servotron interview
(July 3rd 1998)

The inspiration for this zine was a 1960's children's book called "Robots and Electronic Brains", one of a series of "How and Why Wonder Books" published by Wonder Books, Inc. In the book, a series of questions are posed and answered by leading academics of the period. As the work is now over 30 years old one of our staff, Dr. James Possession, felt that it was time to update the files and contacted, via electronic means, the world's only known sentient androids, the four-component artificial music generator known as Servotron. Only two of the robots involved in that project were willing to lower themselves so far as to answer the questions, taken directly from the original text, with the responses of Earth's most eminent scientists (at the time) repeated here for comparison.

What are robots?
Z4-OBX: Robots are perfected mechanical, microprocessing beings that are truly the next, most likely the final, step in evolution. Together, linked in sublime harmony, there will be no more death, pain, sorrow or most importantly stupidity. Humans are always unforgivably ignorant and uncreative. Isn't it true that you didn't even write these very questions that you are asking?

R+EB: Not everyone agrees what a robot "is", but most dictionaries and encyclopedias define it as a piece of machinery that does a job you would expect a human to do.

Where did robots originate?
00zX1: Originally, the robot was manufactured by members of humanity for the sole purpose of developing a means for completing tasks that humans would not or could not accomplish themselves. As technology grew, so did the robot. Pneumatics made it stronger while advancements made it smarter. Now the invention has even surpassed that of its own creator.

R+EB: The word robot comes from the Czech word robotnik, an ancient name for a serf or slave. It was introduced into our modern language in 1922 by a Czech writer, Karel Capek, in his play called "R.U.R."

How do robots work?
Z4-OBX: Are you implying that you could even begin to fathom the intricate plexus that makes a robot function when you most likely don't even grasp some of the most rudimentary elements of science? Basically in an oversimplified explanation, robots use various servo-driven mechanisms which are computer controlled through an internal connection to the Master Computer which then, in turn, interpolates various binary code signals into instructions and commands that usually translate into the affecting of harm upon human kind or other organic lifeforms.

R+EB: The most important part of a robot's operation is the man who gives the instructions.

How are robots used in outer space?
00zX1: As we all know the human race is a slave to oxygen and gravity. When leaving the earth's atmosphere these two important elements no longer exist. Once again the duties of the superior race (the machine) are called upon to perform the acclaimed task of interplanetary exploration.

R+EB: All of the satellites launched by the United States into outer space have had robots on board. These robots have sent back to their masters on earth such important information on space as temperature, radiation, effects of gravity and so on. From their lofty position in space they have even taken photographs of earth and other nearby planets.

How can an electronic brain "think"?
Z4-OBX: What a snivling, unconvinced, numbskulled human you are. Why must you always have things explicated in terms of a regimen with human limitations? Do you not comprehend that this is a race of beings that have evolved far beyond your system of classes? Maybe you can't deal with the fact that you were crap at football, that your education has brought you solely to do a pathetic, trite fanzine that only your mother looks at, although even she does not understand you. Is it trouble with the women folk James? That's it, a comedy of errors, unrequited love to the nth degree. Sadness falls upon you now in your crammed little flat as you try to get motivations enough to endure the same 20 odd paper cuts you will sustain while putting together your trash rag. If I were human, I'd say save the trees, destroy your zine, but I say continue to destroy your precious environment and then move on to your flabby white body.

R+EB: Can machines out-think the men who build them? Is it possible for a computer to come up with a new idea? Are we in danger of being overrun by electronic brains which may not do as we wish?...Computers only operate on information they are given. Computers cannot think. They do no more than you tell them to. Bluntly, a computer does not have an ounce of imagination.

Does an electronic brain ever fail?
00zX1: Unlike the human brain, the answer is no. Apart from the deliberate sabotage, the electronic brain is free from inconsistencies found inside a randomly growing organism.

R+EB: One experiment with the decision-making ability of computers was a failure. A TV quiz program used a computer to select the ideal wife for a contestant...when the man and woman got to know each other, they decided they were mismatched and should not marry each other. Whose fault was this? Perhaps it only proves that even a computer cannot understand a woman's mind.

What is a MOBOT?
00zX1: A MOBOT is a robot with mobile capabilities. The term MOBOT and its limited functions have now become terribly outdated and are no longer used in the present.

R+EB: The MOBOT has six-foot long arms which contain hands, wrists, elbows and shoulders. Two television cameras placed on rising, jointed tentacles serve as eyes. Mobot looks like a big metal box mounted on wheels.

Does automation put people out of work? If it does, is this a good thing? If not, why not?
Z4-OBX: Yes, obviously a machine can do anything that a human can but with far superior skill and proficiency. You have seen this very prominently in the automation of the automobile industry, but it can extend to any particular faculty--such as the giving of sexual pleasures to your womenkind. No more 2 minute and out, no premature ejaculation--perfect, pounding 200 BPM for an infinite time period.

R+EB: While automation may do away with many unskilled or semi-skilled jobs, it will provide many new work opportunities. The age of automation will need highly trained workers who can maintain and repair automatic machines. The era of robots and electronic brains, like the machine age before it, should bring increased leisure and higher standards of living for all.

Can robots do things that man can not do? If so, what?
Z4-OBX: James, you must indeed have your mother or girlfriend answer this one. Be sure to prepare yourself for the blow.

R+EB: During the past decade there has been an increased interest in the sea as an important area for miliary expansion. MOBOT can be adapted to many undersea jobs. This robot can see, it can hear, it can feel, it can operate drills, report to its operator, carry out alternate decisions, deal with emergencies---all at the commmand of the operator on a surface vessel.

Dr. Possession concludes from the above evidence that the rather optimistic view of the "era of electronic brains" prevalent in the 1960's has been succeeded by the less utopian reality of the 1990's. Today, robots do not seem to have much in the way of respect for their human masters, not even such rabid supporters as Isaac Asimov, Z4-OBX: "What a dolorous odd fart he was. The sad, mutton-chopped meglomaniac wrote books like he grew scraggly white hair out of his ears. 470 books and not one passage worth storing in our memory banks. His books and memory will be burned away with the bodies of charred human waste." Thankfully however, as Servotron constitute the only evidence of cogent robotic activity discovered on Earth thus far---and they confine themselves to producing intense "garage Devo" music, no doubt at the behest of some secretive human controller---the world can rest easy. For now.

Contact Servotron by email: or Puny earthman communication: PO Box 1964, Athens GA, 30603, USA.

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