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Author Topic: EP152: The Big Guy  (Read 22591 times)
Darwinist
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« Reply #40 on: April 08, 2008, 09:04:35 PM »

Having said that, I rather enjoyed it, although that may be as much a factor of my lowered expectations.  I was having to take so much of the basketball jargon on trust ("4 blorples, 7 squorks and 59 whibbens would be a record, would it?  Ah-ha, then the game must be going well!"  (As an aside: honestly, you Americans and your obsession with statistics in sport!  Can't you just watch the damn games?)) that I think I found it easier to gloss over some of the other bits that didn't make much sense.  Still, it was fun, an easy listen, and I didn't find the flaws grating.

I've always seen the use of statistics in that sense as a crutch for people to see/know/explain they've seen something extraordinary. It's a lot easier to explain/understand a 93-yard return for a touchdown or a no-hitter than it is to accurately portray what has actually happened in a game. It's been somewhat mollified by ESPN and the other sources of video showing what could only previously be told, but I think it still lingers pretty heavily.

Plus, number-crunching estimates for the next season is something to do during the off-season.

It is getting pathetic, especially in Major League Baseball.  With the advent of PC's and Bill James, instant situational stats are available to managers for any occaision.   Our big dumb Twins manager will often say in the press something like this:  "I'm going to sit Joe Mauer because he's 3 for 15 lifetime against this pitcher on grass at night and instead I'll play this other guy who is 4 for 8 lifetime against this pitcher under the same circumstances."  Ridiculous.  Throw your best guys out there and play the game.

You can't watch a game in any sport now days without being bombarded with a million stupid graphics on screen telling you all kinds of irrelevant information. 

I did like the hoops jargon in the story but not the rest.  And by the way Steve, good timing with the Final Four this weekend. 
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Palmer
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« Reply #41 on: April 09, 2008, 03:17:44 PM »


I wonder if it's a coincidence that there was a seemingly unimportant line in the story about Ralph being able to eat with people that was eerily similar to this line from "The Caves of Steel", an Asimov robot detective book, said by Daneel Olivaw, a robot:
"...Yes I can perform the mechanical operations of chewing and swallowing.  My capacity is, of course, quite limited, and I would have to remove the ingested material from what you might call my stomach sooner or later."
(Daneel even offers a human the food later on because he didn't digest it)


Yes! I caught that one too. Plus one for the geek-o-meter!  Wink
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wakela
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« Reply #42 on: April 09, 2008, 07:40:19 PM »


I wonder if it's a coincidence that there was a seemingly unimportant line in the story about Ralph being able to eat with people that was eerily similar to this line from "The Caves of Steel", an Asimov robot detective book, said by Daneel Olivaw, a robot:
"...Yes I can perform the mechanical operations of chewing and swallowing.  My capacity is, of course, quite limited, and I would have to remove the ingested material from what you might call my stomach sooner or later."
(Daneel even offers a human the food later on because he didn't digest it)


Yes! I caught that one too. Plus one for the geek-o-meter!  Wink

Ditto
Then I thought I was being silly, because it would be logical enough that you would want a robot to be able to eat socially that anyone would have come up with this idea.  Funny that so many of us remembered the same book.
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Brian Deacon
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« Reply #43 on: April 09, 2008, 09:34:07 PM »

I am solidly in the camp of geeks that have absolutely no interest in sports.  Although it didn't feel too much like you really needed to be a sports fan to get something out of it, the whole subject is such a yawner for me that it really detracted from the whole thing for me.

Given that I was looking at the story through not-rose-colored glasses, I am suspicious of how I could evaluate the story aside from that.  But my gut is that it was still a B/B- story.  My sports yawn curved it way lower than that.

As for hackneyed... the worst one for me wasn't any of the SF cliches... it was the missed free throws.

I certainly am glad to see anything pop up that explores the edges of the genre... this just wasn't my cup of tea.
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Tango Alpha Delta
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« Reply #44 on: April 10, 2008, 06:10:31 AM »

(As an aside: honestly, you Americans and your obsession with statistics in sport!  Can't you just watch the damn games?))


This may be off track, but...  why is it that we obsess over sport statistics, but we're still (generally) so bad at mathematics?

