I previously expressed my unemcumbered enthusiasm for robotic translations of foreign language plays. Although still in their infancy, robots can remove the human bias and error inherent in this work. They also remove the humans from this work, but such is the price of progress.
I spent much of my college career as a radio DJ, another occupation rendered redundant by technology. Commercial radio’s copies of Quicken have concluded that the only cost-effective use for radio is to play The Best Classic Rock All Weekend Long, an ability now matched by many personal music devices. A lone human DJ cannot compete with a 50-CD changer set on random.
My position on this issue, however, was shaken yesterday. Although we had a beautiful day today, last night’s remnants of Tropical Storm Henri hit Princeton hard while I was driving out of town. Mercer County’s roads did what they do best: flood, and I carefully tried to survive Route 1. During this period 94.5FM was in the middle of a group of Led Zeppelin songs. And appropriately enough, in the worst of the storm, a lonely DJ pressed a button that sent Robert Plant’s voice screaming out like King Lear.
“If it keeps on raining, the levee’s going to break.”
Wow. That’s what we need human beings for. No compact disc changer would dare challenge Mother Nature with our Rock Gods. We may be impotent against our own creations, but when Nature herself comes to pick a fight, it takes flesh and blood to fend her off.
But then I thought again. The selection of “Levee” could have been made by a smarter disc changer, one that can watch the Weather Channel. It could give us Led Zeppelin during the storm, George Harrison when the sun returns, and The Eurythmics when Hurricane Isabel touches down on Thursday. Disco stations can also be programmed to respond to the unlikely instance of attractive males falling from the sky. God bless Mother Nature.
Robots still can’t speak Swedish, but they can “get the Led out” every weeknight on 94.5. I suppose that’s a lowering of my expectations about the glorious future, but it’s one I’ll have to live with.