A song of praise to the future: John Butler’s new speculative animation ‘Acrohym’

For twenty-years, artist John Butler has been the driving talent behind an incredible array of short animated films and science-fiction series. As one half of the Butler Brothers, John has produced, written and animated original, speculative fictions that examine the nature of our relationship with Government, Military and Corporations through technology.

Animations such as Eden, The Ethical Governor, T.R.I.A.G.E. and Unmanned have reinforced John’s dystopian view of the world, where technology is primarily developed as a means of control, war and exploitation.

The future being shaped by computer technology tends more towards a world of anonymous depots, owned by companies like Amazon, where whey-faced workers trudge endless miles through giant product mazes, being told what to do and how long they have to do it by their own personal navigational computer—rather than the much vaunted promise of personal liberation.

‘I don’t think we’re doomed,’ says Butler, ‘But we are stuck with it. I think the self checkouts in supermarkets indicate where we are going, towards a cybernetic transaction space. They should give us a discount since we’re doing all the work now.’

Butler’s latest animation Acrohym is a satirical ‘song of praise’ to DARPA (Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency):

...the most exciting arts commissioning agency in the world today.

Acrohym stands for ‘Advanced, Central, Research, Organization, High-Yield, Markets.’ The kind of buzz words promoted by PR reps and technocrats, who are currently destroying language and democracy.

Butler is fascinated by this and the way in which organizations like DARPA, have become like art/science patrons developing new technologies for the military, while at the same time creating their own language.

‘I liked the idea that DARPA seemed to think of cool acronyms first and work backwards from that. Things like the FANG (Fast, Adaptble, Next-Generation Ground vehicle) challenge, the Triple Target Terminator (T3) and the Magneto Hydrodynamic Explosive Munition ( MAHEM). They ruthlessly torture language to create a new form of technocratic poetry.

‘I think weapons design attracts the brightest minds and can draw on limitless funding, so it’s no wonder they make such fascinating stuff. It is an art form of sorts, increasingly so, as the systems become more baroque and dysfunctional, like architectural follies.

‘Form Follows Funding is the first Law of Procurement.

‘I think Defense is the seedbed of all research, but it eventually trickles down to the civil sphere. If private enterprise had created the internet, it would be a lot of bike couriers with USB sticks. Only a military project could have had such a long range investment strategy.’

John is working on his next project, but I wanted to know when he would be makinga full length feature film?

‘As soon as I’ve secured Ministry of Defense funding.’

More of Butler Brothers’ work here

Previously on Dangerous Minds

John Butler: ‘T.R.I.A.G.E.’

John Butler: ‘The Ethical Governor’


Posted by Paul Gallagher
07:49 pm
‘Artificial Indifference’: John Butler gives a seminar on Drone Warfare today in Glasgow

John Butler of The Butler Brothers will be presenting Artificial Indifference: A Seminar on the Ethics and Economics of Drone Warfare, at the University of Glasgow, today, Friday October 19th, at 15:30 in the East Quadrangle Lecture Theater.

John will be speaking alongside Dr. Ian Shaw and Keith Hammond, and the seminar ties in with a one-day exhibition of Butler Brothers’ work also being held at the University.

This is highly recommended for any fans of Butler’s brilliant work, and for his critical analysis of drone warfare.

Previously on Dangerous Minds

The Ethical Governor


Posted by Paul Gallagher
07:25 am
John Butler’s latest animation: ‘Freedom Device’
06:08 pm

More from John Butler: this his current work-in-progress, Freedom Device, a look at the “Free World” of “Value Added Transactions” - a companion piece to his excellent Ethical Governor.

Previously on Dangerous Minds

John Butler’s brilliant animation ‘T.R.I.A.G.E.’


Posted by Paul Gallagher
06:08 pm
John Butler’s superb animation ‘T.R.I.A.G.E.’

John Butler’s superb latest animation T.R.I.A.G.E. is a speculative tale showing how:

A sick and failing area is swiftly restored to sound financial health

T.R.A.G.E. is an acronym for


Sound familiar?

Of course, triage is “the process of determining the priority of patients’ treatments based on the severity of their condition.” With this in mind, any similarities between actual events is purely intentional.

Bonus animations by John Butler ‘Unmanned’ and ‘Sub Optimal’ after the jump…

Posted by Paul Gallagher
07:10 pm
‘The Ethical Governor’ and the Genius of John Butler

According to the dictionary, the definition of the word genius includes:

n., pl., -ius·es.

Extraordinary intellectual and creative power.

That’s good enough for me, for by this definition, digital animator John Butler is a genius.

If you don’t know John’s work, then here’s a good place to start - an article Richard Metzger wrote up for Dangerous Minds, taken from an interview carried out with Butler earlier this year.

John is that rare and distinct thing, a creative talent with a unique and powerful vision - one that informs his analysis of current events into original speculative fictions. Underpinning this, John uses the terms and language of the military and financial sector, subverting them to reveal their true meaning.

All of which can be seen in his latest presentation The Ethical Governor, described as:

This presentation demonstrates a prototype of the Ethical Governor, a key component in the ethical projection of unmanned autonomous force.

In an exclusive interview with Dangerous Minds John Butler talks about the ideas behind The Ethical Governor and how they reflect today’s political, corporate and military world.

“I’ve been very interested in all aspects of what is now branded as the Long War, which I see as a war between Finance and Humans, rather than East versus West, Capitalism versus Islam, or whatever. 

A military invasion to secure resources and a financial austerity package to placate bondholders are all part of a unified process. It’s just that force is applied in a somewhat cruder manner in Afghanistan, Iraq, Pakistan and Africa.

What I’ve done is transposed the action to the Homeland, where it will eventually arrive anyway. The Drones are Chamber of Commerce assets, part of the elite Milton Friedman Unit.”

What is the inspiration for the presentation?

“The piece is based on actual systems being developed in universities right now in anticipation of fully autonomous war fighting. What I’ve done is resynthesised an academic presentation to reveal it’s true intent.

The language comes from the Military Educational Complex, but has been rewritten by the Butler Brothers to fictionalize it, and therefore make it more effective.

Concepts like the “Ethical Adaptor” actually exist. I liked that aspect most of all, the calibration of guilt, and the option to override the Ethical Governor when convenient.

I think that says it all about battlefield ethics. I like the idea of robots being “in Harm’s Way”, one of my favourite phrases.

How does this relate to what’s happening just now in the world?

“The anti IMF riots in Greece and the protests in Ireland and here are attempts by Humans to react to the Process.

Young people in Britain have no access to home ownership now, which is a detail that might have been overlooked, so they seem to have less to lose that Thatcher’s generation.

What are you working on next?

“Thinking up a companion piece just now, provisionally called Triage. It would be great to project this somewhere soon, as part of a Forum for the Future.”


John Butler has forwarded Dangerous Minds an article on War Machines: Recruiting Robots for Combat from the New York Times, which confirms much of The Ethical Governor‘s theory, including:

“A lot of people fear artificial intelligence,” said John Arquilla, executive director of the Information Operations Center at the Naval Postgraduate School. “I will stand my artificial intelligence against your human any day of the week and tell you that my A.I. will pay more attention to the rules of engagement and create fewer ethical lapses than a human force.”

Dr. Arquilla argues that weapons systems controlled by software will not act out of anger and malice and, in certain cases, can already make better decisions on the battlefield than humans.


Previously on Dangerous Minds

An Interview With Avant Garde Animator John Butler


Posted by Paul Gallagher
12:26 pm