“We have been commissioned by The Starset Society to spread broad awareness of The Message through music and media. The Message contains the knowledge necessary to spare the future of humanity, and we will do whatever we must to inform the public.”

“We have been commissioned by The Starset Society to spread broad awareness of The Message through music and media. The Message contains the knowledge necessary to spare the future of humanity, and we will do whatever we must to inform the public.”

So goes the mission statement of Starset, a band formed in 2013 by Salem, Ohio native and Short North resident Dustin Bates, who previously fronted the Blitz-approved hard-rock band Downplay. Starset released its debut album Transmissions in 2014 and gained a following through high-concept YouTube videos, elaborate “demonstrations” (aka concerts, featuring band members in signature Starset masks and flight suits) and an accompanying sci-fi narrative.

“[Starset] is one of the various public outreach programs of the Starset Society. We're essentially spokespeople, publicizing the tenets of the Starset Society, using various narratives and the songs,” said Bates, who also mentioned in a recent phone call that a Marvel comic book is on the way. “There are now four tenets of the Starset Society that we're outlining. Those are: automation, space, brain and body.”

New Starset album Vessels (Razor & Tie), which comes out Friday, Jan. 20 — the same day Starset will hold a demonstration at Express Live — plays like a mashup of Breaking Benjamin and Beartooth covering Angels and Airwaves. But Bates' ambitions are huge, and his space-related bona fides are legit.

After graduating from Ohio University with a degree in electrical engineering, Bates attended the International Space University's Space Studies program in Australia, and again two years later in France, where he returned as a teaching associate, hobnobbing with Buzz Aldrin and the director of NASA's Ames Research Center.

Meanwhile, Bates was also pursuing a master's degree in avionics engineering at OU. “Once I did my thesis, I took some time off to do some Downplay things,” he said. “Then I started a PhD, and my goal was to be at the forefront of autonomous vehicles. I did research for the Air Force at Wright-Patterson [Air Force Base] when I started my dissertation, working on one of the first persistent surveillance programs. In fact, it inspired some of the tenets of Starset. You see both sides of the coin: Technology is amazing and it enables wonderful things, but there can also be a dark side if it's manipulated.”

The persistent surveillance program — essentially taking rapid-fire, high-definition photographs from a flying airplane or drone — made news last summer when it was revealed that the Baltimore Police Department had been secretly spying on the city using persistent surveillance.

“When you geo-locate the imagery, it enables you to zoom in on a specific point. This point is now fixed on your computer screen, and if something happens — let's say a bomb explodes — you can click on it, reverse time, and if it were a car bomb, you see the car before it explodes, and you can follow that car back in time, and see where it came from,” Bates said. “Then you can get the bad guy, in a military application. It's wonderful for that.

“But you also see how inevitably people will want to apply that domestically, and then from there, I guess that opened up Pandora's box for me, seeing the double-sided element to all of this. ... Now you have to fight the forces that want to use it for questionable reasons. That's the Starset Society in a nutshell. We all want to look at technology and see how it affects our lives socially [and] politically.”

During the Transmissions campaign, Bates addressed the issue of automation and how it can lead to a dystopia when robots replace humans. Then he watched as job loss took center stage during the recent presidential election.

“Politicians are pointing their fingers to China and Mexico and trade deals and globalization, but one of the greatest factors of [job loss] is automation,” he said. “Those jobs aren't coming back. The robots aren't giving them up. … We need to understand the situation we're in instead of having bogeymen.”