Assimilating the friendly machines, part 2: The sublime propaganda



There is a silent and secret campaign going on. It’s been active for years. It’s on the TV, in books, in video games, on billboards, on the web. It’s not for a specific product, more of a line of products. I am of course talking about robots.

The theme of robots has been picked up by many science fiction writers. Probably most notably by Isaac Asimov. Early fiction containing robots were mostly depicting them as either evil, weird or stupid but this has gradually moved towards describing them as intelligent, helpful and even compassionate. In todays media landscape – with robotics being more hyped than ever – one can find robotics attributed in everywhere from children’s tv-shows(Rob the Robot, Cars, Bob the Builder) to music (Daft Punk) to actual robots looking after our children to weaponized military drones.


”Watching John with the machine, it was suddenly so clear. The Terminator would never stop. It would never leave him. It would never hurt him, never shout at him, or get drunk and hit him, or say it was too busy to spend time with him. It would always be there. And it would die to protect him. Of all the would-be fathers who came and went over the years, this thing, this machine was the only one that measured up. In an insane world, it was the sanest choice”

– Sarah Connor, Terminator 2


Why are a lot of us suddenly embracing robots more than before? What made us change our mood from paranoid skepticism (Hal 9000, Terminator, Ash in Alien, Blade Runner) to over the top optimistic depictions bordering on praises? As commercial media has claimed more power over the public than actual research the opinions and news are often one sided and without nuance. Yes, there are voices warning us about embracing new technology to quickly but they easily disappear in the ocean of how cool, uncomplicated, time saving (a huge factor) and convenient this technology is. The psychological or moral discussions seldom reach the surface.


It is strange that we apparently are trying to fulfill our own fictional prophecies almost word by word. A lot of science fiction has acted as inspiration to inventions but the future strategies for robot development almost seem carbon copied from a book by Asimov. Fiction is fiction and we have to make up our own moral compass, rules and laws before trying to transform fiction into reality.