Listener Beth seeks enlightenment about what makes something a photo.
Listener Isaac wants us to judge if a certain “floating bridge” is actually a ferry. This leads, of course, to a discussion of infinite bridges and whether a fairy is a ferry in California.
If robots at a grocery-store warehouse works in tandem, are they robots? If they have a hive mind, are they still robots?
When you see an org chart and money changes hands, your spirituality has become something else.
Should we really spring forward and fall back?
When do you run the dishwasher? Do you rinse the dishes first? And wouldn’t it be nice if our dishwashers were robots?
Do you always start watching at the beginning? And do you have to watch till the end?
Tim Cook thinks that self-driving cars are robots. Does John want to revisit his opinion?
Has the pandemic made John reconsider some of his previous rulings? (One guess.)
Not all pickles are pickles, and not all relish is pickle relish.
Chances are pretty good that the peanut butter you eat is terrible.
A very unfortunate bagel on either side of the Atlantic.
Is a book a bound, printed collection of pages, or is it something more?
On the occasion of the 100th anniversary of the robot, happy stuff: When does the apocalypse start, and when do we reach post-apocalyptic times?
We celebrate our 200th episode by going back to where it all started—news about whether something is a robot or not. Also, we may have inadvertently started a religion. (Congratulations, Listener Eric!)
In the spirit of the season, we discuss when a Christmas tree is dead. (Thanks to Listener Darran.)
Fizzy water. Is it soda, or pop, or a soft drink, or something else?
(Incomparable members also get a bonus episode about Coca-Cola and cocaine, also released today.)
When are we indoors and when are we outdoors? And where do tents fit in?
Is a GIF a video?
(Incomparable members also get a bonus episode about movie studio logos, released today.)
When the definition escapes its antecedent.
When is it a puppet, and when is it just someone in a suit? And what does this mean for the future of Gritty?
If we clone your body and transfer your memories to it, is it you?
You can use this podcast as a pillow, if you like, but it’s still not a pillow.
When a book series hasn’t completed, what does the author owe us?
Beginning in this episode, Chris Pine and Zachary Quinto will be portraying John and Jason. Or not.
Is The Cloud just Other People’s Computers? Watch out for Cloud Men!
Listener James sends us a special message from beneath his blanket.
What’s an Indie Developer, and is John one now? What does it mean to be “indie?”
Is a port a slot? PCMCIA cards have slots, but USB devices have ports. Either way, Jason has to make amends.
Whatever this is called, a lot of us are doing it these days.
But what if they also sell shampoo there?
Morning has broken, like the first… morning?
It’s within walking distance. How far is that?
Where does your finger go when you “swipe right”?
When is it stubble and when is it more?
It’s fundamental, yes. But is it something you can do with your ears?
Is soup a drink? What separates liquids from food?
Does it all come down to the U.S. Postal Service?
Can we differentiate between how people name pets and how they name children? Listeners Rover and Whiskers, drop us a line.
Where do we draw the line between a regular device and a “smart” device?
Listener Luke sent in this week’s theme song. Is it a cover version of our canonical theme song? When is a new version of a song not a cover?
What constitutes family? Blood relatives only? Are friends family? Are co-workers family? Can you escape your family?
Select all the STOREFRONTS to prove that you’re a human.
By popular demand, John has done his research—or maybe not?—and is here to break down what is bacon and what is an impostor.
Prompted by a note from Listener Zach, we discuss the trend of “autonomous food delivery vehicles” on college campuses.
The entire conversation is pants. (The Brits will get that.)
We’ll see you at the Carl’s Jr./Green Burrito/KFC/Taco Bell.
When is it a TV show and when is it a movie? It’s confusing.
If the new “Lion King” film features CGI animals talking with other CGI animals, is it a “live-action” movie or just a different kind of animation? What about a movie like “Avengers: Infinity War”?
What is a “Chick Flick”? Let’s start off by taking apart the term itself.
