Friday, March 7, 2014

RoboConvo - Part 1

Once upon a time, Magnetic Monkey (MM) and Elephant Robot (ER) went to a theater and watched RoboCop.  Then they talked about it.  A lot, in fact.  What follows is Part 1 of that conversation.

Magnetic Monkey:  I think one of the interesting things that the new RoboCop movie tackled that the original did not is the idea of embodied humanity.  There's a question of like, "what is it to be human?"  Is a human just the brain impulses?  Is a human also there body?

So the gnostics of the first century very much believed that the body was a sensory illusion, that the real human was the mind beneath it.  The gnostics were the ones who were famous for claiming that Jesus the son of God wore Jesus the carpenter son like a flesh suit, then left the flesh suit behind when he was crucified.

So you have this idea of "what is it to be human?"  Is a human both their body and their mind?  Is it body, heart, and soul?  You have this thing that people have... are we dualists?  That's kind of the question.  Are both parts necessary to identify us as humans.

So I thought the new film tackled that.  And there was the line "it's a machine that thinks it's Alex Murphy."  In the original movie, there's nothing of Murphy left except for some ideas and his face.  There's no fleshy parts left.  So in that one he's flat out dead.  In this one he never dies.  So the question of the soul, where is it housed, where is it cased, this new movie tackles some of those questions, or at least leaves you to consider them.

Elephant Robot:  There's that cheeky moment when one of the marketing people says flippantly, "Oh, what do you mean, his soul?"  It's one of those moments that was sort of... I don't know, I didn't dislike it?  But it was a bit on the nose, as far as what you're talking about.

MM:  Yeah, certainly more so than other things.  But they hit that beat and then dropped it and left it aside.  They didn't labor on the point.

ER:  Yeah.

MM:  And they never really came back to it.  The discussion points they dwelled on were definitely the drones.  That was the bigger issue they were talking about.

ER:  Okay, so going back to this "dualist" thing, body versus mind.  What do you think the film says about that?  Or do you think it just asks questions without  making a conclusion?

MM:  You know, weirdly enough it makes me think of Star Trek:  First Contact when
Data has the fleshy arm for a bit.

ER:  Just a piece of it.

MM:  Yeah, just a weird piece of his arm, where they didn't put makeup on Brent Spiner that day.

ER:  And his face too.

MM:  Yeah, which Gotye used the design of for his video.

ER:  I liked that the shape on his face was exactly that of the Star Trek logo.

MM:  "See what we did there?"

ER:  Right.

MM:  Well anyway, in that one the Borg Queen tells him to just tear it off like it's a broken sensor.  Tear it off like it's nothing.  And Data can't because he loves it.  It's part of him.

ER:  Yes.

MM:  And I think there's the part for Murphy where he's struggling to understand himself in terms of his identity without a body.  He says "there's nothing left."  He wants to die.  You know, able bodied people don't really have to consider that on a regular basis, "what is our life like without our physicality?"  I thought about it with Roger Ebert.  He lost his jaw and his ability to speak, this basic human component of conveying information.  And how did he continue to communicate?  And continue to be human?  His computer allowed him to do that.

ER:  He became RoboCritic.

MM:  Right.

ER:  So you think this movie asks the basic question "what is it to be human."

MM:  Yes.  And I don't think the original did that.  I think this movie is asking can Murphy still be Murphy without body parts.

ER:  Well, we've certainly picked a heavy place to start, haven't we?

MM:  Haha.  Yes.

ER:  Tune in tomorrow to see where it goes from here!

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