It’s been a while since we’ve posted a regular episode, but we hope you’ve enjoyed our long run of Initial Reaction episodes this summer. We bring you a critical-thinking discussion on the action-paced, science fiction thriller, I, Robot. Not based on the critically-acclaimed robot stories by Isaac Asimov (as the title would suggest), I, Robot is actually an adapted screenplay that presents a futuristic murder mystery in which artificial intelligences play a key role in solving the murder and was later expanded to include Asimov’s famous “Three Laws of Robotics.”
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25 years into the Future
It’s a very common theme in futuristic thrillers to have the man-made creation turn on its creator. I, Robot is just one in a long list of similar plots leading all the way back to Frankenstein (a list that contains such thrillers as The Terminator, Matrix, Eagle Eye, and Battlestar Galactica). It’s ironic that Asimov actually wrote his books to avoid this stock plot. Even more ironic is that Asimov, a vocal God-hater during his lifetime, wrote books in which he turns man’s mechanical creations into godlike creatures who watch over and protect mankind—the ultimate form of man creating god.
The mind of the machine
Two robots in I, Robot appear to be sentient (making decisions for themselves) Sonny and VIKI.
“Woe to the one who quarrels with his Maker–
An earthenware vessel among the vessels of earth!
Will the clay say to the potter, ‘What are you doing?’
Or the thing you are making say, ‘He has no hands’?
“Woe to him who says to a father, ‘What are you begetting?’
Or to a woman, ‘To what are you giving birth?'” (Isaiah 45:9–10)
God gave us a soul and a spirit, which allow us to question, reason, and change our minds. A computer can’t do that like we can—they rely on preprogrammed algorithms. For example, the videogame Spore is designed to evolve a creature and animate it and adjust its behavior based on the player’s “design” of the creature, but even that is still a result of preprogrammed algorithms.
Creation mixing with evolution
I, Robot mixes the terminology of creation with evolution, speaking of robots evolving a soul, but also of being created. Sonny refers to his maker as his “father.”
“Do we not all have one father? Has not one God created us? Why do we deal treacherously each against his brother so as to profane the covenant of our fathers? (Malachi 2:10, NASB)
Sonny claims to have dreams, but Del comments that robots are only an “imitation of life.” Dreams are something special. God uses them for communication, for prophecy, for illustration of concepts, and such.
“It will come about after this
That I will pour out My Spirit on all mankind;
And your sons and daughters will prophesy,
Your old men will dream dreams,
Your young men will see visions. (Joel 2:28, NASB)
But dreams are not necessarily prophetic. Machines don’t dream. Dreams imply sleep and a special level of sleep and subconsciousness. Sonny’s dream was definitely programmed; it was a way for Alfred Lanning to communicate with Del after his death—just one of the many “bread crumbs” he leaves for Del to follow.
Can a robot write a symphony?
Emotion is required for art, and while Sonny portrays several emotions (fear, anger, compassion, love), they are programmed simulations of emotions. Mechanical objects are not self-aware enough to portray true emotion.
Robots might naturally evolve.
The suggestion that random combinations can make a soul is a very evolutionary concept. Yet, we know that information cannot arise without an informer.
Difference engine becomes a search for truth.
Computers can process information better than we can. For a computer, there is only truth (on or off, ones or zeros), there is no “maybe.” A computer must trust its maker, it can’t correct its own flaws beyond what it is programed to recognize and repair according to more algorithms. Any error-correction that a program can do is part of these algorithms.
Three Law of Robotics
- A robot may not injure a human being or, through inaction, allow a human being to come to harm.
- A robot must obey any orders given to 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 Law.
Sonny had a second brain. He could choose to not obey. VIKI had a different way to look at the three laws: she evolved her understanding to put the protection of humanity over humans.
To protect humanity, some humans must be sacrificed. To ensure your future, some freedoms must be surrendered.
An idea that we are dealing with politically, right now, this concept has been dealt with in many movies.
What did you think?
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Are You Just Watching?™ is produced and sponsored by D.Joseph Design. The opening vocal talent is thanks to Mariah. Our theme song is used courtesy of Answers in Genesis, from their exciting vacation Bible school curriculum, Operation Space.