Author Topic: EP152: The Big Guy  (Read 31581 times)

stront

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Reply #25 on: April 07, 2008, 06:43:37 PM
Definitely the weakest story I have heard so far on Escape Pod.  The whole robot-emotions thing had been done to death years ago.

Poor show.



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Reply #26 on: April 07, 2008, 08:45:00 PM
Implausible (for all the reasons already stated), but I wasn't expecting to like this story from the get-go, but I found it somewhat entertaining, and really the redeeming point for the whole story was the concept that emotions make you play better. I totally buy that concept. And if it makes you play better… well, there's a lot of ground for thought and discussion.



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Reply #27 on: April 07, 2008, 09:08:05 PM
This one really didn't do much for me.  Maybe I need to check my nerd credentials, but I just don't dig robots, though I am a sports fan.  I couldn't buy the idea of a bunch of atheletes blandly accepting a mechanical teammate, no questions asked, especially if it involved the benching of a valuable and respected team member.  Speaking from personal experiance, I just don't get that part.  It made me wonder if Mr. Resnick had any personal experiance with team sports.
There were other issues, (How does a non-organic entity generate emotions?  Why are decision-making and emotions interdependent?  Wouldn't a pro-level coach be good enough not to use the same speech over and over again?), but the above killed this one right out of the gate for me.



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Reply #28 on: April 07, 2008, 09:40:43 PM
I'm am a sports fan, though mostly to one sport, professional football.  I follow the Skins pretty closly, and identify with their ups and downs.  I did not like this story much.

I think one problem is that it did not feel real, to quote my own emotions.  It partially had to do with the lack of emotion the fans and players had to working with the robot.  Except the narrator's final outburst, it appears the robot had more emotion than anyone else.  Yet, even those emotions felt fake.  The robot appeared to emulate emotions, but not really experience them.  He did not even question why he did not want to get rid of the negative emotions.  It seemed like he'd be smart enough to have learned that negative emotions are rarely exquisite or enjoyed.  I'd think he would question why he enjoyed those emotions, not disdain them.

I also think it had to do with the mind-numbing bridge from the season beginning to the play-offs.  I did not like the way it was so quickly glossed over as a narrative, though I understand why it was done.  Not much time to cover a season.  But I can't help but thinking it could have been handled better.



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Reply #29 on: April 07, 2008, 11:35:31 PM
I usually don't like Resnick stories.  I didn't not like this one, but I didn't really like it either.  Robots and emotions is very well-worn ground.   I noticed that Jordan was not mentioned in the list of Basketball greats, so that dates the story in a time when maybe robots and emotions was a more interesting topic.  But after Star Trek's Data, I don't get anything out of them.




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Reply #30 on: April 08, 2008, 03:50:22 AM
The story started off strong for me, but quickly deteriorated into cliche'd predictability.  Saw the ending coming a mile away.

Too similar to the classic Twilight Zone episode "The Mighty Casey"

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Mighty_Casey

Where another robot athlete throws the game because of human emotion.

(and what's with the names?? Jocko?? Fishbait, Scooter?
« Last Edit: April 08, 2008, 03:52:06 AM by glucoseboy »



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Reply #31 on: April 08, 2008, 10:09:43 AM
Naja... slightly whatever to me. I'm not a huge fan of Resnick myself (am I going to get lynched here for that? Normally his storylines just don't flick my switch). I found this one a rehash of other "robots finding their warm and fuzzies" stories, and, like many other commentors, found the reaction of the team and the public unbelievable. It was just a little bit too constructed to show off an already overdone idea.

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Reply #32 on: April 08, 2008, 11:23:38 AM
I didn't really care for the story.  It felt like a Resnick story -- that is, it isn't really all that surprising when the twist comes, and you kind of probably predicted it anyway.  There were too many adverbs (or, at least, I kept hearing them).  I realize that the editorial staff of EP is a fan of Mike Resnick, or at least likes the way he writes, but this may not have been the best story of his to post.  I didn't have a problem with the science or the implausibility factor others have referenced; I just didn't care too much for the telling.

As for the reading... I realize the POV was a 6'10 basketball player, but the narrator's voice was more kitschy and annoying than anything else.  Ralph's voice was good though.

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bryanw

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Reply #33 on: April 08, 2008, 06:04:21 PM
I wonder if this story was an homage to Asimov's classic "Three Laws" short stories.  For those of you who haven't read these stories (shame on you!  ;) ), here's a brief rundown of their general template along with my reasoning:

  • Present a world in which robots have the Three Laws (basically, they do what they're told and don't hurt people):
    Although not explicit in the story, I think this was implied.  Pre-emotions Ralph (The Big Guy) was polite, did exactly what he was told, and showed no signs of being aggressive towards people, even when being fouled in basketball games.
  • Present a robot who has a modified form of the Three Laws (i.e., they can break the rules):
    Clearly, modifying Ralph to give him emotions-- and apparently also free will-- fulfilled this step! He was able to disobey orders (running away, playing poorly in basketball) and able to hurt people (he fouled). 
  • Explore the Rammifications of that modification:
    As mentioned in the last bullet, we see Ralph disobeying.  Moreover, we see that by giving robots emotions they are motivated to disobey in order to experience some emotions, which is a very interesting consequence of the modification.

