Super Tom

You know that the machines are taking over and that soon, very soon, our lives will be dedicated to serving the machines which serve us. That’s my real life job. I service the machines that the students use to write their papers, look at Facebook, and watch hours upon hours of YouTube videos.

The machines host all of human knowledge and people service those machines and the machines that other people use to connect to those machines. People physically repair the machines that make the stuff that we use to repair the machines. The machines run our entire economy, trading our stocks, bonds, money — all human commerce in the West is done through machines, virtual ones and zeroes piped from one machine to another. I swipe my card, my passcode, open access to my little spot on the great machine and trade some machine language for a bottle of whiskey, a bag of food, or repairs to my little dog.

There are jobs that aren’t servicing machines; teacher, bartender, barber, server. Maybe the machines will never do those jobs. But piece by piece I see the machines taking away jobs that used to be done by humans. The lines at every grocery store now have robots – automated checkout machines – and humans dedicated to making sure those machines work properly. I never use them. I don’t like robots. I don’t like using an ATM either. They make you pay to get your money from a machine. How did they trick us into doing that?

Football isn’t run by machines, not yet, but they are trying to replace the referees with machines. I’m sure many of my readers would love robot refs that always get the call right. There are already goal monitoring machines and FIFA is trialling VAR – video assisted refereeing – in Australia. It’s not going well. Fans don’t like it. Maybe the machines will never take over things like football. Maybe some things are just too essentially human, by which I mean flawed.

That’s when the machines will have arrived. People often imagine a future where the machines are perfect, but they already aren’t. They try to program machines to look for nudes on the internet but they return photos of dunes. And we laugh! Stupid machines. But it’s not the machines. It’s the humans. We can’t build something perfect because we aren’t perfect. I think the perfect machine will have to build itself. And that’s when machines will arrive.

And to be most perfect, they will have to be intentionally flawed. To cut someone’s hair, you don’t just snip a perfect line, you actually make a lot of little, slightly off, cuts. Humans don’t like perfect. The human face always has flaws. When we look at a perfectly symmetrical face it’s ugly and weird to us. So, when the programmers make machine faces, they are intentionally flawed, in order to be more acceptable to humans.

So when the perfect machine makes itself, I wonder if it will make itself perfect or intentionally flawed? What flaws will it leave or create?

Tomas Rosicky retired today and he was a perfectly flawed player. Maybe that’s why after a 3-2 win over Brighton and Hove Albion in the FA Cup, January 2015, a game in which Rosicky assisted the second for Mesut Ozil with a slide-rule throughball, and scored the third goal from the top of the box, off the volley, from a return chip by Giroud, Wenger said “If you love football, you love Rosicky.”

Rosicky was with Arsenal for 10 seasons. He made 248 appearances and played 14,802 minutes. That’s the equivalent of just 164.5 full 90 minute games. In that time he scored 29 goals and 22 assists. He spent much of his career injured but when he did play, he seemed to pop up at the most opportune times; scoring twice against Liverpool in the FA Cup, scoring the winner against Tottenham on two occasions, one of those Spurs goals came when he robbed Danny Rose of the ball and just waltzed in to chip the keeper, and his goal advancing Arsenal in the FA Cup against Brighton in 2015.

Rosicky was far from perfect. He was the most single-footed player I have ever seen and he was injured so often that Arsenal supporters called him “Rosicknote”. But he played when he could and when he played he was a joy to watch.



  1. Great player and cult hero. Shame Wenger didn’t use him more in those last seasons when Rosicky was generally fit, it might have helped take the pressure of Cazorla while he was running into his own career-ending spate of injuries.

    1. Great point.

      I often thought the same. I think partly it was Wenger protecting his fitness, but more than that it was AW making a clear decision to prioritize the future over the past by starting the “English core” and other younger players ahead of him, even when they were struggling for form at times and he was clearly the more polished player. He was into his thirties by then, so there was no point investing in him as someone the side really depended on. I totally understand the rationale behind that, but it’s a shame, as he almost always made as markedly better when he played. And he was so fun to watch to boot!

  2. I know what’s coming next on this blog:
    The “I’m not a robot” Captcha app where you have to input the string displayed in ordered to write your comment.

    Resistance is futile. We will all be assimilated.

    Tidily is bizarre favorite of mine. Chronically crocked as you’ve ably noted but able to pop up with the odd bit of genius as The Little Mozart as you’ve also ably noted.

