Fun Songs with Jonathan Coulton

Question: Tell us about “The Future Soon” and how it reflects \r\nyour feelings about the future? 

Jonathan Coulton: \r\nIt's a future that you might imagine if you were 13 years old growing up\r\n sometime in the 1980s and you were all alone in your room reading Omni \r\nmagazine. I spent many hours exactly like that when I was 13 in the \r\n1980s. So, yes, you know there are pieces of that character that are \r\ndefinitely me. He's jilted by a girl that he loves and imagines an \r\nelaborate revenge fantasy that also involves him improving himself. \r\nThat’s his vision of the future: technology will save him and somehow \r\nmake him more powerful, and really just sort of even him up with \r\neverybody else. 

There are definitely times, particularly in my \r\nearly teens, where I felt like that. Not necessarily that I was going to\r\n build and command a robot army, but you know just the promise of \r\ntechnology is frequently about evening the score, making things \r\naccessible for everyone in a way that they haven't been. So I think my \r\nfavorite kind of futurist thinking is that kind of futurist thinking. I \r\nam a fan of technology and science and I know there are a lot of people \r\nwho don't feel that way, who fear technology and progress. And you know \r\nthey don't necessarily have to be luddites to be that way. They may use \r\ncell phones and computers, but at the same time, they feel like \r\ntechnology is a Pandora's box that has been opened and all of the ills \r\nof the world are gradually destroying our society and tearing us apart \r\nand isolating us and destroying the planet. 

And you know maybe \r\nthey're right but I kind of think that if you look at progress, in \r\nparticular technological progress, if you take any sort of rational long\r\n view of what has happened so far, you'd have to come away with the \r\nopinion that ,overall, it's been good for humans here on earth. And I \r\nfully expect that trend will continue and certainly there are a lot of \r\nchallenges, you know. There are millions of gallons of crude oil pouring\r\n in to the ocean right now and that's a terrible thing and it's a \r\nterrible side effect of our technological footprint on this planet. But,\r\n I believe that we can face these challenges and I believe we can solve \r\nthese problems and I think that we will, because that's sort of what \r\nwe're here to do. 

Question: What inspired the \r\nMandelbrot Set song? 

Jonathan Coulton: Yes, I was \r\nvery flattered to see that you asked him that question about the song \r\nand that he'd heard of it and had an opinion of it. The only thing I \r\nwould like to say to him is, "I apologize that I got the math wrong." I \r\nhave been informed by numerous mathematicians, both experts and armchair\r\n that I am actually describing a Julia set and not the Mandelbrot set. I\r\n still don't exactly understand the difference. So I apologize for \r\nacting as though I was an expert on the subject, when in fact, I was \r\nmostly just mining Wikipedia and doing my best to put it into lyrics for\r\n a song.

Recorded on May 6, 2010

From "The Future Soon" to the Mandelbrot song, an inside look at some of Coulton’s biggest hits.

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