As for me, personally, I don't generally care for sports much, either.  I like baseball, and enjoy watching soccer (sorry, non-Americans... but that's what we call it) and lacrosse, but only in small doses.  Having robots injected into any sport would be pointless, in my opinion, because the whole point of the contest is to see how well human beings can do against each other.  I just can't say I'd stop watching... because I'm not watching now!
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« Reply #45 on: April 10, 2008, 09:16:05 AM »

Really enjoyed the story.  Sure robots exploring emotions has been done to death but that's no reason to dismiss new and interesting perspectives on it.  Good reading from Steve also.
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Windup
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« Reply #46 on: April 10, 2008, 04:49:21 PM »


Having robots injected into any sport would be pointless, in my opinion, because the whole point of the contest is to see how well human beings can do against each other


I agree, but not so much because of comparison to other humans, but because for me what's impressive about sports is the display of courage, heart, willingness to suffer, teamwork <insert your favorite endurance sports cliche here>. 

If you had a robotic cyclist climbing Alpe d'Huez and Phil Liggett intoned -- "He's digging down deep..." Into what?  Reserve battery power?  It's impressive when Lance Armstrong (or any other great champion) does it, because you can recognize that he's pouring out energy through sheer force of will in circumstances where any rational person would lay down by the side of the road and take a nap.  But a machine?  Why not just drive to the top and be done with it?

If all that was totally opaque to non-cyclists, sorry... 
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Nobilis
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« Reply #47 on: April 10, 2008, 11:21:48 PM »

So Windup... how do you explain drag racing?

I would TOTALLY watch robotic basketball, if all the players were robots.  If they were self-directed robots, even better.  And I'd be right there listening to the interview with the lead programmer at halftime.
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Bdoomed
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« Reply #48 on: April 10, 2008, 11:47:05 PM »

i found this story entertaining.  I had a feeling he missed those shots for a reason.

however i too found it incredibly implausible that anyone would let some teams have overwhelming advantages over others.  They could have skipped the whole season and just went to the finals.

as for sf fan and sports, i dont love sports, i dont hate them, and id just as soon play a game of football as i would watch a movie.  I dont take interest in following teams and player stats and i dont know anyone's name, but i do enjoy watching a good game from time to time.  it is odd how most sf fans do not take to sports as readily, im glad Steve brought up the topic.
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Bdoomed
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« Reply #49 on: April 10, 2008, 11:48:58 PM »

So Windup... how do you explain drag racing?
i would go with the team's willpower and ingenuity in making a great machine to do the best it can do.  the driver is merely a daredevil to preform the task.  its not so much a physical effort as it is a mental effort to overcome the physical limits.

same with nascar.  its a combination of the team's willpower and the driver's skill
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I'd like to hear my options, so I could weigh them, what do you say?
Five pounds?  Six pounds? Seven pounds?
Windup
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« Reply #50 on: April 10, 2008, 11:50:58 PM »


So Windup... how do you explain drag racing?


You'd have to ask someone who watches drag racing.  

I'm not sure I'd consider it a sport -- which is not to say that some people don't find it entertaining or that there isn't any skill involved. The machines clearly display a high level of ingenuity that some people can appreciate.  But I do say it's fundamentally different than what we get from football, soccer, cycling, polo, etc.  And much less popular, I might add.  

<<Insert by reference long-winded and inconclusive agrument over the precise definition of "sport.">>


I would TOTALLY watch robotic basketball, if all the players were robots.  If they were self-directed robots, even better.  And I'd be right there listening to the interview with the lead programmer at halftime.


Out of curiousity, do you watch basketball now?  Or do you follow any other sport?  

I'm not saying there's anything wrong with being fascinated by machinery; I'm just saying that's a different group, or at least a very different motivation, than the traditional sports fanbase.  
« Last Edit: April 10, 2008, 11:54:01 PM by Windup » Logged

"My whole job is in the space between 'should be' and 'is.' It's a big space."
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« Reply #51 on: April 11, 2008, 06:10:56 PM »


I wonder if it's a coincidence that there was a seemingly unimportant line in the story about Ralph being able to eat with people that was eerily similar to this line from "The Caves of Steel", an Asimov robot detective book, said by Daneel Olivaw, a robot:
"...Yes I can perform the mechanical operations of chewing and swallowing.  My capacity is, of course, quite limited, and I would have to remove the ingested material from what you might call my stomach sooner or later."
(Daneel even offers a human the food later on because he didn't digest it)


Yes! I caught that one too. Plus one for the geek-o-meter!  Wink

Ditto
Then I thought I was being silly, because it would be logical enough that you would want a robot to be able to eat socially that anyone would have come up with this idea.  Funny that so many of us remembered the same book.


