For the 2010 Human Computing Christmas Party, we had a big Rock Band 3 party over at Casa Bickford. It wound up being the usual silly-good-time full of merriment, missed notes, and off-pitch singing, but the whole thing was nearly scrapped when my Sony Receiver apparently achieved sentience and tried to shut the party down.
Yes, all those years it had spent dutifully processing sound for everything from Project Runway to Fallout had apparently given an ordinary Sony STR-DG510 stereo receiver the necessary input to achieve a sort of intelligence of its own. But, as Neil later theorized, it must have still have been bound by Asimov’s 1st Law of Robotics (“A robot may not injure a human being or, through inaction, allow a human being to come to harm.”).
Thus, as several alcohol-energized partiers wielding plastic instruments were about to launch into Blondie’s “One Way or Another”, the receiver sprung into action and immediately abruptly cut off the sound, flashing a one-word message on its matte-black, minimalistic display: “PROTECT”.
Stunned by this act of apparent free will on the part of a faithful piece of electronic equipment, we performed that most cherished of tech rituals: turning the power off and on. Once again the receiver was apparently back to its old dependable self…until the first guitar strum of the song. Then, as before, the sound suddenly muted and the Sony glared enigmatically at us, “PROTECT” flashing insistently on its display.
“Oh, if only we had some engineers around who might be able to solve this…” I wailed in mock anguish. Knowing, of course, that this pretty much described half the attendees in our geekified little gathering. After a flurry of rewiring and patching, we soon managed to route around the troublesome receiver and kick into probably the most tragic rendition of Bohemian Rhapsody ever heard in our–or any other–reality.
But what the heck: WE had fun, and our poor, suddenly sentient receiver’s efforts to save the Multiverse had come to naught. As it was replaced the next day, my newish Mitsubishi TV also decided that it had had enough and began blinking out a pathetic, “Just kill me already” signal which the repairman interpreted as a sign that its brain had melted. It must have been that version of Motörhead’s “Ace of Spades” we attempted…