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#250. Man and Machine

For years, technology has been continually proven superior to humans in many realms. In manufacturing, robots produce faster, more accurate, and stronger welds than any human can. In exploration, robots can discover new worlds unfit for humans to visit. In war, robots can keep our soldiers safe and succinctly take out enemy targets. However, despite all these advantages, machines will always lack certain elements that are inherently human. Being able to think independently, expressing and understanding emotions, and even just walking steadily on two legs are all tasks humans can do and machines cannot. Of course, as time goes by, this gap in capability has rapidly shrunk. This week’s two movies examine the combination of man and machine and the consequences that this fusion means for all of us.

Year: 2014
Rating: PG-13
Length: 117 minutes / 1.95 hours

Cyborgs have been a staple of science fiction for some time. What better way to enhance ourselves than by replacing these human weaknesses with mechanical strengths. Long before Iron Man (2008), two of the most famous cyborgs in cinema attained their fame during the 1980s. The Terminator (1984) came back from the future to terrorize the past, whereas RoboCop (1987) used his cybernetic abilities to enforce law and order. Each of these film franchises has become eerily poignant as the current technological abilities of humanity continue to advance. Perhaps this was why the recent reboot of the RoboCop franchise wasn’t as much a series of gratuitously violent events as it was a foreboding sense of things soon to come. When science fiction becomes science fact, humanity needs to determine the morality of these technological advances before they become a reality.

In the year 2028, American soldiers are much safer overseas due to the implementation of robotic soldiers. Because these robot soldiers are sold by OmniCorp, CEO Raymond Sellars (Michael Keaton) attempts to sell these same soldiers to the underfunded police departments in America. Unfortunately, Congress denies any such militarized robots from being used on American soil due to the Dreyfus Act. Reworking their strategy, OmniCorp finds a successful “RoboCop” candidate in Detroit detective Alex Murphy (Joel Kinnaman). This cyborg policeman isn’t as skilled as the original robot soldiers, so his humanity is decreased to the point where the automatic software makes decisions for him. Because his wife and son are still alive after his “death,” Murphy is able to use his emotions to break through and override some of this software and regain his empathy.

Bicentennial ManBicentennial Man
Year: 1999
Rating: PG
Length: 132 minutes / 2.2 hours

One of the current difficulties with any piece of technology is the idea of “planned obsolescence.” Advances are being released at such an incredible rate that obsolescence can sometimes come in mere months instead of years. Of course, part of this tactic is also enforced by lackluster materials. When things break, we often need to buy new ones because the part is difficult and expensive to fix. If we did not have planned obsolescence, we might be able to create things that last more than a few decades. In the case of the melding of men and machines, this is a necessity. While our physical bodies will deteriorate with time, we don’t want the mechanical elements of our bodies to break before the bodies housing them do. An added benefit is that the mechanical parts will help lengthen the biological life. But what if a robot wanted to become biological (somewhat akin to Chappie (2015))?

In 2005, a homemaker robot named “Andrew” (Robin Williams) is bought by Sir Richard Martin (Sam Neill) to do work around his home. His family reactions are mixed, but when Andrew breaks a figurine belonging to the youngest daughter, he manages to carve a replacement out of wood. This creativity amazes Martin, but worries the manufacturer, NDR, who wants to destroy Andrew. Martin decides to ignore NDR and keeps Andrew, giving him upgrades over the years to better show the emotions that the robot can understand and express. Years pass and both Martin and the youngest daughter die, but Andrew falls in love with the youngest daughter’s granddaughter: Portia (Embeth Davidtz). Because he doesn’t want to watch another loved one die, Andrew undergoes many “upgrades” to make him fully human. On his deathbed, the World Congress recognizes his humanity and marriage.

2 sum it up: 2 films, 2 men melded with machines

7 responses to “#250. Man and Machine

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