Thursday, July 19, 2001

A.I. and Global Warming

On my day off, my wife and I went to see the movie, "A.I." Since it was a movie by Steven Spielberg, I thought it was going to be something deep and new, but, unfortunately, I was very disappointed. Unlike "Close Encounters of the Third Kind" and "E.T.", which had those intense, thought provoking scenes, the plot was very affected and strained, and, as a result, was not very realistic. One thing, though, that does stand out in my mind, was the scene in which the main character, the robotic boy, enters "Manhattan", an area where only humans are allowed, on a spacecraft. Because the movie is supposedly set in the not-too-distant future, I thought we'd see a New York not much different than we know it now, with its skyscrapers and all. However, what we did see come slowly in from the horizon was a post-apocalyptic world. It was, indeed, the high-rise buildings, outlined like geometric cutouts, but most of them were submerged below sea level. In other words, because of global warming melting the earth's ice caps, water had covered most of the earth. This is the world dealt with in this movie.

Presently, the discussions between various countries to salvage the Kyoto Protocol, which deals with global warming, are in an extremely critical situation. If these discussions break down, and mankind does not protect itself against global warming, a submerged New York City becomes less of an unreality. If something like this happens to New York, then it only follows that Hong Kong, New Delhi, Sydney and Tokyo would also be in danger. Not even learning from this situation, we see in scene after scene as this movie develops, that mankind proceeds to use "mechas" (robots/mechanicals) as servants or slaves, uses them for their own pleasure and even revels in watching their demise or destruction. It depressed me somewhat to think that Spielberg is so pessimistic about mankind and the future. Is it that mankind can do nothing but stand idly by and watch New York and Tokyo submerge underwater? I still think that, while these rounds of negotiations may fail, and global warming may well progress even more, mankind will learn and realize that we need to control our own desires, thereby leaving much room for hope of successful implementation of the Kyoto Protocol.

After seeing this movie, I was reminded of "Astro Boy", the cartoon character by Osamu Tezuka. I think the heartfelt exchange between humans and robots was depicted quite naturally here, despite the fact that Astro Boy and the other robots weren't made to look exactly like humans. However, in "A.I." this type of relationship is shown as being very difficult. This is particularly true with the main character of the movie, the young boy robot. Although he was made so human-like as to fool even the experts, this made his human "mother" extremely uncomfortable at the beginning. She next becomes very fascinated by him, and finally must sobbingly give him up. Although the young boy robot is programmed to love his "mother" forever, it takes 2000 years for that love to manifest itself, and, even then, it lasts for only one day. Could it be that on one hand, to Mr. Tezuka, there is no significant line between "things" and "people", while Mr. Spielberg believes that the gap between the two is so very great?

- MT

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