There are many pressing issues that weigh on the mind of our young student population: the war in Iraq, the upcoming elections, the deaths of Jacques Derrida and Christopher Reeve, beer-but in lieu of all that (except, perhaps, the latter-most) I’d like to talk about something that’s been bothering a burgeoning group of people: the nature of Jacob O. Gold. Is he a robot? It may very well be so. As he unwittingly goes about his daily business, the evidence mounts against him. How does one explain the continuous torrent of conversation? The academic excellence? The lack of discernible emotional range? What the “O.” stands for? In the words of Bertie Wooster, “the mind boggles.”
Here is a theory, promulgated by one Ari Samsky:
ARI SAMSKY: I think his brain is like a TI-83…
ELIZABETH HASTINGS ROSSITER: But didn’t he win that Shapiro award?
ARI SAMSKY: …an Apple IIGS??
Clearly, if J. Gold had a theme song, it would be “Domo Arigato, Mr. Roboto,” by Styx. The wailings of Dennis DeYoung poignantly express the plight of young (new?) Gold, struggling to find his way in a world he can only begin to understand:
DeYOUNG: My blood is boiling/ My brain IBM
GOLD: Yo yo yo! So are you talking about music? You know Phillip Glass, you know what I’m saying? John Adams? Whatever, whatever…
See the resemblance? I thought so.
Indeed, Gold’s brain is IBM. Some have even speculated whether Gold is equipped with a wireless Internet connection, as his responses often seem to be conducted in the manner of a Google search. Take this conversation I had with him over the summer:
JOG: Yo yo yo! I’m hanging out with my peeps, you know what I’m saying? What’s up?
EHR: I was sleeping.
JOG: Yeah yeah yeah, so do you know (insert name of random person who attended our high school)?
JOG: Do you know (some other rando)?
JOG: Do you know (rando)?
…some 5 minutes later
EHR: I’m tired. You wanna hang out some other time?
JOG: Whatever, whatever, you know what I’m saying?
He asked me about every person at the party, well after it became clear that I would know none of them. But, if you reframe the discourse in robotic terms, he was simply exhausting all the possibilities, algorithmically, as a robot would.
Gold’s relentless robot logic continues even while ostensibly intoxicated. On “Edward Fortyhands” night, I, riotously drunk, confronted J. O. Gold, repeatedly punching his arm and saying “You’re a robot” or words to that effect. At the time, Gold pacified me with the argument that he is a happy-go-lucky guy, who just loves life too much to let things like “moods” get in his way. Now, considerably more sober, I see this response for the robotic cunning that it is. Clearly, it is a pre-programmed defense mechanism for use in just such a confrontation. The fact that he refrained to elaborate when pressed further supports this claim. Pre-programmed robotic responses only go so far.
Though the signs are subtle, they are present in almost every interaction with young Gold. Earlier this week, during an excursion to Brooklyn in search of delicious Georgian food, Gold was confronted with his repeated use of stock phrases, e.g. “yo yo yo” and “you know what I’m saying?” In response, he claimed that he simply did not know where they came from. Is this a denial of sentience? Are these conventions so firmly embedded in his basic programming that he can, fundamentally, have no understanding of their existence? Who could create such a fabulous machine? The world may never know.
As my final piece of evidence, I present the following conversation:
EHR: Is Jacob Gold a robot?
A BUNCH OF PEOPLE: Yeah, I guess.
DEUS EX MACHINA!
Jacob O. Gold, then, stands as a symbol of the dream first propagated by Isaac Asimov in “I, Robot”: the robot that can live among us. But unlike R. Daneel Olivaw, the hero of Asimov’s The Caves of Steel and many others, such as Lieutenant Commander Data of Star Trek: The Next Generation, Gold’s humor subroutines need no adjustment.
So, Domo Arigato, Mr. Roboto. Here’s to you, Jacob O. Gold, for being funny. Your unique brand of robot humor brings joy and amusement to the lives of many. If you are, indeed, the future of artificial intelligence on this planet, then the future is bright, indeed. So bright, in fact, that you gotta wear shades. Those goofy ones.
Special thanks to Ari Samsky, a Bunch of People, Styx, and, of course, Jacob O. Gold, who, although he did not put me up to this little article, approved this message, and even found it amusing.