Tuesday, September 21, 2004

More ASIMO Questions

I was thinking about the movie Metropolis and found the shift in the worker’s attitudes throughout the movie very interesting. Their first reaction was to naturally destroy the machine that enslaved them. But as the movie progressed, there seemed to be a shift towards the idea that maybe the machine is not so bad after all because not only does it enslave the workers, it also provides a source of energy for the city.

This change in attitude made me remember a conversation I had with a friend last week about ASIMO, the humanoid robot manufactured by Honda. This other person took a more positive outlook on the matter, and said, “what about elderly people that are living in care homes? They would like that.” – echoing some of the same ideas used on Honda’s website to market ASIMO. I agreed with my friend and did not think much of it, assuming that of course it would be nice if there were robots that could help elderly people with day to day tasks.

But another thought came to me: What repercussions would this have on the elderly person receiving the aid?

I figure that the person would either be gung-ho about getting the extra help or very depressed because not only do they have to live in a care home, now human interaction has probably been minimized drastically. Do you think this reduction of human interaction would have a positive or negative effect on the person’s identity and self-esteem, things that contribute significantly to a person’s quality of life? Or do you think this would have other negative or positive effects on the person?


Blogger Allison Muri said...

The shifts in the workers' attitudes (and the director's?) make Metropolis into something more than mere propaganda (pro-workers, anti-machine). Always on the verge of a strong black & white/good vs. evil statement, the film seems to often portray an ambivalence toward technology and human-machines. Questions:

The M-machine (Moloch machine) is portrayed as monstrous, a huge gaping-mouthed demon consuming the workers (moloch = something that requires a costly and painful sacrifice, making reference to a god to whom children were supposedly sacrificed. See Wikipedia, Moloch in Medieval Texts, Flaubert's Conception, and Moloch as a Metaphor in Modern Art). Clearly, the machine here is demonic.

And yet, as Grot exclaims to the mob of workers (something along the lines of): "You fools! don't you know you need the machines to live?" When they destroy the machines, they destroy their livelihood, and almost destroy their children. ...But clearly the machine has made the workers themselves machinelike.

And what about the other human-machines? Rotwang (is he the first cyborg in film?) clearly is just a bit deranged. But then the question is: to what does he owe his madness? The infidelity of the woman Hel? Or the devotion to science/playing God? He is surely the mad scientist figure at its very birth.

The real question for me seems to hinge on this teetering back and forth between evil-as-machine and evil-as-woman. That android/robot /Cyborg? creature, the "man-machine" until it becomes "Maria" is truly representing all sorts of evils inherent in human desires. She is associated at one point with the Whore of Babylon, and the fetishized version of the human machine is all too apparent here. So often, the female android or cyborg becomes a sign of evil desires...

So is it the machine that's evil, or the desirable and powerful woman? (Hel and the android both). And what about that Heart, Head, Hand business in terms of both the human and machine (city) body? (So clearly leaving out the bodily geography of desires: mouths, stomachs, genitals..)

9:58 AM  
Blogger Allison Muri said...

Both Dustin's and Warren's recent comments call attention to the master-slave relationships of humans and their machines (whether the machine is a material object or a social structure such as the economy). Both also call our attention to machines and "caring" --in this conversation, caring for the elderly (what happens when machines do our caring for us?) Does the technology of production/reproduction seems at odds with taking care of the children? Are these texts suggesting the products of our technologies are actually the masters of humanity (technological determinism)?

10:56 AM  
Blogger Meshon said...

I think Resident Evil: Apocalypse fits here too, in a way; the general populace is ruled by a technocracy that makes decisions that profoundly affect everyone. Though the emphasis is not on machines, it does reflect a fear of those who control technology and what uses those powerful, secretive and largely un-regulated people might have for the powers they hold. Problems seem to arise from that disconnection between the brain and hands; in the context of a corporation I think it's because of the drive for profit, not a particularly humanistic endeavour. Corporation as cyborg/monster? I remembered a quote from a William Gibson story that I thought was very interesting, but I'll put it in a new post, since I don't really think it fits here.

9:19 AM  

Post a Comment

<< Home