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    The Umbrella Academy's Mother and Pogo: The Role of Non-humans and the Elimination of the Backstory

    Both the comic and TV series "The Umbrella Academy" include the a robotic AI that looks and acts like the mother of the Umbrella Academy children and a hyper-intelligent chimpanzee that acts like a mentor/sidekick/Alfred character for the children. The comic series minimizes the role of Mother, however, while it maximizes the role of intelligent chimpanzees. We see chimpanzees all over the Umbrella Academy comic world taking on every role that humans normally do.

    Why the difference between the two, and why do either of them include these figures in the first place? Why do the children have a robotic mother and a chimpanzee butler? How did these characters come about in the logic of the comic/series and why? What does the elimination of their backstories mean for the TV show/comic series?

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      Latest Comments

      I think you are onto something, Stephani and Greathouse, that Lousands gets at by calling the robot version of AI a red herring.

      It’s like when Baudrillard says that “Watergate is not a scandal.” That’s how I think of the friendly chatbot AI. We think we have solved the “problem” of the dangerous AI: “Look! Our AI isn’t dangerous! It’s a friendly chatbot! Move along!” We have solved the scandal! We brought it out into the light and fixed it.

      But the friendly chatbot hides the electric military industrial complex that is the real scandal. The real problems are still out there. The chatbot was a fake scandal.

      Artificial Intelligence and The Robotic Red Herring

      Mad Men appears to be a great example of Jameson’s “nostalgia film,” as described in “Postmodernism, Or, the Cultural Logic of Late Capitalism”: the show isn’t “some old fashioned ‘representation’ of historical content, but instead approached the ‘past’ through stylistic connotation, conveying ‘pastness’ by the glossy qualities of the image” (19). By using the past for his own ends, Weinder moves the show beyond representation. It’s more like a damaged copy of a copy that resembles the original past but is nearly so unlike the original past as to be misidentified.

      Mad Men, The Newsroom & The Power of Nostalgia

      Anyone interested in a discussion about the dangers and probability of AI should check out Harry Collins’s book Artifictional Intelligence. He basically concludes that an AI that is indistinguishable from a human is impossible with our current science. He doesn’t say it will never be possible, but we will have to have a breakthrough in science before we can get there.

      X-Men's Mutants and The Rise of AI: A Reflection on a New Dominant Entity

      Having seen Terminator 2, as well, I think that makes me even more qualified. And I agree: Nothing to worry about. Nothing at all.

      X-Men's Mutants and The Rise of AI: A Reflection on a New Dominant Entity

      I’m late to this piece and to Mad Men in general, but I really enjoyed your piece, Jon Lisi.

      I wonder about a couple of things though:

      1. I love your conception of going along with narrative elements and not criticizing the characters’ choices within a show. If a character acts “out of character,” we can assume that it actually WAS in character and our idea of the character was too limited. I think that is a great way to think about characters. However, this brings me to my next point.

      2. When is it okay to discuss whether one should invest in a show that one is new to? In other words, people discuss “good” and “bad” to often mean they like or dislike a show or an episode. With so many shows to watch, even so many “quality TV shows,” we have to have a way to judge what we should invest in. I wonder when it is appropriate in your schema to make those judgments, even when they are personal and not public. Likewise, is it okay to say or even think that we don’t like a particular episode or a particular character’s action or a particular narrative thread?

      Provocative stuff.

      Mad Men and the Limitations of Television Criticism