In a rare topical episode, John and Jason discuss Marty, the tall, googly-eyed robot that may soon be roaming the aisles of a supermarket near you. Does Marty meet the Roomba test? Are the googly eyes fooling anyone?
Is this real or are we in a video game? How can we tell the true nature of the universe?
“Hokey religions and ancient weapons are no match for a good blaster at your side, kid.”
Merry Christmas, everybody!
Choosy mothers pronounce it differently.
Where spreadsheets and databases collide.
“You haven’t done soup yet, have you?”
Smartphones, dumb phones, feature phones, and computers in your pocket.
Slot toasters, toaster ovens, and the definitions thereof.
What makes something a podcast? OMG, are we one?!
Bread is bread, but what about hot dog buns, bagels, tortillas, and pitas?
John is given the opportunity to endorse or reject the rulings of the International Astronomical Union.
John’s worked (and left) a lot of jobs. What’s his personal philosophy about job security versus going it alone as an independent?
The subtle and vexing difference between a nerd and a geek.
What is computer programming? And what doesn’t qualify?
When is a game show a game show, and when is it reality television? Also, we reveal our favorite reality TV show.
Is a Mac a PC? Is an iPad a computer? Does John favor a broad definition or a narrow one?
What makes pasta pasta?
The conundrum of seasons versus eternally pleasant weather.
Bagels are not donuts, people.
Listener Ed, we’ve got bad news.
What makes an animal a pet?
Did both of Jason’s parents both come from the Midwest, or only one? What are the true boundaries of America’s heartland?
From Sour Cream & Onion to BBQ, what are the “real” potato chip flavors?
If you don’t go anywhere, is it a vacation? What if you go somewhere, but you don’t relax?
Is cheesecake cheese, cake, pie, tart, or none of the above? Does the angle of the pan matter? Does crust content matter? Do any of us matter, really?
As recently highlighted on “The Good Place”, it’s a classic ethical conundum that John wants absolutely no part of. And what if the trolley drives itself?
Never believe what a robot tells you.
What makes a movie a holiday movie? How do they celebrate winter holidays in warm climates? Merry Christmas to all, especially in Australia!
Okay, time to call it. Time of death— wait, wait, everybody hold on. How do we define death?
How can we call something alive?
It would seem like ice cream versus frozen yogurt would be the main debate. But the pronunciation of a third competitor completely derails us.
We discuss the names of meals and when they happen, and make an interesting(?) digression into human sleep cycles.
From leafy greens to sugary Jell-O concoctions, all sorts of things are called salads.
Continuing our confused series of episodes about food-related topics, it’s time for John and Jason to talk about Jason’s favorite food style and what happens when you put food on a grill.
If everything can be a smoothie, then nothing is. So we try to define what makes a smoothie and acts as a bulwark against the milkshake.
I don’t know what it is, but I know it when I see it.
We don’t know quite what an old-fashioned donut is, but we know what we like… and what we don’t.
What makes machine intelligence “real AI”? And what is the difference between strong and weak AI?
The very definition of video entertainment from Japan.
What makes something a sport, and not an exercise or a game?
Exploring Jason’s favorite food, what a “favorite food” even is, and the hazy dividing line between condiments and other edibles.
What’s science fiction? And more importantly, is Star Wars science fiction, fantasy, or something else?
Is everything a computer chip? Is nothing a computer chip? Jason thinks this is gonna be good. John thinks it’s obvious.
What is the canon of bagels? Why are some ingredients allowed in an Everything Bagel but not any other bagel style? What makes raisins an acceptable ingredient, yet bars blueberries? Mr. Siracusa, native of the great state of New York, educates Mr. Snell, one of those California hippie types, about what a real bagel is.
What toppings are allowed on pizza? And what about using a knife and fork to eat pizza? There are many rules.
John weighs in on what makes something a pizza, including the horror of the Turkey Dinner Pizza.
Exploring what makes a sandwich, while also discussing the history of food, sandwiches as satire, and the difference between llamas and camels.
John helps Jason figure out the precise moment when a villain becomes a supervillain.