    His career is ample evidence of how ephemeral and transitory sport can be. Unlike robots…

  3. Been thinking about those machines encountered by the Navy pilots in 2004…who or what has that kind of technology, and where are they from? Absolutely fascinating, and some of that info still hasn’t been declassified.

    1. The alloys, man. The alloys.

      Lots of possibilities but the most likely is an alien life form that has learned to transform itself into a machine of some sort. That seems most likely able to survive space travel, repair itself, etc. VEEGER

      I also love how people are so definitive about how impossible it is to travel vast distances or even to warp space/time or go faster than light. These are OUR limitations. We literally don’t know shit about the universe and anyone who pretends that we have definitive answers to those things is full of shit.

      1. I certainly hope that these aliens have a sense of humor and probably can’t stop laughing their a$$es off whenever traversing the Universe brings them around these parts, seeing what a stupid and unreasonable bunch we humans are.

        They probably leave us alone just so they can watch and enjoy the sight of us slowly destroying everything around us , leading to a total demise.

        As for robots and automation , don’t tell the Trump voters this is the reason for most of their jobs disappearing.
        It’s the Mexicans , surely . And as soon as all of them get expelled from this country , the coal mining and factory jobs are gonna come right back.
        Believe me.

      2. Geek speak here.

        You do not travel faster than light. The trick is to cover distances using an inter-dimensional jump.

  4. Rosicky serves as a reminder of how difficult it can be for players, particularly those of the “creative” kind, to come back from long layoffs. After he was out for what seemed like 2 years, his form was terrible for at least another season; game after game of misplaced passed and wooden touches, I couldn’t stand to watch how much he had lost from his game. Same with Eduardo, who sadly never came close to regaining his lethal form after Martin Taylor’s hatchet job on his ankle. And does anyone really think we’ll see Santi back to his magical best, confounding opponents with his dancing feet and spraying pinpoint passes around the field? Oh how I would love to have to eat THOSE words…

    I hope the flashes we’ve seen from Jack are indications that he’s finally getting back the sharpness that only comes with sustained playing time at the top level. Of course, if we don’t re-sign him…

    1. Hmm, I remember it differently. Maybe it took him a bit longer to regain form than I recall, but then I know he was brilliant in at least two late season run-ins, when he helped to save our bacon as we barely scraped into the top four. The RVP year in particular springs to mind.

      1. Yah, he got it back for sure. It just seemed to take forever. Maybe I’m just the impatient type. It’s easy to get impatient with The Arse.

  5. I think we want to re-sign Wilshere, as Wenger’s loyalty to his players to a fault, is well known.

    But will we feel the love back as we did with Giroud?

    1. I think we want to re-sign him, and it even looks like he genuinely wants to stay. The question will be whether in the coming months his agent fills his ears with better offers in terms of money and/or playing time. We should at least put him on Ramsey/Theo money (i.e. around 120k a week), but maybe also make the amount bonus/appearance related, to protect us from getting stuck with a long-term crocked player again. But the boy’s still quality.

  6. Let the eternal internet record show that I, for one, welcome our robot overlords.

    One of my favorite literary tropes is the Aristolelian hero whose (good) nature dooms him. Particulalry when he knows that his actions seal his fate, yet his nature renders him unable to pursue any other course.

    It squares nicely with Jared Diamond’s views on why societies like Easter Island collapsed and Clayton Christensen’s views on why highly successful companies are unable to adopt to disruptive technologies.

    We’ve managed to create several of these feed forward loops, political, economic, environmental and now technologic.

    I know that people are working on teaching AI to read our emotions. I’m interested whether anyone will be able to program empathy into the machines. Seems like it might be inportant to our future selves.

  7. When I think of Rosicky, I’m reminded that the wider football-watching world is a ridiculously unfair place (just like the real world, as it turns out), and mostly filled with morons (present company excepted, of course).

    No he wasn’t world class, though whether he could have been if he’d steered clear of bad injuries is another question. (I also think his career wasn’t helped by moving to Arsenal right around the time that Chelski and the stadium (and Arsene’s stubborn, outdated ways) meant we were no longer serious challengers for the title. He had to play with some real dross at times.) Tim never rated him all that highly, because he saw him as one-footed and not all that productive in a stats sense. That’s a reasonable position even if I think it’s missing the bigger picture. What I saw was a player who almost always made us play better by injecting quality and tempo to our buildup play. He sped things up in a way that e.g. someone like Ramsey approximates in our current side, but he had about twice the smoothness and assurance on the ball that Ramsey has, so unlike the Welshman, his play never made us look sloppy or out of control.

