Attack of the drones: take cover! The killer robots of the silver screen may soon be appearing in a war zone near you."THEY'RE BAAAACK!" ROBOTS, THAT IS--BACK at the local cineplex. In the past few years we've seen more upgrades of robot stories than of Microsoft Windows See Windows.
(operating system) Microsoft Windows - Microsoft's proprietary window system and user interface software released in 1985 to run on top of MS-DOS. Widely criticised for being too slow (hence "Windoze", "Microsloth Windows") on the machines available then. .
An old Isaac Asimov Noun 1. Isaac Asimov - United States writer (born in Russia) noted for his science fiction (1920-1992)
Asimov tale about rebelling robots was revived in I, Robot. Ira Levin's satirical thriller about robotic SUV moms was brought back to life in the remake of The Stepford Wives. Twentieth Century Fox brought out the animated comedy Robots about futuristic droids that look like recycled mid-20th-century toasters. And now an invading armada of Martian robots has arrived in Steven Spielberg's remake of H. G. Wells' classic The War of the Worlds. Talk about your rebuilt engines.
Robots and other sentient sentient /sen·ti·ent/ (sen´she-ent) able to feel; sensitive.
1. Having sense perception; conscious.
2. Experiencing sensation or feeling. technology have a long genealogy in Hollywood, beginning with Fritz Lang's Metropolis in 1927 and running through Ridley Scott's noir-ish Blade Runner and James Cameron's and the Wachowski brothers' respective Terminator and Matrix franchises.
Last year's I, Robot recycled a central theme of robot movies--rebellious machines bent on overthrowing their human masters. In movies like Blade Runner and the Terminator and Matrix trilogies, the once docile machines manufactured to serve humanity and carry out its more tedious and dangerous tasks have become self-aware creatures, suddenly discontent with their status as mechanized mech·a·nize
tr.v. mech·a·nized, mech·a·niz·ing, mech·a·niz·es
1. To equip with machinery: mechanize a factory.
2. slaves. Like some new Prometheus, the robots who dream turn against their makers in a bid to do what humans have been trying to accomplish since Eden--grasp equality with the gods and gain dominion over all. This is HAL Hal: see Halle, Belgium.
In Sufism, a state of mind reached from time to time by mystics during their journey toward God. The ahwal (plural of hal) are God-given graces that appear when a soul is purified of its attachments to the material world. calmly executing his astronaut masters in 2001: A Space Odyssey or a perfectly mechanical Arnold hunting down his human prey in the first Terminator. You just can't get good help anymore.
The revolt of the robots is usually told as a cautionary tale about the dangers of modern science, reminding us of the unintended consequences of all our clever inventions. We may, the films warn us, outwit out·wit
tr.v. out·wit·ted, out·wit·ting, out·wits
1. To surpass in cleverness or cunning; outsmart.
2. Archaic To surpass in intelligence. ourselves by opening a Pandora's box we'll never be able to shut. Necessity may be the mother of invention, but enslavement en·slave
tr.v. en·slaved, en·slav·ing, en·slaves
To make into or as if into a slave.
en·slavement n. and death could be some of its unintended children, and so many a robot story has served as a morality tale, warning us about the arrogance and limits of the human intellect.
BUT MOVIES ABOUT ROBOTS ALSO EXPLORE OUR INHUMANITY in·hu·man·i·ty
n. pl. in·hu·man·i·ties
1. Lack of pity or compassion.
2. An inhuman or cruel act.
1. to one another. Often the fiends are not rebellious robots but callous humans--and the moral lesson is not about our arrogance but our bigotry, which shows up in the way we fail to recognize the humanity or dignity of our own creations. Data, the Pinocchio-like android An open platform for cellphones from the Open Handset Alliance (OHA). Based on Linux, Android includes a library of Java classes for building mobile applications.
Android and GPhone in Star Trek: The Next Generation, is a machine who wants oh-so-desperately to be human and who, through his courage, curiosity, and honor, proves to be so much more humane than many of the earthlings who snub and abuse him. And Andrew, the butler robot Robin Williams plays in Bicentennial bi·cen·ten·ni·al
1. Happening once every 200 years.
2. Lasting for 200 years.
3. Relating to a 200th anniversary.
A 200th anniversary or its celebration. Also called bicentenary. Man, suffers two centuries of bigotry and prejudice at the hands of humans who think of him as "just a machine."
