Twenty years ago, four types of cyborg technologies in relation to the human body were identified in “Cyborgology: constructing the knowledge of cybernetic organisms” by C.H. Gray, S. Mentor and H. Figueroa-Sarriera in C.H. Gray‘s The Cyborg Handbook (New York: Routledge, 1995 : 1-14).
- Restorative i.e. restoring lost functions or limbs
- Normalizing i.e. re-establishing normal functioning
- Re-configuring i.e. constructing new combinations of humans and technologies
- Enhancing i.e. extending human capabilities
Alex Murphy in Robocop [Jose Padhila, 2014] is a combination of all of the technologies outlined by Gray, Mentor & Figueroa. He is restored, normalized, reconfigured and greatly enhanced. Robocop‘s creator – dr Norton at OmniCorp – can make people whole again, but as machines.
Norton says a candidate needs to be emotionally balanced for him to put a robobody onto the human body. That means that that human must have had no temper in his human body. Norton creates Robocop from the near dead Alex Murphy. Does Alex get a Second chance or a Second life? Is he a kind of Tin man? Alex almost dies in an explosion and his body was completely destroyed in the explosion – everything except his brain – only partly damaged – and one palm of hand. They fixed his damaged brain and added a body: emotions and intellect are the only things left of the human Alex Murphy. The Alex-machine wants to die when he discovers what’s left of him. But dying is in the realm of emotion. Is Alex Murphy a man who thinks like a machine? Or a machine which thinks like a man? Does a human-looking Machine like Alex know what it’s like to be human? His wife and he communicate via computer, but she doesn’t know what he looks like. And during the course of the film we learn that Alex still has biases like compassion and fear towards his wife and son and others. He is a man in a machine. His consciousness should be nothing more than the processing of information. But Alex’s dopamine level overrides what is inputted by dr Norton and his software – they had only put in only 2%, but what he exhibits far exceeds 2%. He even solves his own murder that human cops couldn’t touch.
Is it an illusion of free will that is making Alex feel that he’s in control?
Robocop showed some very interesting aspects about humans:
– That man can be bought and bribed, but that machine is incorruptible
– With Alex Murphy, no policeman is ever going to die in vain again.
We’ve seen other robots like Alex elsewhere- the Transformers robots – Autobots : gentle, human-like fighting machines on the side of justice and other robots are even funny, like some autobots and Chappie. They are on the good side of technological warfare and humanity.
But what about robots or machines that are not on the side of humanity? What if Robocop were to kill children? What would he feel? Nothing. In the Decepticons we see robots which will stop at nothing and destroy everything and everyone, humans included. We know that machines can’t feel, but in Transcendence [Wally Pfister, 2014] dr Will Caster [Johnny Depp] uploads his consciousness onto the internet merging man and machine in an unseamless way. And what if Dr Norton could put a human brain into a robot body? This is precisely what happens in Ex Machina [Alex Garland, 2015]: Dr Nathan tries to put human consciousness onto a robot body in Ava. And what if we take this a step further and create a robot like Galvatron [Transformers: age of Extinction Michael Bay, 2014]? Galvatron is powerful and intelligent, and his primary weapon is his particle accelerator cannon, mounted on his right arm, which can fire blasts of assorted types, including electro-chemical energy and particle beams. He transforms into a futuristic laser-cannon emplacement like a howitzer: artillery characterized by a relatively short barrel and the use of comparatively small propellant charges to propel projectiles at relatively high trajectories, with a steep angle of descent. Galvatron’s weapon can assume the form of a laser pistol, shrinking as he does to allow other beings to wield him.
Films that show technological decadence like Robocop, Transformers: Age of Extinction and Ex Machina provoke some burning questions:
– Can robots like Galvatron and Robocop give rise to raising an entire army with one algorithm: kill?
– What if hackers hack those machines like dr. Norton does with Murphy in Robocop?
– If a cloud is hackable, what is a machine or algorithms?
– What if that killer army turns on us who created them? Armageddon?
And God forbid these robots let loose in areas like Ferguson or Baltimore where blacklivesmatter!
Currently, 2 six-foot-tall, 330-pound bipedal humanoid robots named ATLAS and ESCHER are being built. They resemble those iconic killer robots from the big screen [http://motherboard.vice.com/read/inhuman-kind-killer-robots]. The dozens of engineering students and professionals working on ATLAS, ESCHER, and the nine other robots participating in the DARPA challenge have the best intentions: they say they’re building tools they hope will help humanity.
Robocop is only be a movie but, earlier this week, Icelandic orthopaedics company Ossur said they’ve created the world’s first truly “mind controlled” prosthetic leg. The crux of the issue is that, by collecting more and better control information from a patient’s residual muscle tissue, Ossur said it has helped two patients control a bionic limb with the same muscle impulses that previously controlled the real appendage [http://motherboard.vice.com/read/a-bionic-limb-you-can-control-with-your-unconscious-mind-is-here?utm_source=mbfb].
Robocops, Atlas, and Escher are all nice, friendly humanoid rescue robots. But in the end, these robots will serve whatever purpose their human operator sends them to. Just like Galvatron. If Americans appear robophobic today that could be because robophobia can become a real worry.