Your hosts return to where it all began and then prepare to set out for new horizons.
(Robot or Not will return in two weeks with a new series of episodes.)
Are John and Jason robots? All will be revealed!
What does a robot do when it gets to a web page with a checkbox that says “I’m not a robot”?
The gate at Jabba’s palace in “Return of the Jedi” talks to droids, or has something inside it that talks to droids. So is it a robot?
They roam the ocean, scanning for important data and relaying their information home. There are no humans on board. Are these lonely sea voyagers robots?
The robotic guardian of the Beams. He looks like a bear but has a satellite dish on his head. He’s a thousand years old.
Game controller, robot, or total embarrassment?
An unadorned iPhone can be a Naked Robotic Core, but is it a robot?
Look who was under the tree! It’s a giant mechanical monster!
Among the fiercest creatures in the machine kingdom are the Battlebots. They’re designed for fighting! But are they really robots, or is that just a clever marketing name?
High school students carry them around and learn what it’s like to be a parent. Or you learn how to revive them by pressing their chest and breathing into their mouths. But are these learning tools also educational robots?
It patrols the mall. Sometimes it knocks over small children.
The HBO series “Westworld” makes us contemplate whether its central characters, the Hosts, are robots or not. (We recorded this episode after the first seven episodes of season one had aired; forgive us if it was revealed later that “To Serve Man” was actually a cookbook.)
A robot slowly turns himself human. When does he stop being a robot?
Sometimes Mario is metallic. Does that make him a robot?
They are boats with paddles. What else are they?
Straight out of “Star Trek” come these technological villains. Also, we discuss larger issues including AIs and hive minds.
It just keeps going, and going, and going….
Little cute robots from “Ghost in the Shell.”
Self-guided rockets and drone barges.
They’re sure tasty, and it’s meat between bread, but are hot dogs sandwiches?
They sure look like robots. But who’s under the masks?
The owl and the snake from “Blade Runner” raise some interesting questions.
A little metal owl from “Clash of the Titans.” Crafted by the gods, can he possibly be a robot?
The robot from “The Day the Earth Stood Still”, plus a long digression into Star Trek androids.
Is all animation “cartoons”?
Two beloved metal creatures from animation.
That “Robo” prefix is sure interesting, and he’s probably a cop, but…
Bender, Calculon, and Hedonismbot.
He fights for the users inside a computer. Can software people be robots?
A fancy “robot arm” from Canada. But when is a robot arm just an arm, and when is it a robot?
Part animal, part machine. But is it a robot?
Please obey robot.
It’s Wimbledon time, and so our discussion turns to tennis, and Serena Williams—who is not a robot, despite her perhaps wishing she was.
Karel Capek’s play that made this podcast possible.
The Country Bears, Chuck E. Cheese, and the things from Five Nights at Freddy’s.
Live from RelayCon WWDC 2016, it’s a special live edition of Robot or Not.
He’s a droid with a cough. So what’s the deal?
They go up, they go down. They might even go sideways from time to time. And they can be smart. But are they robots?
Go go Gadget! Also we get off on a tangent about Penny, inspired by The Flop House.
Please state the nature of the medical emergency. Can a hologram be a robot?
From the AMC TV series “Humans,” the lifelike Synths look like humans but don’t act like it. And they bleed a funny color.
He’s an inflatable, medical robot from “Big Hero 6”—but can you back up your personality and still be a robot?
Our own robot (or not) is in the spotlight at last.
If he only had a heart.
It’s made of liquid metal.
Is it even a game? What if you had a video game that featured a robot?
From Bungie’s bestselling video game, Ghosts, Exos, Rasputin, and other things that might be robots.
A software model of a flatworm, piloting a Lego Mindstorms toy.
Agents and Oracles and Architects from the “Matrix” trilogy.
They listen to us and talk back. But is that enough?
Roy Batty, Pris, and all the rest. They’ve seen the Tannhauser Gate, but are they robots?
Living rail cars in Sodor.
The bots from “Mystery Science Theater 3000.”
