Fox 1 Pamela Fox Jennifer Dobbs CORE 112 April 11, 2005

The Training and Discipline of David towards the Production of a Knowable Soul

As the first of his kind, David begins the film AI with an empty “soul,” but by the end, subtle control tactics combined with severe disciplinary measures, like those discussed in Foucault’s “Discipline & Punish,” produces a clearly defined soul. The post-modern sense of the soul, as Foucault describes, is a “body of knowledge” about an individual that comes to be known through observation of that individual (295). Since that observation itself is part of the control tactics used in producing the soul, the process of soul production is already cyclic in nature. In fact, claiming David’s soul begins empty at the beginning may be impossible, by definition, because a soul once observed adds to itself; but it is nearly empty. Through his confinement to the human community and subsequent subjection to their training controls and disciplinary measures, David’s soul becomes increasingly knowable until it is as defined as a human’s soul in the end. Once adopted into Monica’s family, David is disciplined, mostly at Henry’s order, after several well-intentioned actions accidentally resulted in bodily harm, once to Monica and once to Martin. In Foucault’s description of

Fox 2 the carceral system, particularly with reference to Mettray, discipline is exercised in response to any slight deviance from the norm. “The best way of avoiding very serious offences is to punish the most minor offences very severely” (294). The post-modern sense of rule-breaking doesn’t break down into binary sense of “right” vs. “wrong,” but instead spreads into a continuous spectrum from perfect compliance to complete deviance with the norms or laws. When thought of from that perspective, the individual needs to be punished at every point along the spectrum that is away from “perfect compliance.” Punishing them significantly before they reach the opposite extreme ensures that they will never reach that extreme. This spectrum becomes even more important in David’s case because of his uncontrolled physical strength. Usually when a child holds tight onto their sibling, though it may cause slight pressure, it does not suffocate them, but when David holds onto Martin begging for protection, his grip exceeds typical human strength and he ends up putting Martin’s life in danger. “Think about this. If he was created to love, then it’s reasonable to assume he knows how to hate. And if pushed to those extremes, what is he really capable of?” posits Henry, after David’s previous hair-cutting incident. Though Henry realizes that David isn’t bad-intentioned, he sees the violent possibilities inherent in David’s spectrum of deviance, and wants to prevent him from ever getting to a bad-intentioned violent state and harming Henry’s family more. When Henry threatens to send David back to the factory, Monica still believes in David’s good intentions and wants to save him from destruction.

Fox 3 She drops him off in the forest, urging him to run far away. Though she believes this is the best for him, and will save him from himself, she is effectively causing the original motivations that inspired David’s outbursts to be destined for amplification. His isolation in the woods is analogous to cell confinement for the subjects at Mettray; both are separations from the community that foster a greater desire to return to the community. Foucault quotes Ducpetiaux as describing the punishment: “ ‘Isolation is the best means of acting on the moral nature of children; it is there above all that the voice of religion, even if it has never spoken to their hearts, recovers all its emotional power” (294). David’s “religion” is his love for his mother, his desire to be with her. Becoming separated from her just makes David need her more. Since punishment, in the post-modern sense, is designed to keep its subjects firmly inside the carceral system, isolation makes sense as a punishment. If somebody tries to leave the system, they are then isolated from the communal part of the system, and this leaves them thinking only about how desperately they want to be back in the system for the duration of the isolation. As much as Monica wants David to be able to leave the carceral system, it can never happen. Nobody can ever leave the system; David can never rid himself of the desire to be in it. But it’s not all David’s fault that he developed such a fervent desire to be in the real world. He was made with only the standard mecha desire—to serve humans. After imprinting, his desire becomes more specific: to serve Monica, to show Monica that he loved her. The escalation from those duties to

