MAS330 Short Essay

Short Essay
The Dichotomy of the Human vs. the Inanimate in Steven Spielberg’s Artificial Intelligence
Steven Spielberg brilliantly represents a unique portraiture of technology in
his dichotomous foresight of the future within his science fiction film,

Artificial Intelligence: A.I. Within his masterwork, Spielberg creates a
representation of technology fostering ambiguity between its status as an inanimate extension of human invention or as the implicit child of human compulsions. Spielberg does this by purposefully confusing the values of the cold mechanical and robotic, with the warm organic and emotional. Through his fictional work the human becomes autonomous, the programmed is transformed into the emotional and the genesis of the human condition challenged in the ultimate question of consciousness. This essay will follow Spielberg's efforts to represent a dichotomous struggle, between how inanimate technology is represented and the values placed on humanity, in pursuit of dissolving it. Following the opening credits we are quickly re-familiarised with the more traditional representations of technology within science-fiction. We move from images of oceans which have engulfed civilisation to the clinical interiors of a robot manufacturing corporation. The cold tone of the image, by convention, denotes a clinical separation from human elements; while our Dr. Frankenstein analogue Professor Hobby demonstrates the unemotional nature of the company’s current robot models. Instantly Spielberg portrays a classical ‘Frankensteinian’ view of technology as the inanimate machinery and device born out of the science-fiction genre (Murphie & Potts, 2003:97). The robots harbour no more connection to humanity as a standard household appliance and,

Mario Brce

MAS330 Short Essay with the exception of appearance. David Levy points out that humans have a bewildering alibility to foster relationships with material possessions in his book: Love + Sex With Robots (2007: 28). With that word the first signs of empathy from a non-human being begin to unravel. hold none of the values attributed to humanity. Thus. whose organic biological son Martin Swinton. Monica Swinton. Consequently. “Mummy” for the first time. In the same way. the character David serves as a prime example of Spielberg’s effort to attribute values of purpose-based design within technology through a diligently clinical aesthetic in costume and set. is unveiled through an unearthly overexposed shot as a packaged product of the Cybertronics Corporation. Likewise. However these material or artificial values attached to David’s character quickly begin to melt as the mother. the penultimate reversal occurs when Martin Swinton emerges from his comatose stasis through the means of life enabling technology. our protagonist is painted as an inanimate technological pacifier for an innate human need. David is portrayed as a material automaton brought forth to satisfy a mother’s need for a child’s love within a torn family. Unable to survive without the aid of mechanised leg braces and saved by breathing apparatus. The protagonist David. Consequently. begins to grow an attachment to him. our first doubts of David’s status as a machined commodity are awakened when he addresses her as. Downed in purely generic white clothing upon his arrival to the Swinton household. Monica cannot resist her innate human desire to activate David’s love circuitry intrinsically binding his love to her forever. a ‘mecha’ robot. Martin’s place on the mechanical-organic dichotomy is about as Mario Brce . remains suspended in indefinite cryogenic suspension due to an unspecified illness.

Mario Brce . The distinguishing filmic representations between technological and human agents are blurred. Similarly. who sports the incontestable appearance of a human child. organic social sensibility versus mischievous conspiring.’ which sees humans systemically hunt down stray robots and rip them to pieces for their pleasure. All these values become interchangeable as David and Martin are forced to interact with each other like bickering children. Monica’s character begins to lack humane elements such as mercy. Spielberg begins to carefully reverse the values we traditionally assign to the inanimate and the human. Spielberg’s choice to have the two opposing characters as children is very important because children respond on primordial impulse and unconscious emotions. or innate awkwardness. all the while seeing the uncontrollable development of jealousy within Martin towards his parent’s attachment to an object nothing more than a new mechanical toy. However his cries are ignored. David begs not to be left alone.MAS330 Short Essay ambiguous as that of David’s. empathy and love while all the while David begins to demonstrate an increasingly developed sense of these fundamental human values. love. Monica’s decision to abandon David in the forest can almost be seen as monstrous. Spielberg’s hostile representation of humans begins to re-align the values which we use to govern what is human and what is artificiality. Thus. Moravec argues that the unconscious aspects of human emotion are the key to forming artificial intelligence (1988: 16). the continued dehumanisation of humans within Spielberg’s representation begins to challenge the concept of technology being exclusively separate to the notion of humanity. Instead we begin to turn our attention to the underlying values we attribute to humans and machinery. preprogrammed responses. emotional understanding. just as any human child might. Nevertheless. The ‘Flesh Fair.

