Rage for the machine

Techno group Mobius Dick take on Bill Joy and his apocalyptic view of technology's future in a new tune on MP3.com.

By Damien Cave
Published April 12, 2000 4:00PM (EDT)

"Give Peace a Chance," "We are the World" -- and now "Embrace the Machine." Using computer-altered voices laid over sci-fi sound effects from the 1950s, a new tune by techno group Mobius Dick tries to carry on the tradition of rallying support for a social cause through song. Its social cause? Technology.

The lyrics point to no rage against the machine -- but to a critique of Bill Joy and his fears of a future world overwhelmed by robots and technological innovation. Joy, Sun Microsystems co-founder and chief scientist, has been warning his colleagues that innovations in nanotechnology, robotics and genetics could become as dangerous, if not more so, than the atomic bomb. But Mobius Dick's frontman, who uses the stage name "A.G. Android," thinks Joy is mistaken and paranoid.

"Machines are already your servants," the Nashville musician croons on the track that made it into the top 20 "intelligent techno songs" on MP3.com. "In time they will be your friends, perhaps even your lovers."

"Android" says he whipped the song out immediately after reading Joy's "fear-mongering" essay in the April issue of Wired magazine. "Some kind of change is inevitable and people need to think about what kind," he says. "But inducing fear in others just won't cut it. There are a lot of options out there and we need to see what they are and decide what we want."

Mobius Dick is on a roll with technology commentary in its techno songs. This week it posted "Indistinguishable from Magic," a little ditty proclaiming that technology is magic. This one, too, is a response to Joy's call for halting some technology research until we can better manage the potential dangers. "Android" argues that slowing innovation could delay some of the great benefits new technologies may bring -- and the best way he's found to get his message out is to sing it.

"Of course the future seems scary now," says a computer-altered version of Android's voice in "Embrace the Machine." "But these cheesy science-fiction sound effects were scary to your parents and grandparents, when science and the atom seemed scary and new. Now those old movies seem homey and reassuring. That's how it will be for your children and grandchildren. Cloning seems frightening now. One day it will seem ... quaint."

Damien Cave

Damien Cave is an associate editor at Rolling Stone and a contributing writer at Salon.

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