Cover image of Robot or Not?

Robot or Not?

Jason Snell asks John Siracusa to rule on the meaning of various words and concepts. It’s not just about robots anymore.Have a question for John? Email robot@theincomparable.com.

Popular episodes

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The best episodes ranked using user listens.

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3: Darth Vader

Cyborgs and robots and humans—how do we tell these things apart?


29 May 2015

Rank #1

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169: Burgers

And do sliders have to slide?


4 Nov 2019

Rank #2

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170: City

Does it all come down to the U.S. Postal Service?


18 Nov 2019

Rank #3

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173: River

When is a body of water a river?


30 Dec 2019

Rank #4

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171: Dish

From dish to plate to bowl.


2 Dec 2019

Rank #5

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167: Pet Names

Can we differentiate between how people name pets and how they name children? Listeners Rover and Whiskers, drop us a line.


7 Oct 2019

Rank #6

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130: Sweaters

Listener Ed, we’ve got bad news.


30 Apr 2018

Rank #7

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172: Soup, Part II

Is soup a drink? What separates liquids from food?


16 Dec 2019

Rank #8

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129: Pets

What makes an animal a pet?


16 Apr 2018

Rank #9

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2: Service Kiosks

John’s position on supermarket self-checkout machines, Jason’s need for beer when he visits his in-laws, and whether attaching arms to things makes them robots.


25 May 2015

Rank #10

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155: TV and Movies

When is it a TV show and when is it a movie? It’s confusing.


15 Apr 2019

Rank #11

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176: Swipe Right

Where does your finger go when you “swipe right”?


10 Feb 2020

Rank #12

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102: Sandwiches

Exploring what makes a sandwich, while also discussing the history of food, sandwiches as satire, and the difference between llamas and camels.


3 Apr 2017

Rank #13

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163: Family

What constitutes family? Blood relatives only? Are friends family? Are co-workers family? Can you escape your family?


14 Aug 2019

Rank #14

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76: Animals in "Blade Runner"

The owl and the snake from “Blade Runner” raise some interesting questions.


19 Sep 2016

Rank #15

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103: Pizza

John weighs in on what makes something a pizza, including the horror of the Turkey Dinner Pizza.


17 Apr 2017

Rank #16

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149: Simulated Universe

Is this real or are we in a video game? How can we tell the true nature of the universe?


21 Jan 2019

Rank #17

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180: Tabs

Tabs or spaces? AFTERSHOW: Commas.


6 Apr 2020

Rank #18

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118: Ice Cream

It would seem like ice cream versus frozen yogurt would be the main debate. But the pronunciation of a third competitor completely derails us.


13 Nov 2017

Rank #19

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158: Pants

The entire conversation is pants. (The Brits will get that.)


3 Jun 2019

Rank #20