Off to Europe: Barcelona, Part Two

Monday, July 18
A long day of conference. My brain is awash with ideas, but I need time to process them all. Keep going back and forth about whether I should rewrite some of the papers I’m working on to take more methods into account. I think I’ll stick with one rewrite, one not. But that’s no fun to talk about… you know what’s more fun than papers? Robot Opera!*

So after the conclusion of main conference events, we are all herded off to Palau de Musica Catalunya, for a “special performance.” The palau is a music hall done in beautiful modern style, part fanciful decorations, part simple geometric forms. The simple parts complement the fanciful bits, and the overall feeling is just short of over-the-top.

The special performance is an opera, written by an AI researcher, composed by a neuroscientist, about a robot. The plot is typical Italian opera plot – jealous husband, stifled wife, amorous third party – except the third party is a robot the husband buys. The robot develops self-awareness, decides to become a musician, and falls in lvoe with the wife, all the while cracking AI-related jokes that sent the audience laughing. I don’t think that a non-computer-science-y audience would have enjoyed the whole thing as much, but overall it exceeded my expectations. The music was really nice, a mix of classical Italian opera music (Rossini) and modern classical stuff (Phillip Glass). The singers were surprisingly good. And the plot, while tongue-in-cheek, managed to toe the line between too serious and completely ridiculous. I started listening thinking I’d get up after act one and run off to the reception, but ended up staying through all three acts.

After special performance I run around reception, talking to people, and then head off to dinner with a colleague. Dinner is an intense one-on-one conversation, mostly about work, though we do eventually relax, and talk about travels (I am happy to discover my colleague has not yet heard the Chechnya story). He tells me about touring the USSR and China in the eighties, and we shake our heads at the Cold War world. Conversation grows more sluggish, and we catch a cab back to the hotel. I drift off to bed with Pendergast.


2 Responses to “Off to Europe: Barcelona, Part Two”

  1. Miguel Garcia Says: NSFW comic about a victorian inventor who is too obsessed with his work to satisfy his wife and hence builds a machine to do it for him. Plan backfires of course.

  2. vlad43210 Says:

    I read and enjoyed 🙂 Not quite as epic as an opera, however…

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