than players do: it has everything in the base version, but communicates a much broader range of data: number of players (thirty-two thousand!), full gamercard information for The One, count-downs for his segments, and count-ins to ensure everything is coming together correctly.  There was an issue with the countdown clock later in the show, but even that was exciting, because we had to take it into account on our own.  It was a “live performance,” but because it’s a live performance for digital people who represent real people, there’s a series of weird disconnects that your consciousness must navigate.  I loved it.

I get fascinated by sparkling things sometimes, things I want to incorporate into my nest, and it cinches a noose around my mind which locks me into a kind of inexorable “information accrual” mode.  Scientology is a perennial in this regard, to the extent that I actively avoid information about it because it’s too fascinating and I don’t want to join the “church” in a moment of weakness.  I recently had the misfortune of being exposed to some propaganda from the “seduction community,” and I’ve spent the weekend on a kind of data bender that has left me psychologically gutted.  I’ve been trying to navigate away from this page for about an hour now, and I can’t do it.  That these people are base manipulators should be apparent to any literate person; they’ve made a cage of language that I can’t escape from.

(CW)TB out.

she stirred her straw


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