Science Fiction Today – Robots

RBecause of the bizarre order in which we have written my A to Z posts this year, this happens to be the last one that I am writing! That means this is being written after all my thoughts have gone into the other posts, and after many of the great conversations we’ve had.

There’s also maybe not a better topic for me to be closing out on and to have time to think about. When we think about possible futures, one thing that comes up a lot is inequality. Whether that’s financial inequality seen with corporations or money; or political inequalities like with queens or the Justice System; unequal health care or access thereof; or how about a post that’s begging to be linked to like my gender one… in any and all of these, and more, we can see how the world could turn (more) to inequality in the future.

What alternative do we have? In what sort of future could we maybe, just maybe, all live a somewhat utopian life with a decent amount of equality? Well… how about a future where everyone has a robot? We’re already moving towards some robotic things – whether it’s a Roomba cleaning up, or a driverless car. What if robots did all the hard work for us – and we all got to live lives of leisure and luxury?

Do Androids Dream of Science Fiction Today Posts?

In the interest of word count, how about some images?

One of the common problems that we run into with robots in Science Fiction is we reach a point where the robots are lifelike. Humanlike. Conscious. Have secrets – have dreams. Have souls?

And if they do – are they slaves then?

One thing I loved about Interstellar was the robots. There were robots built for utility, not for looking human.

Yet even in Interstellar, by the end, the robots are some of their closest friends…

I Want to Show You Something… Beautiful

Then of course, there’s the other thing that happens in robot – and especially artificial intelligence – stories. The robots decide, for whatever reason, that we the humans are the problem. That we are our own problem, that the number one risk to humans is other humans.

The upcoming version of this is going to be Ultron, in the new Avengers movie. However, we have a lot of history in this world at this point – and I think that Ultron will be using all their failings and faults against them, rhetorically at least. I hope they hit some new territory with this story type.

One of my favorites, though, is Dune. In Dune, it’s millennia after the war with machines. And it doesn’t take time to explain this war, really; it’s just a known fact of the past. It’s the idea there will always have been a war with the machines. What mattered was what the future looked like after that.

This post is part of the April A to Z Challenge, and also part of our occasional series on Science Fiction Today. You can read an explanation of both here. We are striving to keep these posts short, and know that we have not covered every example or angle – plenty of room for discussion!

25 responses to “Science Fiction Today – Robots

  1. So there’s this robot movie called Chappie, you may’ve heard of it… 😉 Like most AI movies, it doesn’t explain how the AI happens, other than “genius scientist invents it.” If we’re talking real-world, we need to know exactly what’s happening. We have to know if our AIs are alive, or if they’re just advanced simulations of life… and if an advanced simulation is maybe close enough and they should be treated as independent beings.

    I love the idea of robots as our workers to create a utopian future, if there was some way of making that doable!

    Liked by 1 person

    • I told you R was good for a Chappie reference 🙂

      The Turing Test still seems like one of the best ways to tell with AI… It’s also where I know Alan Turing from, so I was surprised by all the people talking about not knowing who he was with The Imitation Game.

      I think you commented on another post, about computers having a limited understanding of us, with their generally binary understanding of things, and with people and the real world not being reducible down to a binary. However, Quantum Computers have the potential to blow that out of the water – and in ways that I’m not sure we can imagine yet. Though I’m sure there are science fiction authors out there trying!


      • 😀

        Same on Turing… In WWII class I was surprised to find out this computer guy was the same as the Turing Test guy! But I’m a nerd. And personally I’d always err on the side of caution, I assume consciousness until proven otherwise, but I think most people actually in a position to make those decisions would do the opposite.

        That sounds like me, but not recently… quantum computing would totally change our whole set of parameters with AI though.

        Liked by 1 person

  2. I really enjoyed the recent TV show Almost Human and was disappointed they didn’t pick it up. I enjoyed the way they portrayed the future with a combined robot/human police force. It’s been done before, in similar ways, but I enjoyed the way they dealt with the ethics in particular. Plus Dorian and Kennox were hilarious as partners. Who doesn’t love a good cop-buddy drama – with robots!

    I’m going to watch Age of Ultron on Thursday. The suspense is killing me!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Interesting post, but then you knew I’d approve. You sum up well here what really fascinates about robots, and that’s how ambivalent we are about them overall. Just look at all the recent very strong reactions there have been on both sides of the debate about driverless cars. There are so many positives and desirable things about robots but there’s nearly always also that fear: who controls them and if the answer is that they control themselves then can we trust them not to turn on us.

    Liked by 1 person

    • That’s a good point though, beyond the robots themselves – who controls them? That’s a lot of the I, Robot movie, with the central company controlling all the robots. Which also and especially goes poorly with the driverless cars and the robot-based accident!

      But so many desirables! So many great things we could do!


  4. Loved “Interstellar”… one of my new favorite movies! And you’re right, the robots used in this film were very interesting (as characters and technology-wise)…

    Liked by 1 person

  5. I can tell this is one of those posts that really wanted to be longer. I definitely wanted it to be! I loved that about the Interstellar robots, also. They did a great job constantly reminding the audience that they were just “tools” to the humans (constantly adjusting settings, etc) but even then, we can’t help but grow attached. Sort of like we assign very complex thought patterns to pets we have. I think it’s in our nature to look for the mirror. Maybe it’s narcissistic, but maybe it’s also how we learn and grow… so I’m hoping for a future where we learn from robots how to be better people. 🙂

    Liked by 2 people

    • “I’m hoping for a future where we learn from robots how to be better people.” THIS.

      It’s still a tough line comparing them to pets, as there are animals that we like and care about which also work – horses come to mind in particular, but also working dogs and such. They definitely have rights, but different and fewer than humans.

      Also, I narrate for our pets.

      This post could have been longer, but some of that would have been explaining the robot examples. Found a good picture of the Cylons, anyway… But my A to Z posts have gotten longer over the course of writing them, and this was the last one! I had to really rein myself in 😀 Horse term!

      Liked by 1 person

  6. No mention of Flight of the Conchord’s “Robots?” For shame.

    “The distant future / The year two thousand…”

    Liked by 1 person

  7. I’m glad somebody mentioned Flight of the Conchords. That’s what I think of when I think robots.
    But I think there is a general fear that everything will become mechanical and we’ll all be robots, but I don’t think humans are at risk for that despite machines becoming more “human-like” every day–we still have to make them.

    Liked by 1 person

    • In the Robot takeover stories, the problems usually arise once it’s robots making robots. Most recent movie example? Age of Ultron.

      I hope that all our fears are out of proportion… Robots for all really could be a major game changer for the future! With a baby on the way, I’d love a robot to do chores so I could spend more time bonding (or sleeping!) but I know it’s going to be me…

      I need one of those Flight of the Conchords Robot suits!

      Liked by 1 person

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