Don't know about you, but when I started to get interested in SF, I didn't really have any friends who were into it like me. So I had to look for 'the good stuff' by myself. And I ended up with Asimov almost straight away, if only because of his fame. It's probably like that for a lot of people.

On the other hand, it is funny that something as futile as eating would stand out (I read the Asimov novel at least 15 years ago). Proves how good it was, eh? I mean, I saw I Am Legend tonight and I doubt any recollection will remain by, let's say, next tuesday..... Wink
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Nobilis
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« Reply #52 on: April 11, 2008, 07:27:19 PM »


So Windup... how do you explain drag racing?

...But I do say it's fundamentally different than what we get from football, soccer, cycling, polo, etc.  And much less popular, I might add. 


I would TOTALLY watch robotic basketball, if all the players were robots.  If they were self-directed robots, even better.  And I'd be right there listening to the interview with the lead programmer at halftime.


Out of curiousity, do you watch basketball now?  Or do you follow any other sport? 

I'm not saying there's anything wrong with being fascinated by machinery; I'm just saying that's a different group, or at least a very different motivation, than the traditional sports fanbase. 

I follow all kinds of robotic sports.  Back when "Battlebots" was on TV, I never missed it.  I cheered the challengers and booed the returning champions as if they were sentient creatures.  I debated the relative merits of flippers vs. wedges vs. spinners with my friends.

Same with "Robot Wars" which I actually thought was a better show, especially with Craig Charles, who was the best presenter by far in my opinion.  I especially liked the concept of the "House Robots" because they basically could mount weapons beyond what the competitors could mount, and really put the hurt on.  The British engineers were real characters, too.

Robot combat has a good deal of human skill involved... not only in the design and engineering, but "driving" the machine as well.  Of course, if those machines were self-directed, you take the "driving" skill out and replace it with "programming"... but the sport is not much changed.

Sadly, there's not much left of robot sports on TV.  I hope it eventually comes back.
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Windup
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« Reply #53 on: April 11, 2008, 09:57:38 PM »


Robot combat has a good deal of human skill involved... not only in the design and engineering, but "driving" the machine as well.  Of course, if those machines were self-directed, you take the "driving" skill out and replace it with "programming"... but the sport is not much changed.


I'm not saying that there isn't any human skill involved with the design or "driving" of robots, just that it's a different order of skills than the ones that sports fans generally turn out to see.  "Programming" is even further removed from that skill set. 

And, as your lament over the demise of "robot sports" on TV seems to indicate, the group that's interested in the robot-related skills is much smaller than the group that follows most major sports.

Which, gets us back to TAD's original point -- I don't think most basketball fans would take well to having human players replaced by robots. 

(Hey TAD, get in here and defend your own assertions...  All I did was agree...)
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Tango Alpha Delta
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« Reply #54 on: April 12, 2008, 12:15:53 PM »

So Windup... how do you explain drag racing?

I'm always amazed that the racers don't trip on their feather boas and stiletto heels....


I would TOTALLY watch robotic basketball, if all the players were robots.  If they were self-directed robots, even better.  And I'd be right there listening to the interview with the lead programmer at halftime.
...

Robot combat has a good deal of human skill involved... not only in the design and engineering, but "driving" the machine as well.  Of course, if those machines were self-directed, you take the "driving" skill out and replace it with "programming"... but the sport is not much changed.


I'm not saying that there isn't any human skill involved with the design or "driving" of robots, just that it's a different order of skills than the ones that sports fans generally turn out to see.  "Programming" is even further removed from that skill set. 

And, as your lament over the demise of "robot sports" on TV seems to indicate, the group that's interested in the robot-related skills is much smaller than the group that follows most major sports.

Which, gets us back to TAD's original point -- I don't think most basketball fans would take well to having human players replaced by robots. 

(Hey TAD, get in here and defend your own assertions...  All I did was agree...)


Taking Nobilis's fine defence (or defense... I can't remember which dialect I speak any more) of robot sports into account, I would have to say I'd probably be MORE interested in watching sports if the teams were made up of robotic players.  Well, most sports, anyway.

I wouldn't see any point in having humans compete against robots, for some of the reasons outlined so eloquently above.  Robots lack the "heart" that provides most of the drama; and building in design flaws or handicaps for the sake of making it *possible* for humans to compete would feel as much like cheating as, say, using steroids.

