Tuesday, May 29, 2012

The Human Condition

Have you seen the 2001 film AI: Artificial Intelligence? I recently saw it on Blu-ray. It was directed by Steven Spielberg and posed some interesting questions about the human condition. Science fiction movies have often been used as a vehicle to probe into social issues. Artificial Intelligence (AI) follows the journey of David, a new prototype robot child, who is seeking answers on how to become a human being.

The film is set in a futuristic world which has been ravished by global warming. Resources are at a premium as major cities have flooded, resulting in drastic social change. Robots now fill major roles in the life of humans. Couples can no longer have children without a license from the government.

Manufacturers start producing child robots to fulfill the need for parenthood. Through a few simple commands, child robots are imprinted to love their parents. