Technological progress has been continuously accelerating in the past few years and is showing no signs of slowing down. We live in an age where it is not surprising to hear of amphibious cars and devices with holographic capabilities. Modern man has been able to realize the visions of its predecessors. One of the most notable advancements of the 21st century is the development of artificial intelligence. Most, if not all, appliances and machinery nowadays operate on computers which enable them to perform operations independently using their own intellectual capacity; hence the names ‘smart tv’ and ‘smart phone’. Scientists however are still, as of now, unable to produce a robot that is not only humanoid in appearance but is also completely sentient in a way that they would be able to feel and understand emotions. Bruce Aldiss’ short story, “Super Toys Last All Summer Long”, is based on this very concept of creating robots that can think and feel. Stanley Kubrick and Steven Spielberg take inspiration from Aldiss’ work and produce the film “A.I. Artificial Intelligence” which incorporates the story of Pinocchio into the original. In both the original work and film adaptation, we see how man plays god by attempting to create the perfect companions for man in the form of robots; going so far as to give one particular mecha the ability to love a person. The stories show how man’s creation of simulacra has caused the dissolution of boundaries between the real and the unreal, a phenomenon called hyperreality.
Both stories are set into the distant dystopian future where the earth has greatly suffered from the effects of global warming. More than half of the earth’s surface is submerged in water and what’s left of its landforms is overpopulated. To address this problem, the government issues a protocol where child creation is controlled. We are then introduced to David, a new model of mecha that is given to the Swinton family for initial testing of his abilities. David is different from other forms of mecha because he was given the ability to love. Built with the body of a young boy, David was designed as a substitute child for couples that cannot have children of their own. David’s very role in the film is to be a double, a simulacrum of the human child.
In many instances of the film, David is mistaken for a real boy and leaves a lot of humans confused. Initially, it is hard to see a big difference between David and ordinary human boys but throughout the story the flaws in his construction are revealed. Even with his programmed feelings, David is still emotionally stunted. He was built to love and feel but is only limited to love a single person – the person he imprinted on and in this case, his adoptive mother, Monica. He only shows affection to her and is unable to show others, even his adoptive father, the same adoration and concern. He will also only know of the love of a child to a parent and will not be able to develop friendships and be able to love another human being or mecha romantically. Moreover, being mecha, David is perpetually frozen into the state of being a young boy. He will never age and never grow up. He will not develop maturity and his mindset would be forever that of a child’s.
David is Pinocchio’s robotic equivalent in the story and in a sense, they share the similarity of their wish to be a real boy and their quest to find the blue fairy but they are in ways different as well. Pinocchio is in all sense a real boy except that his body is wooden. He thinks and feels like any boy would. It should also be noted that Pinocchio had free will over his actions. David, on the other hand, looks exactly like a real boy due to his synthetic skin; however, he lacks in emotional and critical thinking to be considered truly human. His “feelings” and ability to love are all dictated by a small “Cybertronics chip” implanted in him. David is so close to being a real boy and yet so far from truly becoming one....
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