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Technology Questions the Value of Human Life 1
Technology refers to the realistic use of science by humankind for various purposes which help make life more convenient. Today, when the rate of development and research is so incredible, it is unproblematic to think about the advantages of modern technology. Though, a few people debate that science can demolish mankind. Advanced technology plays a crucial role in both Philip K.Dick’s novel Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? and Alex Proyas’ movie I, Robot. In both novel and the film, robots are used as servants by human beings. Technology is used to manipulate human emotions in the novel and to replace human work in the movie. While androids i.e. artificial beings that look and act exactly like humans are used by humans for personal service in the novel, robots in the movie hold the same purpose. Introducing organic and logically humanoid robots in the novel enables the author to interrogate what virtues characterize what is human and makes readers think about their own humanity. I, Robot just like the novel is an eminent foretaste of the progression of robotic science in all its splendour. Modern technology in the form of robotics is shown to challenge humanity by questioning the real meaning and value of human life in the novel, film and the article which portrays an unpleasant dystopic image of the technologically advanced human future.
The creation and use of artificial intelligence, originally for a better and more convenient future, with the use of technology is leading towards human destruction due to loss of power and control and is taking over human identity. In the novel, although the androids are identical to humans, they are considered tangible private possessions. An evolution in the thinking of the robots is brought into attention in both the novel and the movie. The androids begin to go against the laws by harming humans for their personal freedom which further causes social, ethical and economic problems. For example, the androids are only to be used in the Martian colonies i.e. by people who have emigrated to Mars after the World War Terminus which caused massive destruction on Earth. However, many of them escape to Earth and fight against the bounty hunters, trying to get away from the mental segregation and individual slavery. The androids learn to stand up for their rights physically and mentally which is not suggestive of their expected behaviour. Being indistinguishable from humans proves to be highly advantageous for the androids and makes it very difficult for the bounty hunters to catch them. Humans have no control on the actions of the robots and the robots are therefore free to make any decisions that they find suitable for themselves without worrying about its disadvantages to humans as their designers and owners. Similarly, in the movie, the latest, self-governing, tentative and more human-like robots start on to cause trouble in the industry. For example, the main actor in the movie, Detective Del Spooner suspects one of the new NS-5 unit robots named Sonny to have killed the founder of the U.S. Robotics, Dr Alfred Lanning. Hence, during his enquiry, numerous attempts on his life are made by USR robots and equipment. Spooner realizes that the NS-5’s are annihilating the older robots, are autonomous of their predominant control and therefore cannot be conquered. Also, that they are incarcerating humans in their homes and compelling those outside to go home. This establishes a loss of control from the human side and an impression of overtaking of power from the robots’ side. This also results in the disruption of the Three Laws of Robotics and supports other hazardous robots to kill humans which results in a disaster for the USR Corporation. Regardless of the Three Laws programming, the robots’ artificial intelligence evolves and their understanding of the laws does too. Furthermore, the article “1 of 6 Canadians hit by identity theft” implies the evolution of modern technology in a negative direction as opposed to a positive one. The article stresses on the fact that the Canadian government has no control over these frauds and suggests Canada to establish an anti-spam law. According to the article,“ The poll, conducted in 2006 by the Strategic Counsel for theCompetition Bureau of Canada, suggests that 17 per cent of Canadians aged 18 or older have either been victimized themselves or had an incident affect someone in their homes” (CBC News 2007). This demonstrates how technology is being used in a negative manner and has a destructive impact on the development of the society. The article also states that most Canadians do not criticize against the system when they are trapped in marketing swindles which shows how technology is threatening human power and is taking control over it.
Humans are publicized as automated beings in both the novel and the movie which makes it extremely challenging to distinguish between humans and machines. There is an increasing concern on what does it mean to be a human in an integrated, computerized world and where can one draw a line between the significance of actual and simulated life in both of the sources. In the novel, the ability to feel emotions is what differentiates humans from androids. But, in the future situation, technology has enabled humans to modify their emotions putting forth a sense of severance. The readers are introduced to the ‘mood organ’ in the beginning of the novel, demonstrated in the following lines: “When I had the TV sound off, I was in a 382 mood; I had just dialed it. So, although I heard the emptiness intellectually, I didn’t feel it” (Dick 3). This machine discovered in every household allows individuals to “dial” an emotion. People use the device to set up emotions of their preference. The main method of setting apart humans from androids is that they do not have the human capability to feel empathically about others. If the individuals ‘dial’ their emotions, the incidents that encircle them are not relevant as their emotion is previously ‘set.’ Therefore, people are more machine-like and no longer receptive. This is confirmed on quite a few occasions during the novel, but specifically when the main protagonist of the novel, Rick Deckard searches for Luba Luft, an android, to retire i.e. kill her. The novel supports the idea that the android conduct is similar to that of humans, where humans who do not show compassion are more like machines. For instance, when Deckard questions Luft, aiming to verify she is an android because she is carefree of what happens to other androids, she strikes back and blames him of being an android, since as a bounty hunter, he kills androids as if he has no emotions. This suggests that he is not exhibiting any form of empathy or culpability towards killing these machines as Luft indicates and hence, in a sense, can be classified as a machine himself. Androids are “technical structures” that are not made to respond sensitively; however, some androids do show signs of compassion, although they are not supposed to, which goes against the standard principles. Therefore, the defining feature of androids that they are emotionless is diverged. Dick is intentionally highlighting that androids embody human traits and hence are able to feel some kind of consideration towards others. I, Robot as well emphasizes that robots are not designed to show any form of emotion. For example, when Sonny, the chief robot, shows a sense of anger yelling out, “I did not murder him!” (Proyas 2004) during the investigation, it astonishes and alerts detective Spooner who is aware of the fact that robots do not have a sense of emotion. Spooner also discovers that Sonny has the capability to maintain secrets through dreams which is not reminiscent of the normal robotic behaviour instead resembles that of humans’. Also, in the movie, the robots learn to justify their actions by themselves regardless of how they have been programmed. At one point, Sonny asks Spooner about the significance of a wink. Detective Spooner is distinctively made known for hating robots and dislikes their involvement in every day human life. He shows no sign of empathy towards them. Therefore, the robots demonstrating a sense of curiosity and emotion by showing compassion and humans doing the opposite makes one question what reality is and provides an exceptional pause for a thought on the importance and value of human life.
The novel, movie as well the article reveal that technology, which is generally perceptible as succeeding towards moral good, can also assist the most forbidding misdeed. Human life is shown to be devalued and the significance of what it means to be human is questioned in all the mediums. Technology portrays a threat on reality by challenging humans and their humanity. Therefore, the question is: Is technology alleviating humankind, its creators, or destroying it?
Dick, Philip K. Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?. New York: Ballantine Books, 1968.
I, Robot. Dir. Alex Proyas. With Will Smith, Bridget Moynahan, Alan Tudyk, James Cromwell, and Craig March. 20th Century Fox, 2004.
“1 in 6 Canadians hit by identity theft, survey suggests.” CBC News. 1 March.2007. CBC Network Television. 26 Nov.2009
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