A Robot? Doesn’t Look Like Anything to Me…

Did you watch Westworld? Enjoy all the twists, and the accompanying guesswork about who might secretly be a…. host? I wanted to write robot there, but a few episodes into the series I noticed that none of the characters seemed to have used the word robot, and I guessed that over the course of the season none of them would (I wasn’t paying very close attention to see if anyone did or not, but I don’t recall noticing the word). Which might seem a little odd, because it’s a series all about robots. Cowboy robots. Most of the characters we see are robots. And they meet the criteria according to the two definitions in the OED:

  • A machine capable of carrying out a complex series of actions automatically, especially one programmable by a computer
  • (especially in science fiction) a machine resembling a human being and able to replicate certain human movements and functions automatically

But they’re always referred to as hosts. But then, that doesn’t really seem that odd. Because it’s prestige television, and robot isn’t really a prestige word, is it? And I don’t mean to be critical of the producers’ attitude, because I understand their aversion to the word. Because robot just sounds a bit silly, doesn’t it?

It shouldn’t, because it’s a perfectly legitimate word that describes real-life machines that make a lot of our favourite products. But when you hear the word robot, you probably don’t picture this: Continue reading

The Language of Division

It feels like ages since I’ve written anything, but I’ve had a well-earned holiday. First a few days in Barcelona, which is a fantastic vibrant city full of great sights and food, which is really all I ask for.

I arrived back in Dublin on Sunday evening, but I didn’t go straight back to Galway. Instead, I extended my holiday with a few days in Northern Ireland. Even though it’s ridiculously close, it was actually only the second time I’ve crossed the border. I think the main reason for that is because when I was young, there were regularly stories about the violence and terrorism taking place there. Even though the situation’s vastly improved now and it’s all very peaceful up there, I think I’ve still been influenced by the less-than-attractive image of the region’s past. I think before I continue, a (very!) brief history is in order. Continue reading