EXCEPT for baseball... I suspect there are enough variable built into the average baseball game to make the outcome between a human team and a team with robots an open question.

(See... I'm payin' attention!)
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Rain
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« Reply #55 on: April 14, 2008, 10:57:17 AM »

I liked the story, it was nice
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Roney
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« Reply #56 on: April 22, 2008, 03:27:34 PM »

Thinking about this story again (and in the context of PodCastle starting), I'm reminded of Isaac Asimov saying that he always aspired to the writing of Fantasy but found it much more difficult than Science Fiction.  [Sorry: that's paraphrased to the extent of misquoting but I don't have the source to hand.]  I always interpreted this as meaning that you can distract a reader of SF from the deficiences (of plot or character or prose) of a story with a sufficiently cool idea, and his bibliography attests that Asimov was never short of cool ideas.  Whereas Fantasy is SF without a safety net, and needs a much more rounded depiction of a make-believe world to carry the story.

By staking itself on one idea, "The Big Guy" lived or died by how cool you found it.  (By "idea" I mean "physically superior robot is more interested in emotions, to inhuman extremes".)  If this is something that you think is always interesting to explore, or at least can bear study from a slightly different angle, then the story's OK.  If you think it's been done to death or too closely follows a previous treatment, it's pointless and frustrating.  But take away the central idea and there's nothing left at all.  In Fantasy you'd feel the emptiness so acutely that the story would never make it past the slush pile; in SF there's kinda something there in the technology-meets-today theme that makes it worth consideration.

I still like the story, and EP does (and should) lean towards the fun stuff, but good SF is better than this.
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eytanz
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« Reply #57 on: April 25, 2008, 04:47:25 AM »

Ok, I'm a latecomer to this story - I just found it difficult to prioritize listening to it very highly over the last few weeks, so it sat on my iPod for a while - but now that I've got around to it, I agree with the "well told, but not very interesting, and feels over-constructed" sentiment I've been getting from other posts on this thread.

One thing that bothered me that hasn't been getting much attention is how implausible this story is - not in the setup (which was discussed above) but in the way the characters react. Strangely for a story about emotions, no-one seems to really have much of those regarding the robot - none of the players seems to resent the robot, or worry about eventually losing their job when all-robot teams become popular, or treat the robot in any way other than as if it's totally natural there suddenly is one on the team. Also, after a whole season of seeing him play perfect games, no-one - not the team members, not the coach, not the media - realizes he threw the last two shots?

Oh well.
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Tango Alpha Delta
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« Reply #58 on: April 26, 2008, 09:21:14 AM »

Ok, I'm a latecomer to this story - I just found it difficult to prioritize listening to it very highly over the last few weeks, so it sat on my iPod for a while - but now that I've got around to it, I agree with the "well told, but not very interesting, and feels over-constructed" sentiment I've been getting from other posts on this thread.

One thing that bothered me that hasn't been getting much attention is how implausible this story is - not in the setup (which was discussed above) but in the way the characters react. Strangely for a story about emotions, no-one seems to really have much of those regarding the robot - none of the players seems to resent the robot, or worry about eventually losing their job when all-robot teams become popular, or treat the robot in any way other than as if it's totally natural there suddenly is one on the team. Also, after a whole season of seeing him play perfect games, no-one - not the team members, not the coach, not the media - realizes he threw the last two shots?

Oh well.

Everyone was just bored, because... be honest, who wants to see basketball played "perfectly" all the time?
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« Reply #59 on: May 10, 2008, 07:39:03 PM »

Given this episode's intro and the direction the comments have headed towards ... I figured it was an appropriate time to chime in.  Smiley

I wondered across Escape Pod when episode 13 had just come out (The Once and Future Dentist) and have been addicted every since. I've been a Sci-Fi geek since I was in the third grade and now I like NASCAR so much ... I co-host a NASCAR podcast.

So I represent the segment of the population that cocks it's head to on side and says "Huh? What's the big deal?" anytime someone questions combining sports and sci-fi.

That being said ... this was not my favorite story by Mr. Resnick. Knowing how regulated professional sports are ... the premise that a pro-sports league would allow robots (especially to allow just some teams to have them) was distracting.

From that aspect, you might enjoy this story more if you AREN'T a sports fan.

Also, the whole "Wanting the whole experience" thing made the ending pretty obvious.


justaJ0e
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