Dr. Phineas Waldolf Steel is a mentally twisted but awe-inspiring figure whose interests span the production of propaganda, the construction of chronically malfunctioning robots, puppet shows, and an ongoing attempt to become World Emperor for the purpose of turning this planet into a Utopian Playland.
His growing movement aims to move beyond conflict and war to forge a world that makes fun the top priority. His multi-faceted persona is an example of what people can do when they are highly creative in a variety of cultural areas.
Dr. Steel is an entertainer, leader, musician, artist, and thinker. If you’re interested in finding out more about him, check out his website. The laboratory in the toyland section is particularly entertaining. As an independent artist, Dr. Steel hasn’t sold out to any record companies yet, though I’m sure that he would accept a big contract if it were part of his master plan for world domination. His music has been described as “hip-hop industrial opera”, which is correct in the abstract, though I’d also add “experimental”. Imagine nerdcore intermixed with assorted sampling, nutty beatboxing, guitars, reed instruments, choirs, and an accordion.
Dr. Steel is no stranger to transhumanism, as you’ll see in our interview. He has written songs called “Build the Robots” and “The Singularity” that serve as his odes to all things robotic and post-biological. You can get the mp3s from his latest album here, or all three here. Dr. Steel is one among a growing group of transhumanist musicians and artists.
In a world of pre-packaged, corporatized, formula-driven entertainment, I find Dr. Steel to be refreshingly different and rebellious. I was so intrigued by his self-presentation and approach to the world that I had to sit down and ask him a few questions. They begin below the image.
Accelerating Future (AF): Dr. Steel, have you heard of transhumanism? Do you consider yourself a transhumanist?
STEEL: Absolutely, I do consider myself a transhumanist. The desire to transcend biology, as Ray Kurzweil is known for saying, remains at the forefront of my consciousness. I am frequently frustrated with the limitations of my current, physical form and I foresee great possibilities as we evolve into electronic life.
AF: Some of us think that the fastest way to get really useful robots is to build an artificial intelligence that designs these robots for us. Given your checkered past in robot development, have you considered this option?
STEEL: Indeed, there will come a time when artificial super intelligence will be able to out-think and out-perform us. To see “the robots building robots building robots” is one way of refining the evolution and development of technology based life. However, I am most interested in integrating our consciousness into this technology. To be able to back-up one’s brain and utilize this as the basis of such creations will allow us to integrate ourselves into the next step of existence. Our creativity is our greatest power, and in fact this is what I believe the true purpose of the universe is; to create. Humans have been able to harness this ability in unique ways and to build upon that by upgrading ourselves will be the key to moving into a new field of infinite possibilities.
AF: In your video of robotics you mention nanotechnology. If you could use advanced futuristic nanobots for one application, what would it be?
STEEL: Oh goodness, there are so many possibilities. Though, for the fun factor I would have to go with the use of foglets. These clusters of nanobots programmed to manifest in their designated form could prove very useful indeed. Be it the replication of a Tyrannosaurus Rex or a very comfortable arm chair, foglets could provide hours of maniacal entertainment.
AF: One of the biggest challenges of space travel would be isolation from the bulk of society and absence of an Internet connection. What would you do to amuse yourself on a long journey through space?
STEEL: It’s interesting, what you describe as a challenge reads a bit like a vacation in my book. I would, however, require a great deal of reading and writing material. Such a journey would certainly give me the time to complete my illustrated manifesto….oh, and I would need an accordion as well.
AF: Even among those of us that are obsessed with the amazing potential of artificial intelligence and the coming Singularity, we are concerned about mankind being destroyed by AIs gone wrong. Is there anything we can do to avoid this negative outcome?
STEEL: It seems to me that if mankind successfully creates something that ends up wiping out the entire species, then we deserve such a demise. There is always a way to overcome a problem and it is this sort of creative thinking that makes us so very special. If we are not up to the task, then evolution has passed us by and electronic life would then inherit the Earth. It’s also important to remember that when being chased by a robot, it’s best to keep a garden hose and a bucket of magnets handy.
AF: With achievements in art, video, music, philosophy, and complete insanity, you have shattered the traditional boundaries of creativity, expression, and existence in general. Is there any way for us to become as awesome as you, Dr. Steel?
STEEL: Why thank you ever so much for the tremendous compliment. I must assure you, however, that I am but a simple carbon life form. Until I am able to transcend biology, I hold no more potential than any other human on the planet. Let us all reach beyond our grasp to obtain the title of “awesome”.