The Fate of Humanity in a World of Technology (As Predicted by Hollywood)

Think about the headlines we’ve seen in recent years. News about data leaks, and nanny cams getting hacked, and people being murdered by drones. Should it come as a surprise then, that Hollywood is churning out films centering on robots this year, such as Chappie, Ex Machina, and the newest addition to the Marvel franchise, Avengers: Age of Ultron?

Granted, these aren’t new concepts. One such film that reflects our fears of advancing machinations is the black and white classic Metropolis. Made in 1927 by the “Master of Darkness,” Fritz Lang, Metropolis was the most expensive silent film of its time due to its special effects and the creation of the “Maschinenmensch,” the first female android ever depicted in film. This robot was the source of the fear of artificial intelligence turning on its creator, a common theme still present today, as will be depicted in the upcoming Avengers movie. The workers in this film are portrayed as cattle, working with machines, using no brain power at all, seemingly making them nothing more than an extension of their technology. Sound familiar?

Ever forget your phone at home? Then you know how anxiety inducing it is. This is how attached we have become to technology. Cell phones, computers, laptops, tablets, cars, buses, trains, and so many other bits of technology have become so much a part of our daily lives that we don’t know what to do with ourselves without them. However, this isn’t to say we have our doubts about them as well.

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The renowned fantasy and science fiction director, Terry Gilliam, portrayed this attachment to technology in the 2013 film The Zero Theorem, where computer genius Qohen Leth becomes so obsessed with solving a theorem, he directly connects himself to his computer through a suit. This isn’t all that different from society today, considering many jobs require us to sit in front of a computer all day doing mindless work. Perhaps this reflects our fear of losing humanity itself to technology. But this technophobia was even more prevalent during the Cold War.

In the 1940’s and 1950’s, the tensions between the United States and the former Soviet Russia were high. Fears of nuclear weapons and invasion of foreign beings were reflected in films such as Dr. Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb and Invasion of the Body Snatchers. The fear of new technology had also become a common theme in various movies but one popular film stands out above the rest, for its obvious depiction of scary and foreign artificial intelligence. The Day the Earth Stood Still tells the story of an alien humanoid, Klaatu, and his accomplice, a tall robot named Gort, coming to Earth to deliver a message for humankind. Gort is a sentient robot, able to think and feel for himself, evident in the beginning of the movie when he disintegrates U.S. Army soldiers after one of them shoots at Klaatu. This aversion to machines acquiring more human-like behavior is still relevant today. However, it is not as simple as being afraid of actual physical robots murdering humanity and taking over the world.

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Chappie is one example of budding robot sentience. In this movie, the future has developed robots to work as police enforcement, rendering many human police officers obsolete. This leads us to today where many jobs have been and will be taken over by computers. Financial and sports reporters, online marketers, and even surgeons have started to see the benefits of using automated systems to do their jobs. It is even predicted that by 2025, over a third of our jobs will be taken over by robots, leaving many of us wondering what will happen to actual people.

Technology has done wonders for us. Our careers, transportation, security systems, and more have all been influenced by the advancements for modern technology. It has become necessary for us. However, automated systems, robots, and artificial intelligence raise questions of the fate of humanity. The reason for our fear of machines has changed over time but one question has been asked time and time again: What happens when we stop having control over technology and start becoming slaves to it?

Article written by: Maria Ramos

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