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In the movie I, Robot, the filmmakers present their vision of the world in 2035. In addition to the expected technological advancement and numerous changes in the natural world, the world in 2035 is crucially different from ours in that a clear boundary between human beings and machines no longer exists.
In other words, robots have taken on almost all of the specifically human traits such as morality, language, self-consciousness, etc.
Even though some of the aspects of the filmmaker’s vision of future are possible, and very likely to become reality, the essence of the film appears highly unrealistic.
The film shows great advancements in technology. An example is the central computer, which is used to control other robots. This computer is integrated with an advanced AI which enables it to act in order to prevent human beings from harming one another.
Another example is in the mode of transportation used by humans. The vehicle, detective Spooner drives, is the Audi RSQ, a concept car with a mid-engine layout that gives a picture of how future automobiles will be designed.
Its wheels are shaped like balls allowing the vehicle to move sideways. This theme of technological advancement displays the potential benefits of artificial intelligence (Booker and Thomas 139).
The natural environment
The natural environment of the future is depicted as dried up and futile as far as water and other natural resources are concerned. An example is how a large area of Lake Michigan has dried up, and the lake is now being used as a landfill to store old robots.
The sign that reads “What you see here is Lake Michigan” reveals to the audience that the lake has indeed dried up. This is clearly the writer’s projection of the trends that we now experience, and his vision about what will happen if those trends remain.
The manmade environment
The architecture in the movie is somewhat similar to the one present in Chicago today. To add an aspect of the future architecture, the infrastructure in the film has been altered. For example, new triangular antennas have been added on the Willis Tower.
This building, which is the tallest skyscraper in the United States, has also been surpassed by the USR Building in the year 2035. The USR Building is made of glass and metal.
The shape of the building is that of a knife blade which gives visitors a reeling sensation. One edge of the building is composed of clear glass. This allows one to have a wide view of the city and all the way down to the building’s lobby.
Another area that depicts how the future will look like includes the healthcare system. When Spooner suffers a cut in his arm after a fight with robots, he does not visit a doctor. Instead, he takes a prosthetic spray from his pocket, and sprays it across the area inflicted by the cut.
The cut then seals up immediately, and his arm goes back to its original appearance. This looks more like a repair than healing.
Though this raises the question of whether the future man will be capable of replacing parts of his body with near-natural objects, it depicts a time when rushing to the hospital due to an injury or disease is long past.
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The abovementioned aspects of the world of the future are all realistic to an extent, but at the same time, at least some of them trespass upon the territory of pure fiction.
First off, from my perspective, it is absolutely clear that we should consider the appearance of the natural world in the film as a warning about what will happen if we continue with our polluting practices.
The climate change and skyrocketing levels of pollution in the atmosphere establish the trajectory that leads to a place very similar to the one in the film. Secondly, we can be quite certain that numerous advanced technological devices, of which the new type of car is just one example, are within our reach.
Furthermore, the fact that humans have successfully implemented robots in many areas of industry gives us a reason to believe that the process will continue, and that we will be dependent on robotics for most of our industrial practices.
One the other hand, from today’s perspective, one of the crucial aspects of the film which is self-awareness of artificial creatures seems to belong to the realm of fantasy.
As a reminder, it is worth mentioning that a robot in the film develops a critical attitude towards the reality, which shows that it has a deep understanding of the world and the self in it, and is able to pass value judgments about how that world is supposed to be.
However, I find this aspect of robotic intelligence unattainable. Here, it might be useful to consider John Searle’s (1980) thought experiment called Chinese room.
In the experiment, he presupposes that if humans were able to program a robot to speak Chinese like a native speaker, it would also mean that the program could be run and calculated manually.
In the process of manual calculation, a human would be able to produce grammatical and meaningful Chinese sentences without understanding a word of Chinese.
This way, Searle convinces us that robots are essentially unable to have any meaningful experience, but the array of possible behaviors of robots is potentially infinite. Also, healthcare system, as depicted in the film, is very unlikely to be realized given the logic of our current capitalist society.
The development of medications, as effective and accessible as the spray Spooner uses, seems to be in contradiction with our healthcare system based on profit, and as such, it would be fiercely opposed by some of the most powerful companies in pharmaceutical industry.
Furthermore, ways of treatment as effective as that one would lead to unsustainable growth in population which is another thing that humanity cannot afford.
Booker, M. Keith and Anne-Marie Thomas. The Science Fiction Handbook. Chichester, UK: Wiley-Blackwell Publishers, 2009. Print.
Searle, John. “Minds, Brains and Programs.” The Behavioral and Brain Sciences 3 (1980): 417-23. Print.