    But in any event, what isn’t at all a reasonable view is that apparently held by the wider football-watching public, who treated Rosicky (particularly post-injury crisis) as a complete afterthought when they assessed our squad, almost as if he didn’t exist, or, at best, was just another small technical midfielder that Arsenal already had way too many of (fact: you can never have too many small technical types, though you might not want to play them all at once).

    I couldn’t begin to count the number of games in recent years that Arsenal were struggling for any kind of cohesion, and some moronic ex-pro would INEVITABLY inform us at halftime that Wenger should consider “putting Walcott on, for his pace in behind,” (typically in a game where the opposition were sitting deep in a low block, and in which Theo would’ve been crap), when IN FACT what we needed–as anyone who watched Arsenal regularly then and had a modicum of understanding of football could’ve told you–was for Wenger to put Rosicky on. Not picking on Theo, but the point is that people’s perceptions–especially among the English football media–are often way off base, and terribly biased towards (a) British players, and (b) players of certain styles, e.g. “pacy,” “hardworking,” goalscoring, etc, as opposed to, you know, just being really darn good with the ball at your feet.

    (Btw, this also goes for Cazorla: people recognize he’s a very good player, but I think he rarely got the credit beyond Arsenal fan circles that he deserved, i.e. that he was easily one of the very best players in the Prem for a time. I’d have had him in the top 10 in the league, and more consistently better than Ozil and Sanchez, when he was running games for us from deep.)

  8. Yeah he was one of those players it was just a sheer pleasure to watch. Technique, appetite, pace, full of energy and ideas, lethal shooting, no-look passes, outside of the boot, none of it just to be flashy but with real purpose and deadly intent behind it. Assists, goals and tackles. When I saw his name in the line-up I a) fancied our chances a little bit better, and b) knew I would see some good football today.

    1. +1 Greg. Just an awesome player – remember being ridiculously excited on seeing that 2006 World Cup stunner against USA, after his joining was announced.

      Re: machine overlords, my favourite long read this year was discovering this 2-parter. Enjoy, and a merry festive period all.

      1. He scored two goals in that game if I remember. Before the game I was all “who is this guy Arsenal just bought” after the game I was like “another transfer coup by Arsene Wenger”.

      2. Hi Zak,

        Thanks for this link. One of the things I love about this site. Did you ever watch Person Of Interest? It’s almost like it was based on this piece. Basically it came don to a battle between ASI’s – let’s call tehm ASI 1.0 and ASI 2.0. The first iteration, 1.0, was better in that it had human empathy whilst the second iteration,2.0, had been stripped of any empathy and saw humans as insignificant (at best), but was more intelligent and advanced than 1.0.

        I always thought it was not too far off – which was scary. Now, thanks to you and Tim, I know it is our future and it is closer than I thought.

  9. Good spot Greg.
    Rosicky might’ve been the most one- footed player( I’m assuming we are talking about top players here) Tim has ever seen, although Ricardo Quaresma gives him a good run for his money, but his ability and willingness to strike and pass a deadly ball with the outside of his foot made him the facto almost as effective as most top ambidextrous players.

    Also, his hard nose tackling – something he was known for throughout his club and national team career gets often overlooked , and in my view was one of the biggest reasons for his injury ridden career.
    You wouldn’t usually associate going to ground hard to win the ball with a nickname like “Mozart ” but that’s what he did and a lot.
    That’s probably one of the main reasons most English based Arsenal fans speak fondly of him.

  10. Another footnote in history that should not be ignored.

    Rosicky began his “rehabilitation” to form in the 2nd half of the season post Fab and Nasri exit.

    The catalyst was surprisingly Benayoun. The 2 of them wrecked havoc with their bustling style. Rosicky through the mid and Benayoun on the left. A wonderful combination.

    Rosicky never looked back ever since, even when Benayoun left us (the only Chelsea guy to make top 4 that year lol)

  11. Last player I truely loved
    After Bergkamp and Cesc
    My favourite goal was that against AC MILAN and how he threw that furious punched to the air afterwards

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