The robots in these stories are symbols of our inability to see the humanity of "the other," the one who is different. Their metal or plastic bodies stand in for all the other bodies we have failed to acknowledge as "flesh of our flesh," whether because of race or gender or class or sexual orientation sexual orientation
The direction of one's sexual interest toward members of the same, opposite, or both sexes, especially a direction seen to be dictated by physiologic rather than sociologic forces. .
In Steven Spielberg's AI: Artificial Intelligence a robotic boy named David loves his adoptive mother and father perfectly, but they cannot or will not return this affection or fidelity. When things go wrong, he is, like last year's software, disposable. And out in the "real" world other humans treat "mechas" like David as so much junkyard refuse.
But robot tales also uncover our own unacknowledged responsibility for much that goes on in the world. Stories of robots gone bad remind us of the damage we do by remote control, the way our choices as consumers, investors, and citizens harm others we never see and hardly ever think about. Murderous robots are symbols of the social and political "machines" that act in our name--corporations, governments, and churches--and of the responsibility we bear for the things they do.
In Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow Joe Sullivan (Jude Law) and Polly Perkins (Gwyneth Paltrow) uncover a doomsday plot carried out by robots that were simply following orders, and in I, Robot it turns out that a renegade computer is merely trying to obey its human programmer's prime directive. These thrillers remind us to pay attention to the "man behind the curtain in concealment; in secret.
See also: Curtain "--or the control panel.
REMEMBERING THE HUMAN HAND behind killer robots is even more urgent as our military escalates its use of armed robots in Iraq and elsewhere and plans for a day when soldier robots will do more and more of the fighting in America's wars.
Since 2001 the Air Force's Predator, an unmanned aircraft armed with Hellfire hell·fire
The fire of hell, considered as punishment for sinners.
the torment of hell, imagined as eternal fire
Noun 1. missiles, has been sent on "hunter killer" missions over Afghanistan, Iraq, and Pakistan, and now the Pentagon has purchased two dozen new Predator B drones, which use 3,000 pounds of laser-guided bombs or missiles and an array of sensors to track and kill enemy "targets" 50,000 feet beneath them, while their human pilots pull the trigger in an air-conditioned office outside Las Vegas.
This summer the Army will deploy 18 SWORDS (Special Weapons Observation Reconnaissance Detection System) combat robots in Iraq. Converted from an earlier model that disarmed roadside bombs, the 3-foot armed robot rolls across rough terrain at 5 miles an hour and fires 300 rounds of ammunition with inhuman accuracy.
And this is just the start. The Pentagon plans to build and buy a vast array of robotic weapons over the next several years, spending more than $145 billion in the first phase of its "Future Combat Systems" program, and hiking the defense budget from $419 billion next year to more than $502 billion by 2010. None of this includes the costs of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, which have already reached nearly $300 billion, with no end in sight.
THE APPEAL OF ROBOT SOLDIERS IS clear. They don't need food, sleep, training, medical care, a pension, or a bonus to make them reenlist; and they can't be maimed maim
tr.v. maimed, maim·ing, maims
1. To disable or disfigure, usually by depriving of the use of a limb or other part of the body. See Synonyms at batter1.
2. , get post-traumatic stress disorder post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), mental disorder that follows an occurrence of extreme psychological stress, such as that encountered in war or resulting from violence, childhood abuse, sexual abuse, or serious accident. , or come home dead.
Still there are problems. David Ulin noted in a recent Los Angeles Times Los Angeles Times
Morning daily newspaper. Established in 1881, it was purchased and incorporated in 1884 by Harrison Gray Otis (1837–1917) under The Times-Mirror Co. (the hyphen was later dropped from the name). piece that robotic warriors run the risk of sanitizing war, anesthetizing us to its horrid costs. Everyone wants to protect our troops; but if we can kill the enemy without suffering casualties, will we kill less often, or more? If our pilots and soldiers learn to kill by remote control, and our citizens believe an army of robots will absorb most of the costs we pay in combat, will we lose our sense of war's horror? If fewer of our boys and girls boys and girls
mercurialisannua. are dying, will we think no one is dying? And if America can go to war without worrying about voters complaining when GIs come home in body bags, will we go to war less often, or more?
In sci-fi movies like Blade Runner, Terminator, and The Matrix, we worry about killer robots turning against humanity in an armed rebellion. But there are other dangers associated with creating machines that do our killing. There is the threat that we will surrender the very humanity that makes us hate war.
PATRICK MCCORMICK, professor of Christian ethics at Gonzaga University in Spokane, Washington.