Enter the realm of the very, very tiny as John and Jason ponder if size matters when it comes to whether something is a robot or not.
Security expert Bruce Schneier said the Internet of Things was a robot, but what does John think?
You can probably guess.
Two enemies wrapped in metal shells from “Doctor Who” face their ultimate foe—the judgment of John Siracusa.
It’s right there in the name of this character from the acclaimed comic book “Saga,” but as we’ve learned, names can be misleading.
This one seems to have gotten in by mistake.
Things that clean your swimming pool: are they Roombas or just dumb hoses? Also, if a toaster can’t be a robot, can a robot be a toaster?
If the cars in Pixar’s “Cars” movies aren’t cars, what are they, and where did they come from?
Just in time for the holidays, some existential questions. Also, could a robot be on a podcast?
Doctor Who’s clockwork repair droids (from the episodes “Girl in the Fireplace” and “Deep Breath”) come under scrutiny. Sure, they start out as robots, but do they become something else..?
From the Marvel Cinematic Universe, and specifically “Iron Man 3” and “Avengers: Age of Ultron,” deep robot-or-not questions about Iron Man’s suits, Ultron, and the Vision.
A Volkswagen Beetle with a mind of his own!
GlaDOS, Wheatley, turrets, cubes, spheres and more.
She’s a small wonder, pretty and bright with soft curls.
She’s a small wonder, a girl unlike other girls.
She’s a miracle, and I grant you
She’ll enchant you at her sight.
She’s a small wonder, and she’ll make your heart take flight.
She’s fantastic, made of plastic.
Microchips here and there.
She’s a small wonder, brings love and laughter everywhere.
Cloud City’s majordomo from “The Empire Strikes Back” is in the spotlight.
It’s right there in the name, but what about the things that connect to it? And what about when Merlin talks about putting things “in the robot”? We need answers, John!
We take you back to the days of “Buck Rogers in the 25th Century” to debate the show’s two artificial sidekicks.
That little guy from “Short Circuit.”
The blue box from “Doctor Who” might be sentient, might be alive, but is it a robot?
V’ger and the Ilia probe, both from “Star Trek: The Motion Picture”. Also, John complains about fake skin on androids.
The metal robots (and their fleshy successors) from the old and new “Battlestar Galactica.”
What would a toaster have to do in order to be a robot? This episode introduces Siracusa’s Law, which somehow involves kitchen countertops.
The bigfoot/sasquatch from “The Six Million Dollar Man.”
He tried to hitch his way across the country, but was dismembered in Philadelphia.
Image by archier on Flickr.
Are droids robots? Do they have rights? Is the Empire based on a robo-slave economy?
Are we seriously talking about magic here?
Your plastic pal who’s fun to be with!
Is an android a robot?
I know now why you humans cry.
So-called intelligent agents.
From “Ghost in the Shell,” a human brain in a mechanical body. And what about uploaded brains and bodies?
Big robots with people inside, as seen in “Shogun Warriors” and “Pacific Rim.”
The main computer of the USS Enterprise.
The “Knight Rider” car is cool, but is it a robot? What about KITT’s evil twin, KARR? Also, the dark pre-history of Pixar’s “Cars.”
Honda’s ASIMO, Sony’s AIBO, and other cute things that can do The Robot dance. Also, our Radio Shack memories.
Look for the union label.
Does a self-guided vacuum cleaner cross John’s minimum bar for a robot? And what does that have to do with ants and dogs?
They’re funny, but are they robots?
Pondering sentient Google cars, Johnny Cab, and autopilots.
The greatest prog rock album ever made.
John and Jason try to understand robot dogs. Plus, a trip through old “Doctor Who” episodes.
Cyborgs and robots and humans—how do we tell these things apart?
John’s position on supermarket self-checkout machines, Jason’s need for beer when he visits his in-laws, and whether attaching arms to things makes them robots.
We explain why we’re here, and then discuss the protagonist of Styx’s 1983 album “Kilroy Was Here.”