Can a machine be lonely? You might say ‘No’ because a machine, by its very nature, can’t have feelings. Or you could take the view that human beings are just rather complex machines and we all know what it’s like to be lonely, so the answer must be ‘Yes’.
It sounds like a deep philosophical question but I think it’s more a question of semantics. Some definitions of ‘machine’ preclude anything that could have emotions; some definitions of ‘lonely’ only apply to the class of non-machines we call living organisms. But, if the question is to be at all interesting, we must take wider definitions of those terms. We have to start by assuming that a sufficiently complex machine might feel lonely and test that theory against everything else that we know.
Take, for example, Marvin “the paranoid android” from The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy movie. Is he believable? In the context of the silver screen yes, absolutely he is; that part of the film wouldn’t work if he wasn’t so unnervingly real. We couldn’t build Marvin today, of course, but it’s easy to believe that we might, one day, be able to. After all, humanoid robots exist today, electronic brains are ubiquitous in modern society and artificial intelligence is getting smarter all the time.
Whichever answer you give there’s no denying that Lonely Robot is an evocative title for John Mitchell’s solo project. Mitchell is an English musician, songwriter and producer. He is primarily a singer and guitarist but he also plays bass, keyboards and violin. He has been in a number of progressive rock bands and is currently the guitarist for the prog-pop band It Bites.
A new Lonely Robot album, Under Stars, is due out on 26th April and this single from the album was released recently.
How Bright Is The Sun? is a rather gentle prog-rock song in the tradition of Big Big Train or Lunatic Soul. I think of it as an unpopular pop song; it’s certainly not a stomping rock track nor is it an epic production in multiple time signatures. With a lovely melody, clear lyrics and caressing keyboard sounds it ought to go down well on album-oriented rock radio and it would be perfect for a sci-fi film about a dying star … or a lonely robot, perhaps.