books. be it in a mechanical or organic being. It is within the second act of ‘the body’ where we begin to realise that human values and ideas traverse the shell in which they live. Spielberg’s question to the audience is no longer where the boundary between technology and humanity lie but rather where the boundary of human values exists in both organic and mechanical technologies. and perhaps not even an extension but rather an adopted part of the intrinsic human body.MAS330 Short Essay works as an insight to how mindlessly programmed our own sadistic behaviour can become. increasingly comes to be about the simulacra of human beings in mechanical machinery akin to the Mary Shelley’s novel Frankenstein from the 19th century (2008: 30). the story of Spielberg’s A. While technologies develop and expire. 2008: 34). When the human creator assembles a robot in his own image there is an innate transmission of human values that transgress the technological boundary. their implementation is often what survives human fragility and mortality. sculptures. While Spielberg migrates these human values into the realm of technological embodiment. Nevertheless. or any constructed artefacts of the Mario Brce . from the philosophical thoughts of Heidegger (Heidegger 1978: 238 As cited in Olivier. For Olivier the transmission of human values is likened to the concept of the ‘Dasein’. Some film analysts believe that the film is thematically split across a three-act structure encapsulating three corresponding groups of values through which we define humanness: heart. it is almost as if this translation cannot occur without technology losing its timeless attributes. However this transformation towards becoming human does not come without an ultimate price: mortality.I. 2006). Bert Olivier points out. writings. a type of conscious presence. Technology is no longer a utility of humanity. body and consciousness (Bernstein.

the organic becomes as much a technology and utility to the mechas as they once were to humans. Therefore. we see advanced robots utilise organic elements to resurrect Monica for one day purely for David's internally programmed child like love for her.MAS330 Short Essay past remain timeless. Rather. Inversely. like the rest of us. Ray Kurzwell explains that even technology has an inescapable life cycle living through the stages of development to maturity and finally obsolescence alongside several more (1999: 19). the question of mortality endangers the dichotomous relationship between humanity and its utility over technology. The dialogue of the mecha character Gigolo Joe is used to comment on this established notion. You were designed and built specific. Furthermore. In this case. or broke. having advanced 2000 years into the future. work to discover the secrets of the universe through the archaeological study of the now long extinct lives of humans. in our case David and the rest of the mechas. all that will be left is us.. Heidegger’s ‘Dasein. if not more predominantly within the mecha's.. the very transposition of human values unto a mechanical construction. And you are alone now only because they tired of you. this advanced ‘breed’ of robots that recovers David from his slumber. The human condition. or were displeased with something you said. In the last act of the film . becomes present within both types of entities. the mecha's recognition of the inevitable and their own understanding of degradation and mortality destroys humanity's exclusive state of being. becomes what endows them with an understanding of their own mortality even if they are artificially constructed.’ even if on a purely allegorical level. That's why they hate us. Mario Brce . We are suffering for the mistakes they made because when the end comes. or replaced you with a younger model.

robotic organisms existing in a complex state of consciousness with our own set of responsibilities. Not by violent victory or conflict with an opposing being. the status of technology has shifted away from the notions of being humanity’s mere creation for our own utility. In conclusion. expired space-time pathways in history and void values. becomes a collection of tissue. Mario Brce . Spielberg unearths the possibility that we are all organic technology. Thus. Spielberg’s representation of technology within his masterwork Artificial Intelligence intentionally mixes the values we associate with technology and humanity.MAS330 Short Essay along with its body. Instead. but simply through slow self-inflicted extinction. Through the dissolution of this dichotomy he unravels questions of consciousness exposing how even our own sense of self is a product of our innate programming.

Tr. Websites Bernstein. Filmography Artificial Intelligence: A. Film-Philosophy.I. Robot. Levy. London: Cambridge University Press.: Artificial Intelligence. J. Love + Sex with Robots. Culture and Technology. A. Directed by Steven Spielberg. [Online] http://www.jeffreyscottbernstein. 1988. Mind Children: The future of Robot and Human Intelligence.I. 2006. Olivier. 12(2). New York: HarperCollins Publications. A Three-Part Thematic Structure of A.MAS330 Short Essay Bibliography Heidegger. Oxford: Basil Blackwell. M. The Age of Spiritual Machines: When computers exceed human intelligence. Murphie. Moravec. B. Kurzweil. Retrieved from MLA International Bibliography database. & Robinson. 2003. Being and Time. 30-44. Basingstoke: Palgrave. Accessed 16th September 2010. R. J. When Robots Would Really Be Human Simulacra: Love and the Ethical in Spielberg's AI and Proyas's I. H. Macquarie. 1978. Mario Brce . 2002. E. 1999. USA: Warner Bros. J. 2007. (2008). & Potts.. New York: Penguin Group.

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