Nathalie Launder25 April 2019

Human-Robot Connection

Films

Artificial intelligence has begun to transform the world as we know it. Many countries are already investing heavily in new AI-based technologies, and are making great progress. However, whilst AI has the power to do great things for the advancement of society, the fine line between autonomy in thought and action and dependency on learned and predictable scripts and responses AI treads raises significant ethical concerns for its safe integration into modern-day society - in particular its place in contact with vulnerable populations, such as children, the elderly and the ill.

The following collection of films dabble with the darker side of AI-based technologies, exploring some of the consequences and shortfalls of replacing real human to human connection with unnatural human to robot and augmented reality relationships.

The science-fiction short Dr. Easy, adapted from the opening chapter of the novel The Red Men by Matthew De Abaitua, is a thrilling tale of a medically-trained robot dispatched by emergency personnel to attend to a desperate man. Armed with a double barrel shotgun, stock analyst Michael Sawyer is holed up in a room unable to speak and in need of urgent medical and psychiatric attention, his tongue shot out by a police sniper. However, his only chance of escape from the dangerous situation comes in the form of Dr. Easy, an artificially empathetic monotonous robot programmed to act as negotiator, paramedic and psychologist all in one.

Dr. Easy

I, Loneliness Gadget, a dystopian science-fiction short by Can Eren explores the physical and psychological degeneration of the individual in a society driven by gadgets and technological consumption. The film’s poignant portrayal of an emotionally deprived consumerist society is captured through the ethically and morally ambiguous relationship between Hasan Ali, a human being, and his unnamed pet human, a product he purchased online in an attempt to help overcome his loneliness.

I, Loneliness Gadget

A science-fiction short told in the form of a satirical mockumentary commercial, Strange Beasts depicts a new augmented reality game in which users can create, grow and interact with their own fantasy pets. Expertly integrating computer graphic overlays and live action footage, the film crafts an impactful yet psychologically disturbing narrative, raising questions about the future, as its tagline suggests, of just ‘how far are people willing to go to live in a fantasy environment of their own creation?’

Strange Beasts

The iMom, a creepy horror meets science-fiction short directed by Ariel Martin, depicts a dark and morally corrupt future where technology and automation allows for, and even encourages, sinful self-indulgence and parental aloofness and irresponsibility. The film raises the uncomfortable moral question of where we are headed as a society, as we continue to dole out ever-more of the entertainment and upbringing of our children to technology… and just how should we respond when this goes horribly wrong?

The iMom

About the author

Nathalie is a pre-medical undergraduate student studying biology with a specialisation in brain and cognitive science at New York University Abu Dhabi. She is particularly interested in the interrelationship between art and science, and exploring how this can be applied in biomedicine and public health promotion.

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