If my thoughts make sense and The Big Guy was indeed intended to be a "Three Laws" story, then I think it pulled off the template pretty well.  It was nice to hear a new spin (robots in basketball) on a familiar concept.

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)
« Last Edit: April 08, 2008, 06:07:35 PM by bryanw »



ScottC

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Reply #34 on: April 08, 2008, 06:30:46 PM
To me, it seems Resnick needed a situation where Ralph could cause powerful emotions in himself and others.  By choosing basketball, it seems like a quickie crutch to resolve this.  Ignoring the obvious reaction someone would feel being replaced and then asked to essentially train your replacement and the whole massive effect of allowing robots into professional sports really does weaken the piece.  Jacko's assumsion that Ralph will learn his lesson when some girl breaks his 'heart' after he just destroyed the dreams of an entire team doesn't come off as thought out.

And if you were to buy a presumeably multi-million dollar robot, wouldn't you expect a GPS unit to come standard?



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Reply #35 on: April 08, 2008, 09:30:52 PM
I didn't really like this story. Certainly the implausibility of the plot was a problem, but I just didn't care about any of the characters. 

The lamp flared and crackled . . .
And Nevyrazimov felt better.


Roney

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Reply #36 on: April 08, 2008, 09:57:09 PM
To me, it seems Resnick needed a situation where Ralph could cause powerful emotions in himself and others.  By choosing basketball, it seems like a quickie crutch to resolve this.

Agreed.  I think a lot of the points that have caused people problems come from plausible world-building being sacrificed for the sake of making a point.  It's a short story, not a novel, so I expect it to have one focus rather than several, but when every character and technology exists merely to guide the plot forward in its tidy channel, it's bound to feel a bit flat.

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.



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Reply #37 on: April 08, 2008, 10:02:07 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.

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CGFxColONeill

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Reply #38 on: April 08, 2008, 11:21:33 PM
I wonder if this story was an homage to Asimov's classic "Three Laws" short stories.  For those of you who haven't read these stories (shame on you!  ;) ), here's a brief rundown of their general template along with my reasoning:

  • Present a world in which robots have the Three Laws (basically, they do what they're told and don't hurt people):
    Although not explicit in the story, I think this was implied.  Pre-emotions Ralph (The Big Guy) was polite, did exactly what he was told, and showed no signs of being aggressive towards people, even when being fouled in basketball games.
  • Present a robot who has a modified form of the Three Laws (i.e., they can break the rules):
    Clearly, modifying Ralph to give him emotions-- and apparently also free will-- fulfilled this step! He was able to disobey orders (running away, playing poorly in basketball) and able to hurt people (he fouled). 
  • Explore the Rammifications of that modification:
    As mentioned in the last bullet, we see Ralph disobeying.  Moreover, we see that by giving robots emotions they are motivated to disobey in order to experience some emotions, which is a very interesting consequence of the modification.

If my thoughts make sense and The Big Guy was indeed intended to be a "Three Laws" story, then I think it pulled off the template pretty well.  It was nice to hear a new spin (robots in basketball) on a familiar concept.

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)


I am glad to see I was not the only one who saw the Asimov references in this story
and ya I agree with the people said about the story not making much sence but I found it fairly easy to suspend my disbelief
maybe it is just cause I enjoy robot stories in many forms
not to say it was a great story just that it was not bad 

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Steven Saus

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Reply #39 on: April 08, 2008, 11:42:51 PM
Mike Resnick delivered a story that was pretty predictable, yet told so well that I found myself enjoying it anyway. 

Which is a better hallmark of a tale-teller than original ideas any day.

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Darwinist

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Reply #40 on: April 09, 2008, 02:04:35 AM
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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Reply #41 on: April 09, 2008, 08:17:44 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!  ;)



wakela

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Reply #42 on: April 10, 2008, 12:40:19 AM

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!  ;)

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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Reply #43 on: April 10, 2008, 02:34:07 AM
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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Reply #44 on: April 10, 2008, 11:10:31 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, 02:16:05 PM
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.



Windup

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Reply #46 on: April 10, 2008, 09:49:21 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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Reply #47 on: April 11, 2008, 04:21:48 AM
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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Reply #48 on: April 11, 2008, 04:47:05 AM
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.

I'd like to hear my options, so I could weigh them, what do you say?
Five pounds?  Six pounds? Seven pounds?


Bdoomed

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Reply #49 on: April 11, 2008, 04:48:58 AM
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

I'd like to hear my options, so I could weigh them, what do you say?
Five pounds?  Six pounds? Seven pounds?