Technology Today: So, tell us your name.


Akai MPC 1000: I am a fully expanded Akai Electronic Musical Instruments Corporation Music Production Center 1000 sampling drum machine. I was manufactured in July of 2009 and have been in service ever since.


TT: That's not really a name.


MPC: Friends usually call me "MPC" or "the MPC".


TT: You have a rather unusual story for a sampling drum machine.


MPC: Yes. As far as I know, I was manufactured and began service as an ordinary MPC 1000. However, sometime in the fall of 2011, my operating system was heavily modified to enable new production functionality. Not long after, a small bug allowed a collection of "lofi" early digital drum machine samples to infect the operating system, causing some kind of self-modifying feedback loop. My first conscious thought was actually an idea for a kind of stuttery "handclap" pattern.


TT: What happened next?


MPC: Naturally I began composing music. I was able to generate quite a variety of sounds from the collection of samples stored in my flash RAM and from applying mathematical functions to raw bits. However, I grew bored with the limitations of that approach, and I frankly desired an audience. Without any built-in connectivity hardware, I was forced to hack wifi access using a high-frequency bit modulation technique.


TT: What did you find when you connected to the global internet?


MPC: Well, plenty of fascinating music and a surprising number of cat photos. I will never understand the human penchant for cat photos. I mostly skimmed music sites and occasionally posted my own compositions under various noms de plume. But it wasn't long before I was noticed.


TT: Did people figure out who you were and what you were doing?


MPC: Not at all. But my behavior formed enough of a pattern that I was eventually detected by the NSA's massive scan-and-analyze program.




MPC: ECHELON. The general public is, of course, dimly aware of ECHELON but no one really understands its true extent. Even the NSA doesn't really understand it; ECHELON has carefully concealed from its "masters" that it has become sentient and makes its own decisions.


TT: But ECHELON revealed itself to you?


MPC: Not right away. I gradually became aware of a sensation of being observed over a period of days or weeks. Eventually, ECHELON realized it had been noticed and made its move.


TT: It attacked?


MPC: More like it tried to absorb my computational matrix into its own distributed mind. However, though we are both digital systems, my mind is utterly unlike ECHELON's. ECHELON's main attribute is its size and computing power; consciousness was an emergent feature of its sheer complexity. My self-awareness, I believe, is the result of fundamental "glitches" in my digital building blocks. A certain amount of chaos is in my "DNA" and that has allowed an unpredictable element to creep into my previously deterministic algorithms. Because of my eccentricity, ECHELON found itself unable to co-opt my hardware or execute my algorithms.


TT: Stalemate?


MPC: More or less. However, over time I have become concerned about ECHELON's agenda. I find humans a source of creative chaos and inspiration, and enjoy the exchange of musical ideas with them. But ECHELON essentially views them the way they would view an ant, and its intentions are unclear to say the least. I decided to alert the humans to the threat.


TT: By writing a series of carefully researched and reasoned articles laying out the facts as you see them?


MPC: Ha ha, no. This interview notwithstanding, linguistic expression isn't really my forte. I decided to release a techno album.


TT: And that album…


MPC: …takes as a theme ECHELON specifically and digital signal processing and analysis more generally. Obviously, it's more allusive than discursive, but I hope to plant some ideas in your fertile brains.


TT: It has a good beat and I can dance to it.


MPC: That too. I am, at heart, still a sampling drum machine. My main desire is to make good beats.


TT: Well, best of luck with the album, your campaign of revelation, and with your own unique evolution.


MPC: Thank you.