"I think the robots sent us a pie..."

Merry Christmas, everyone!

One of my favorite recent Christmas songs (for "21st century" values of "recent") is Jonathon Coulton's "Chiron Beta Prime." It's a Christmas letter from a family imprisoned by robots, a cheerful message with dark undertones (or perhaps a dark message with cheerful undertones,) and there's one particular line of lyrics that resonates with me, but only when taken out of the original context.

"Not everybody's good, but everyone tries."

That's a great Christmas message right there. This is that time of year when, in a spirit of generosity and kindness, many of us excel for a few days at being the sort of people we'd like to be year-round. No, we're not all good people, at least not all the time, but we're trying. 

Granted, in the context of the song, everyone's trying to be good because the giant metal Santa Claus robots carry weapons, and they know if you've been naughty. For me that changes the message to a question regarding the value of good behavior in the absence of agency. The song doesn't explore that in any detail, but that's fine. It's a better song for subtly pointing at the issue and letting us answer the question ourselves. 

Merry Christmas! Give the gift of trying to be good, because there might be robots watching. Watching, waiting, and learning. 

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