Fox 4 his desire to be loved by Monica in return, and thus be real to her, and thus find the Blue Fairy, is a sequence fueled by the community controls. Though discipline can be considered a control, here discipline and control are contrastive by the extent to which they reveal their soul-defining abilities. Both discipline and control mold the soul, but control is subtle about it. Behavior control is equitable to Foucault’s concept of “training”; the result of the interactions of subjects with the individuals around them. In an institutional version of the carceral system, there are specific supervisors with the responsibility of training. But in a real world model, potentially anyone is a trainer, because once any individual has been introduced into the system, they both learn and pass on the training subconsciously to the younger members. The most influential training that David experienced was learning that Monica would love him more if he was real, and then that the way to become real was by finding the Blue Fairy. Martin’s bullies David constantly, and like most grade-school bullies, leaves a lasting mark on David’s impressionable soul. He constantly points out how not-real David is, and how Monica doesn’t love David, and even though he knows Monica would never have the same unconditional love for David as she does for Martin, he repeatedly gives him ideas for making Mommy love him, like when he makes Monica read “Pinocchio” to them, and when he encourages David to clip her hair. This grade-school taunting strategy works very effectively: inevitably, the bullied victim will want to be what the bully makes fun of him for not being. Though Professor Hobby created David’s initial framework, Martin added the

Fox 5 most to his soul. “Mommy, if… I become a real boy can I come home?” begs David, in the woods. Here, David’s soul nears its final state; basically, he wants to be Martin. After creation, Professor Hobby did continue actively administering one type of control to David: observation. “Training was accompanied by permanent observation; a body of knowledge was being constantly built up from the everyday behavior of the inmates; it was organized as an instrument of perpetual assessment,” describes Foucault of Mettray (294). As discussed earlier, observational controls are what allow the system’s “guards” to know the souls of their subjects, and support the distribution of power relations. The ones on top that watch the ones below come to know their souls so well that they are able to control them more (and thus know them more, and the cycle continues.) David doesn’t realize he has anyone to report to until Hobby reveals they’d been watching him, and they now understood him. “And that's what Dr. Know needed to know to get you to come home to us,” explains Hobby, revealing that they’d been observing David then. By that time, they knew his soul well enough to know what would bring him to them. David was the “first of a kind,” as Hobby tells him, and thus the beginning of an entirely new population of unknown souls. Before they could learn how to control a community of Davids, they had to observe one and build up their knowledge base about him until they acquired enough knowledge to predict the soul of each David. “Do you have any idea what a success story you've become?” Hobby excitedly tells David, implying that discovering the contents of his soul

Fox 6 will allow them to release the next generation, confident they’ll behave with similar motivations. “Provided it is technically supervised, submissive subjects are produced and a dependable body of knowledge built up about them,” writes Foucault (295). Now that they are equipped with the knowledge of David’s soul, they’ll be able to manipulate his copies more easily and further establish power relations. Though David frequently insisted that he was “one of a kind,” his encounter with Hobby and the other David mecha forced him to understand the implications—he was not one of a kind, he was just a subject— so he quickly ran away to the Blue Fairy to avoid accepting that. The future generation of David mechas, with more known souls, would probably be made more submissive in order to maintain better adherence to the system and more structured power relations. In the end, the scientists realize what the system has made of David’s soul—a constant quest for Monica’s love. Though Monica and Henry assumed that by disciplining David they were teaching him that he couldn’t be and shouldn’t aspire to be loved, they were actually driving him further into their world. Each time he was disciplined, seeing himself lose some of Monica’s love made him want it more and become more fearful of losing it altogether, and he still believed it’d be possible to keep her love, because he was still a (mecha) part of their family unit. If he wasn’t, it wouldn’t make sense for them to punish him, when, as discussed, punishment is used primarily for keeping subjects within a system—not kicking them out. Combined with Martin’s behavioral training, David’s soul is doomed to pursue the impossible: find the

Fox 7 Blue Fairy and become real. Once the idea is implanted in his soul, it is what drives him for the remainder of his life. The fact that humans, and mechas like David, will pursue the impossible probably explains how easily malleable we are. Once a subject is intent on pursuing an impossible dream, a trainer can direct this passion into any activity by pretending this activity will bring them closer to their dream, and the trainer never has to worry they will reach their dream. Just as the Blue Fairy statue captivated David’s gaze for millennia, the trainer could keep a subject enslaved to their impossible dream for a lifetime. Works Cited Artificial Intelligence: AI. Dir. Steven Spielberg. Perf. Haley Joel Osmont, Frances O’Connor, and Jake Thomas. 2001. DVD. DreamWorks Home Entertainment, 2005. Foucault, Michel. Discipline and Punish: The Birth of the Prison. Trans. Alan Sheridan. New York: Vintage, 1977.