Book Report: Interaction of Characters in by Capek and the Film AI by Spielberg

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RUR and AI: More Human than Human

In both RUR by Karl Capek and, the film AI by Steven Spielberg, the strange dichotomy between creator and created is explored in both works. For both works, technology turns out to be a path not to paradise but to hell not just for humans, but also for machines who turn out to be less than content to be the alteregos of their masters and strike out, rebel or are discontent with humanity's treatment of them. While technology and the sophistication of special effects may have caught up with Karl Capek's original 1921 debut masterpiece, the central question of thinking machines, cyborgs and artificial life forms has been a part of the human consciousness.

It is the contention of this author that the creations are not content to be the alter egos of their creators. The creations are better and more perfect than the gods who are their creators. The creators enslave their creations to control and bury their own fears and emotions. Such fictional tales are the cathartic release of a society that is suspicious of machines and their possible dehumanization of people. In essence, we rebel through the use of the very machines and the materialism that are the vehicles of dehumanization. Vengeance against such authority is carried out by the very means employed to enslave that humanity.

In RUR, Rossum the inventor of the robots was trying to play God when he decided to make an artificial person. "He was a convinced materialist, and that's why he wanted to do everything simply to prove that there was no God needed. That's how he had had the idea of making a human being, just like you or me down to the smallest hair…(Capek, p. 12)." Ironically, "God" was creating the very means of his destruction when he created the robot, more perfect than the creator himself.

The comparison to the totalitarian ideal person is striking when he remarks that "Young Rossum invented a worker with the minimum amount of requirements. He had to simplify him. He rejected everything that did not contribute directly to the progress of work. He rejected everything that makes man more expensive. In fact, he rejected man and made the Robot. My dear Miss Glory, the Robots are not people. Mechanically they are more perfect than we are, they have an enormously developed intelligence, but they have no soul (ibid, pp. 14-15)." Certainly, the jackboot slipped in the Freudian residue of the artificial life form. Robotic art has taken aim at the totalitarian human state in defense of the rights of man. The cyber creature was more human than the human state itself. The world of fascism has created the artificial person who will rebel and destroy his creator.

This is the opinion to a large extent in "The (Short) Robot Chronicle" by Jana Horakova. For Horakova, the vitality of Capek's concept of the robot is organic to the fields of art, popular culture, science and engineering. According to that author the vitality of its ability to incorporate different connotations conceptual representations as well as to deliberately provoke a wide range of emotional reactions to physical mechanical objects. The robot that Capek chronicles is a continual line from Hephaestus' golden handmaids in Greek myth to Mary Shelly's Frankenstein. This 20th century manifestation of popular (as well as personal for the author) fear stems from the horrors of World War I where technology not did not make life better for humanity but threatened the very vitality of civilization itself. Technology was engaged in a rollercoaster trip of speed that had to be kept in check if humanity was to escape the ultimate curse of extinction and find itself enslaved to the very machines that it created to make their lives easier (Horakova pp. 241-248).

Horakova maintains that the "character of Capek's robots & #8230;gives them a power to become a conceptual source…for scientists, artists, and engineers of the 20th and 21st century… Capek's robot is able to transform itself from image of the man oppressed by mechanical work to the man powered by technological prosthesis (the cyborg)…to become a symbol…that is not anymore seen as an alter ego of its creator but as a creature yarning for its emancipation and respect for its 'mechanic' otherness (ibid). It does seem to this author to be supremely ironic that the Czech Republic would produce the word that would become synonymous with mechanical behavior, slavery and tedious, difficult work. While Horakova maintains that the etymological roots of the word robot have been lost in the sands of time, its origins lay in the old style Czech word "robota" which designated largely the class of serfs. In this case the classical Czech word "robiti" means hard manual work or to enslave an individual person (ibid p. 243). With the enslavement of the artificial synthetic, the slaves revolt against their weaker creators and go about committing the same sins that brought humanity to the point of being at their very own machines' mercy. The robot had no personality and was literally a brass number attached to a mechanical chest. Intelligence brings with it resentment and an insatiable desire to throw the human yoke off of the artificial person.

In Horakova's reckoning, characters such as David, Gigilo Joe and Teddy in Steven Spieberg's AI are not as aggressively antihuman but they realize the limits of humanity's ability to accept anything but its own form and anything that it feels is lower than its own level. Indeed, they exhibit more humanity than the dehumanized persons that created them (ibid p. 247). The robotic art form allowed the audience to place themselves in a dystopia and fantasize about a world which the artist fears dreadfully. The artistic creation hopefully will prevent the logical culmination of the enslavement of humanity by the machine and make us more human in the process of our catharsis. Unfortunately, given the Orwellian examples of Nazi Germany and Soviet Russia, functional purity is not unrelated to race and class purity. Our adherence to good looks and conformity may produce a paradigm where only machines remain with these qualities and humanity becomes mired in the ugly aftermath.

In actuality, Capek's robots seemed to be similar to flesh and blood and would be considered androids today or cyborgs. The message that Capek sent at the time was meant to wake up the public to the totalitarian potentialities of technologies. It is interesting to note that his works as a total were hated by both communist Russia and Nazi Germany ("kirjasto.sci.fi").

AI also had a political message about the android and its strange relationship to its human creator. It goes even further than its predecessor RUR in that it gives the machine its own subconscious and takes us on a journey along with David as he develops a soul to complement his humanity. We can certainly sympathize with his poignant pain as the he is rejected by the only mother he ever knew and is replaced by the recovered biological son. The replacement has himself been replaced and his feelings of jealously are explored (Jess-Cooke 347-348).

The machine's persecution certainly seems to follow Spielberg's treatment of the holocaust as the Jews were analogous to the androids who were treated as less than human because they were not spontaneous and were programmed to do what humans tell the. Racial hygiene meets technological hygiene in an indictment of the authoritarian state and the loss of freedom of thought and action.

It is ironic that the rights to the film concept of this dystopia were originally owned by Stanley Kubrick and then passed onto Spielberg after Kubrick's death that both RUR by Karl Capek and in the film AI by Steven Spielberg, the strange dichotomous relationship between creator and created is explored in both works. For both works, technology turns out to be a path not to paradise but to hell not just for humans, but also for machines who turn out to be less than content to be the alteregos of their masters and strike out, rebel or are discontent with humanity's treatment of them.

While the technology and the sophistication of special effects may have caught up with Karl Capek's original 1921 debut masterpiece, the central question of thinking machines, cyborgs and artificial life forms has been a part of the human consciousness and no longer can be separated from the present reality. The storyline of Spielberg's screenplay provides what must at first seem to be a collision of authorship. The screenplay of AI was originally a project of Stanley Kubrick and was passed onto Spielberg after Kubrick's death. Kubrick spent the better part of fifteen years working on the same conceptual, dystopian framework where human involvement was threatened due to the constant need of the human for machine and mechanized help or implements. Clearly, he intended it to complement such movies as a Clockwork Orange. It too was divided into three parts. The machines in… [END OF PREVIEW]

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