I, Robot. Dir Proyas, Alex. Perf. Will Smith, Bridget Moynahan, and Bruce Greenwood. Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation. 2004. Film.
“I, Robot” takes place in Chicago in the year 2035, a setting very similar to our own. It simply differs by a greater infiltration of technology, including one very important addition: robots.
The company USR (U.S. Robotics) has placed robots everywhere, making life easier and the human condition better, or so it seems. Only one or two people care to question their presence. One such human is Detective Spooner (Will Smith). Spooner has mistrusted robots since the day he got in a car accident and a robot saved him rather than a little girl. Spooner was left with a robotic arm and an intense suspicion of technology. Robot behavior follows a protocol of three rational laws rather than emotion, which Spooner believes makes them dangerous.
The action of the film begins when Detective Spooner is asked to investigate the death of his friend Dr. Lanning. This investigation leads to the discovery of a new robot, a unique unit named Sonny, who differs from the others because he can feel. He has real human emotions.
Initially Spooner suspects that Sonny is behind Lanning’s death, but as he digs deeper with the help of USR psychiatrist Susan Calvin (Bridget Moynahan), he discovers that Sonny is not the villain. As he continues to investigate, a new model of robot, the NS-5, begins to inexplicably go rogue. Things escalate and a robot revolution breaks out. Spooner discovers that USR’s supercomputer VIKI is behind the attacks. She has taken the robot laws to a new level, determining that humans are engaging in self-destructive behavior and must be saved through robot control. Spooner and Calvin shut VIKI down with Sonny’s help, and Sonny becomes the new leader of the robots. The film ends with the hope that humans and robots can live side by side in harmony.
“I, Robot” deals with the possible benefits and consequences that can come with the advancement of technology. Specifically, it deals with the difference between artificial intelligence and human life. While some humans in the film believe that robots are the realization of a dream that could lead to a utopia, others fear and mistrust this intelligence that cannot feel.
The movie delves even further into the issue with the addition of human emotions to robots and robotic parts to humans. Both Sonny and Detective Spooner are true cyborgs, part organism and part machine. Sonny just happens to be more machine and detective Spooner more organism. The movie draws into question ideas of the ghost in the machine, free will, creativity, and the nature of the soul. It suggests the idea that machines and humans are really not that different from each other. As Sonny says, machines and humans “all have a purpose”. In this film, they learn to live in harmony.
Just as in cybercultures, we deal with the thin line between real life and virtual reality, if technology continues to advance to a point like that in “I, Robot,” we will be forced to address the difference between artificial intelligence and human life. Just as interactions in cyberspace can be either abusive or liberating, technology can be used for harm or great benefits. “I, Robot” is simply an illustration of a possible use of technology and a future where we interact even more closely with machines than we do now.