Please welcome my guest blogger, Misha Burnett! Tell him what you collect, or what social totem people associate to you, or what things you’ve learned from robots. But also, be sure to send some rawr-love his way, preferably in the way of buying his book! (It’s worth it, the book is great.*) http://mishaburnett.wordpress.com/
I have a lot of toy robots in my house. Now, I don’t think of them as a collection, really, because I don’t think of myself as a collector. I didn’t ever set out to build a collection of toy robots, it just kind of happened, with little or no effort on my part.
I got my first one shortly after I separated from my (now ex-)wife. I was at Big Lots, picking up cleaning supplies and sundries for the studio apartment that I had moved into, and I found myself in the toy aisle. I saw a robot very similar to one that I’d had as a child—classic design, walks forward a few steps, then doors on its chest open and guns pop out, the torso spins around while making machine gun sounds, then the guns retract and it starts walking again.
There’s a million of them out there, so it wasn’t surprising that I found one. Anyway, it was just a few bucks, and I was feeling low and wanted to buy myself a treat, so I got it.
From such inconsequential meetings dynasties are begun.
I liked having it up on my bookshelf, it was a fun bit of goofy color in an otherwise pretty bleak place. I didn’t deliberately decide to go out and get a lot more, but when I was out shopping I’d look through the toy section. I didn’t want the big, name brand stuff, I liked the cheap Pacific Rim knockoffs, the kind of stuff that ends up getting tossed in a big bin with a garish cardboard sign reading “Great Deal$!!!”
I didn’t even specialize in robots at first, I have monsters and spacemen of all kinds. But when other people saw the group of toys sitting on my bookshelf it was easier to describe it as a “Toy Robot Collection” than a “Miscellaneous Science Fiction Toy Collection”.
And so I got a collector jacket.
Now, the thing about having a collector jacket is that it makes things easier for everybody else on occasions when people need to buy you something. It’s Misha’s birthday? Look, here’s a card with a robot on it! Done, no agonizing over the choice required.
This is not to say that I don’t appreciate it, I do. That’s not my point. My point is that a simple iconic theme—a totem, if you will—is a convenient shorthand for use in a social interaction. For a friend of mine it’s Hello Kitty. When I see things with that simple colorful and creepy face on it, I think of her and I’ll snap a cell phone picture and send it to her. I don’t know how she ended up with that particular image as a totem, I suspect it just kind of happened, just like me and the robots.
This having been said, I believe that what we do without meaning to can often say more about us than what we plan to do. I may have not set out to be “the guy who collects toy robots”, but there is definitely something about toy robots that resonates with soul on a primal level.
There are certain, shall we say, fictional robotic virtues that I seek to inculcate into my daily life.
Loyalty. Good or bad, robots are known for following orders. (Except when they go berserk and destroy their creators, but that is almost always the result of a design flaw, so the designers had it coming. I mean, hello, ever heard of QA?) Organic henchmen can be bribed, seduced, or intimidated—not robots. You give a robot an order and that settles the matter. Forget the wad of cash, don’t bother unbuttoning your blouse, if you want to get past Ol’ Sparky, you’re going to have to take him out.
Precision. 15/32 is not ½. Whether you’re designing an atom gun or just talking about a hockey game, precision matters. Sure, approximations can save time, but there is an element of precision to even using approximations correctly. Know your mission critical tolerances and keep within them. Would Darth Vader have been pleased if the Death Star almost blew up Alderaan? I don’t think so.
Determination. Robots don’t give up. You can knock them down, strip off their synthetic flesh coating, blow off limbs, they don’t stop. They don’t care about the odds, they don’t worry about the obstacles, they just keep going, no matter what. Robots do know the meaning of the word surrender, it’s what those organic things do whenever things get a little difficult. Robots don’t try, they do.
Reason. A is A, regardless of how you feel about A. Facts are facts, and you have to deal with the real. A robot will always choose an ugly truth over a beautiful lie. This is not to suggest that robots are always right—logic will inevitably yield inaccurate conclusions if it begins with inaccurate premises—but they always make sense. Robots do things for a reason, not just because it “feels right”.
Stoicism. Alert philosophy geeks will realize that I am using the term in the popular rather than the classical meaning. Deal with it. Robots don’t get hung up on the physical. Yeah, they need power and oil and regular service pack updates to their operating systems, but they definitely recharge to operate rather than operate to recharge. Care for the body, certainly, it’s the tool you have to get the job done. But don’t pamper it and don’t let it slow you down—cowbot up and soldier on!
Do I live up to these ideals on a daily basis? Not hardly. But it gives me something to shoot for, and having my little plastic Unstoppable Robot Army O’Doom on the shelf watching over me reminds me to pick myself up and keep going, no matter how many times I fall.
Go on then, visit his blog and check out his awesomeness. If I were you, I’d start here: