Hollywood’s Affair with the Frankenstein Complex: AI & Films
Hero or Villain? Robotics in Film and Books…
I, Robot (2004) fits the bill perfectly for the culmination of fear and paranoia that surround the concept of Artificial Intelligence and all its possibilities for use in our daily lives. The premise of the AI Frankenstein Complex, that the creation will turn on the creator, has been a staple trope of science fiction movies and books for decades. The fascinating idea of robots developing self-awareness, and either helping or turning on humanity, is apparent in films from Metropolis (1927), through to Star Wars, The Last Jedi (2017).
I,Robot, is a neo-noir dystopian science fiction action film directed by Alex Proyas , the man behind The Crow (1994) and Knowing (2009). The film deftly addresses both sides of the issue, from the humans who distrust technology, to the humans who seem to prefer the company of robots. The story is about the large acceptance of robotics in human daily life, and one man who believes they can never be trusted. In 2035, technophobic homicide detective Del Spooner of the Chicago PD heads the investigation of the apparent suicide of leading robotics scientist, Dr. Alfred Lanning. Unconvinced of the motive, Spooner’s investigation into Lanning’s death reveals a trail of secrets and agendas within the USR (United States Robotics) corporation and suspicions of murder. Little does he know that his investigation would lead to uncovering a larger threat to humanity. The film does a masterful job of making people see the distrust and suspicion felt by detective Spooner which is so ingrained that his own home is like a museum. His suspicions lead to Sonny, a robot, and the question quickly arises, how could a robot be guilty of murder? They cannot murder, it is against their programming. What then, if an AI intelligence of immense power had deemed it necessary to protect humanity from itself?
Much more intense and action oriented than many other types of robot films in the past, I, Robot did well at the box office. The screenplay by Jeff Vintar and Akiva Goldsman is from a screen story by Vintar, suggested by Isaac Asimov‘s short-story collection of the same name.
The key here is suggested.
I, Robot, the book, is a collection of short stories by American author Issac Asimov.He built a framework around them and published them as short stories between 1940 to 1950 in Super Science Stories and Astounding Science Fiction. They were compiled into a book for stand-alone publication by Gnome Press in 1950. When Isaac Asimov wrote the collection, the author had one goal, and that was he entered the genre to protest what he called the Frankenstein complex—the tendency in popular culture to portray robots as menacing. You will not find a single instance of robots turning on humans and his story lines often involved roboticists and robot characters battling societal anti-robot prejudices, not one another.
Robots, Automatons, Androids, Cyborgs, although each technically different from one another, fill books and films with various portrayals of helpmates, menial labor, and hostile invasive forces. Films like Robbie the Robot (1956),The Day the Earth Stood Still(1956), and Silent Running (1972) are only a few of them.
Some have been extraordinary, likeBladerunner, with a hard look from the androids point of view. That being self-aware, with a set life span, with artificial memories of a human life and childhood, and their keen desire to continue living. The horror of Dr. Who and the Cybermen invasion. Others tug our heart strings like WALL-E,Robots (2005), and Short Circuit, all of which address the issue of the how much human behavior or even emotions, can be instilled into a computerized machine.
In the 2004 film I, Robot, the foundation of the screenplay is the laws of robotics that were created in the Asimov short stories. The zeroth law was incorporated later and added by Asimov as the foundation law to his principle list.
The Three Laws of Robotics quoted by Asimov as being from the “Handbook of Robotics, 56th edition, 2058 A.D.” are as follows:
– A robot may not injure a human being or, through inaction, allow a human being to come to harm.
– A robot must obey the orders given it by human beings except where such orders would conflict with the First Law.
– A robot must protect its own existence as long as such protection does not conflict with the First or Second Laws
-Zeroth Law: A robot may not harm humanity, or through inaction allow humanity to come to harm.
In 2035, a technophobic cop investigates a crime that may have been perpetrated by a robot, which leads to a larger threat to humanity.
Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation 2004
Director: by Alex Proyas.
Screenplay: by Jeff Vintar and Akiva Goldsman is from a screen story by Vintar, suggested by Isaac Asimov’s short-story collection of the same name.
Stars: Will Smith, Bridget Moynahan, Bruce Greenwood, James Cromwell, Chi McBride, Alan Tudyk and Shia LaBeouf.