The New Mini Cheetah Robots From MIT Are Just the Latest Sign
Footage of MIT's new Mini Cheetah robots doing backflips, moving in formation, and jumping out of hiding places set Twitter off with a fresh round of comparisons to the horrifying Black Mirror episode "Metalhead."
Similar comparisons seem to crop up any time MIT or Boston Dynamics releases new footage of their competing quadruped robots, but that doesn't mean that the comparisons aren't apt. Honestly, they could hardly be…apter. Look at the way they move! That faceless, predatory flow. They're nightmarish, no matter what their creators want us to believe.
No, the parallels to Black Mirror are not in your head. Reality is slowly melting into that show, and we all need to be prepared for it. Here are some tips for surviving the awful future that show is inflicting on us.
Don't Slip Up
This is a recurring theme in episodes like "Crocodile," "Nosedive," "The Entire History of You," and "Shut up and Dance" Characters are swallowed up by the immutable record of events in a world where every moment is recorded and preserved. This obviously includes people being canceled for dredged-up old tweets, but it also covers the panopticon of corporate and government surveillance: the NSA is recording every phone call, Facebook is recording all your browsing, and those smart devices that make your life so much more convenient are also recording everything you say and everywhere you go. You cannot escape detection, so you might as well just behave. I would say something about George Orwell, but I don't know who might be reading this…
Don't Bother Fighting Back
You can't stop the coming change, and if you resist it, your efforts to change or break the system will just be absorbed by the system and used to make it even stronger. We can see this phenomenon in the Black Mirror episode "Fifteen Million Merits," in which Daniel Kaluuya goes to incredible lengths just to speak and be heard. To take over a platform where he can say what he really thinks about the crushing, alienating system he's trapped in, along with everyone else he knows.
And what he says when he finally has his chance is so raw, so impassioned and real…that the powers that be decide to give him a job placating the populace with his cathartic rants. Likewise, if you want to protest police violence, or homophobia, or environmental devastation, don't be surprised if the forces of the status quo latch onto the symbolic power of your protest and turn it into an advertisement.
Let Yourself Grieve
With all the holograms of dead musicians, AI chatbots that mimic dead loved ones, and the new movie starring "James Dean," it's easy to get confused and think that you don't really need to let go—that death isn't final. But the Black Mirror episode "Be Right Back," taught us the importance of moving on. Those simulations will never replace the people we're bound to lose as this futuristic sci-fi hell-world descends upon us. Domhnall Gleason cannot be replaced by a robot, no matter how good that robot's impression is! And that fake James Dean is definitely going to be off-putting and creepy.
Don't Piss Off the Robot Dogs
Have you seen that episode?! Have you seen the new video?! Those bastards are terrifying! F*ck the teddy bear! In fact, stay out of warehouses altogether. Better just to stay locked in your room, playing video games until your brain melts.
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Plus celebrities react to Nigerian protests.
Young people across Nigeria have been pouring into the streets for the last two weeks to protest police brutality, specifically the controversial special police force known as the Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS).
Tension came to a head on Tuesday when armed forces fired on protestors in Lagos, the biggest city in Nigeria, who were out past the state-mandated curfew. According to AP News, "Police also fired tear gas at one point, and smoke could be seen billowing from several areas in the city's center. Two private TV stations were forced off the air at least temporarily as their offices were burned."
Not all non-binary people prefer gender-neutral pronouns.
October 21, 2020 marks the third annual International Pronouns Day.
Created by an independent board and first observed in 2018, it's one of those small commemorative holidays that trends on Twitter in hopes of drawing attention to a pressing social issue, like International Women's Day (March 8th) or the ever so serious National Taco Day (October 4).
But Pronouns Day in particular "seeks to make respecting, sharing, and educating about personal pronouns commonplace." The organization's website further describes, "Referring to people by the pronouns they determine for themselves is basic to human dignity. Being referred to by the wrong pronouns particularly affects transgender and gender nonconforming people. Together, we can transform society to celebrate people's multiple, intersecting identities."
But in the words of nonbinary activist and Trevor Project's Head of Advocacy and Government Afairs, Sam Brenton, "Pronouns are hard." Never before have pronouns been scrutinized as closely as they are in 2019 for their power to (in)validate or accurately describe something as fluid as gender identity. In fact, it was only this year that the Merriam-Webster Dictionary expanded the definition of "they" "to refer to a single person whose gender identity is nonbinary" (thus codifying a long history in English language of using "they" to refer to a singular non-gendered entity).
‘Everyone has the responsibility to be respectful.’ — The @TrevorProject’s Sam Brinton is explaining why pronouns a… https://t.co/pMMO8KRvBR— NowThis (@NowThis)1571253180.0
But throwing an additional wrench in the works is the fact that not all non-binary people prefer gender-neutral pronouns.
Take me, for instance: Despite having female biology, I couldn't pass a lie detector test saying I'm a "woman." But my pragmatic, Puritan family is still endearingly confused by the idea of "liberal arts," let alone the notion of gender fluidity. And I'd rather share a communal language with them than do the emotional and mental labor of re-orienting their worldview for them. Plus, I have the privilege of passing as female without feeling too, too, terribly dysphoric (which non-binary people can definitely suffer from, despite not identifying as trans).
But enough about me, look at Queer Eye's beloved Jonathan Van Ness. While he's been outspoken about being genderqueer, gay, and HIV positive, he prefers he/him pronouns. "The older I get, the more I think that I'm nonbinary," Van Ness said. "I'm gender nonconforming. Like, some days I feel like a man, but then other days I feel like a woman." As he told Out magazine, he doesn't identify as a man, but he does prefer "he/him/his" pronouns. In his view, those pronouns don't detract from or contradict his non-binary identity, because gender is not about simple binaries between masculine and feminine identifiers. "Any opportunity I have to break down stereotypes of the binary, I am down for it, I'm here for it," he said. "I think that a lot of times gender is used to separate and divide. It's this social construct that I don't really feel like I fit into the way I used to."
On the other hand, last month non-binary singer Sam Smith announced that their preferred pronouns are "they/them." Smith posted to Instagram, "I've decided I am changing my pronouns to THEY/THEM ❤ after a lifetime of being at war with my gender I've decided to embrace myself for who I am, inside and out." People like Smith and Trevor Project's Sam Brenton simply feel more validated, seen, heard, and true to themselves with gender-neutral pronouns. Smith wrote, "I'm so excited and privileged to be surrounded by people that support me in this decision but I've been very nervous about announcing this because I care too much about what people think but f*ck it!"
Most importantly, as pretty much every non-binary person and activist is aware, changing cultural norms is hard. While LGBTQ+ activism is inspired and passionate and dedicated to expanding human rights to all gender identities, we all know that changing society's entire understanding of gender and pronoun usage is about slowly opening minds. As Smith wrote, "I understand there will be many mistakes and mis gendering but all I ask is you please please try. I hope you can see me like I see myself now. Thank you." Happy Pronouns Day to you/him/her/they/(f)aer/zim.