174 - Evan "Skytree" Snyder on Sound Design for A Robotic Built Wilderness

Ep. 174

This week we're joined by robotics engineer, electronic music producer, and Future Fossils co-founder Evan “Skytree” Snyder — who has recently been asked to help design the sounds made by the next wave of Amazon warehouse robots. In this first part of our discussion, we explore the evolutionary and psychological considerations for designing human-compatible robot sounds, talk brilliant birds and their mimicry of people and machines, and riff on the manipulative utility of cuteness for both good and evil.

In part two, available to Patreon supporters later this week, we talk about Evan’s work to reconstruct the soundscapes of The Age of Dinosaurs, his experiments with using radioactive mineral samples to control modular synthesizers, and his reflections on the use of sound for deep-time communication with future humans and/or extraterrestrials…

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 Related Reading

• Set My Heart To Five by Simon Stephenson

• Unfettered Journey by Gary Bengier

• Alex & Ada by Jonathan Luna & Sarah Vaughn

 The Age of Em: Work, Love, and Life when Robots Rule The Earth by Robin Hanson

• “Smooth Operator: Tuning Robot Perception Through Artificial Movement Sound” by Frederic Anthony Robinson, Mari Velonaki, Oliver Bown

• “The maintenance of vocal learning by gene–culture interaction: the cultural trap hypothesis” by Robert F. Lachlan and Peter J. B. Slater

 Related Listening

• FF 13 - Rupert Till on Ancient Audio & Future Ritual

• FF 29 - Sara Huntley on Raising Robots Right

• FF 53 - Evan Snyder on A Very Xeno Christmas!

• FF 73 - Patricia Gray on BioMusic, The New Science of Our Musical Brains & Biosphere

• FF 149 - Tada Hozumi, Dare Sohei, Naomi Most on Cultural Somatics & Ritual as Justice

• FF 159 - Michael Dowd on Post Doom: Life After Accepting Climate Catastrophe

 Music by Evan “Skytree” Snyder

• “Telomere,” “Minas Gracia,” and “Sanitas” off Infraplanetary

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More Episodes


185 - What Good Is Conversation? Jonathan Rowson, Bonnitta Roy, Jason Snyder, Ashley Colby, & Stephanie Lepp Play Liminal Lingo Bingo Amidst The Metacrisis

Ep. 185
Don't waste another minute here. Go read the full show notes on Patreon!Be forewarned: This latest episode is some extremely heady stuff. But thankfully, it's also full of heart and soul...Back in February, Jonathan Rowson posted two clips (here and here) from his latest in-progress writing tlimito Twitter, where it succeeded in baiting a bunch of the folks with whom I regularly interact as members of the so-called "Liminal Web" into reflecting on the value of partitioning a global boil of loosely-associated "sensemakers," "meta-theorists," and "systems poets" into well-meaning but ultimately dubious cultural taxonomies.I had plenty to say about this (here, here, and here) from my awkwardly consistent stance of being both enthusiastic and skeptical about apparently everything. But so did numerous other brilliant and inspiring people, including Bonnitta Roy, Stephanie Lepp, Ashley Colby, and Jason Snyder –all of whom I've wanted on the show for a while (with the exception of Stephanie, with whom I had a great chat back on episode 154). So I took it upon myself to press for an on-the-record group discussion about the virtue and folly of putting labels on sociocultural processes and networks that are defined by their liminality: Is this ultimately a good thing, or does it just kill the magic in a foolish servility to economic pressures and the desire to be recognized as A Movement?When we finally met at the end of March for our call, the conversation turned to issues with more urgency and gravitas —namely: Is it even helpful to spend all of our time talking about crises and metacrises when there is so much work to be done?What transpired was easily one of the more profound and inspired conversations I've ever had the good fortune to host on this show, although it was also more beset with insane and infuriating technical problems that getting it ready for release took over thirty hours of excruciating editing. I am so immensely glad I am finally done and can get on with my damn life! But also that I get to share this with you and hear what the rest of our scene(s) have to contribute to this discourse.

184 - Henry Gee on The History & Future of Life on Earth (& Much Else!)

Ep. 184
I don't even know where to start with this amazing episode. Henry Gee is the Senior Editor of Nature, the author of many cool science books including his latest, A (Very) Short History of Life on Earth; an accomplished musician; a riveting storyteller and humorous fellow; the Founding Editor of Nature's Futures sci-fi series; and a total joy in conversation. We met to discuss his brilliant tour of evolutionary history past and future, and did, but also occupied a fair bit of our two hours together sharing stories about paleontologists, talking music, gabbing about our love of science fiction, and being ridiculous.I've decided to not bother editing this one because (1) I'm finally getting bold enough to give not-editing a shot; and (2) it was SO VERY ENJOYABLE that I am not sure I could survive a second listen without a second conversation already on the calendar. Consequently, you don't get the normal intensely-detailed show notes, but among the many things we discusses are: synthesizers; feathered dinosaurs; symbiosis as the defining feature of the future of the biosphere; the relationship between good science and good science fiction; why Olaf Stapledon is one of the most important sci-fi authors of the 20th Century; and as I've already said, much else.Visit the episode page on Patreon for a heap of related episodes if this one lights a fire in your mind...✨Housekeeping•If you want to see these conversations thrive,support Future Fossils on Patreonand pleaseleave a good review on Apple Podcasts! As a patron you get extra podcasts each month, book club calls, early access to new writing, art, and music, and special access to our exclusive (and very active) Facebook group and Discord server.•Find and obtain all the books we discuss on this show at the Future Fossils Bookshop.•When you’d rather listen to music, follow meonBandcampand (if you must)Spotify.