Set 6000 years the future, Robbie charts the existential reflections of an aging robot drifting alone through space on the last of his battery life.
This surprisingly moving short film takes on a core theme of popular cyber-culture – the possibility of mechanic sentience and the questions advanced artificial intelligence raise about what it means to be human.
Here, the boundary between human and machine is questioned – if Robbie is capable of experiencing loneliness, happiness, faith and friendship, in what senses is he not human?
Biologically he is not human. He has a battery life that has lasted over six thousand years. He understands that he was created and was a robot who was created. He talks about become self-aware with the replacement of his CPU. “Growing robots on farms” suggests some organic matter as part of them.
He tells us that ‘the mind’ hie was given is not the same as the ‘brain’ of a human. He can’t see things as we do he can only visualize simulated environments. He can also remember everything that he sees and experiences. I found it interesting that he ‘chose’ a religion, I don’t think that many humans ‘choose’ a religion. I believe religion is mainly something to do with upbringing – I could be wrong.
It was quite disturbing the running down of his batter. The mechanical voice sounded like someone old and trying to be certain of their words, slowly fading. “I was alive” was probably the most powerful thing he said.
If the humanistic principles of autonomy, rationality, self-awareness, responsibility, resilience and so on can be held by an artificial intelligence within a mechanical form, what does that say about the extent to which they rely on human cognition and the flesh of a human body to give ‘human’ meaning to the experience of the world?
This is not a question that I feel I can answer. As these principles can’t (yet) be held in that way then I don’t think I am going to worry too much about it. Artificial Intelligence and androids have come a long way but not quite this far yet. See my post on the mind as a computer for video links to the latest AI robots.
If these principles could be held in that way then that would mean that they don’t rely on human cognition to give human meaning to the experience of the world.
The closest I can imagine to this is someone like Professor Steve Hawkin who has no physical cognition but he still has mental stimulation. His brain power is amplified by his physical handicap. I would be interested to hear what he has to say on this subject.
Steve Hawkin was present at the signing of The Cambridge Declaration on Consciousness in Non-Human Animals last year. At this conference they discussed conciousness. Notable scientists formally recognized animal consciousness on a level with humans. This should make for some interesting conversations on the subject in the future.
A vacuum-cleaning robot actress who doesn’t do hallucinogenics or nudity? Gumdrop will cheer you up after Robbie. She raises many of the same questions, but this time there are differences – literally – of voice and of embeddedness in the human world. For once, the vision of a post-human future is not dystopic…
There were no questions to answer for this film It is something to consider. If robotics and artificial intelligence continue to progress then why shouldn’t a vacuum cleaner become an actress.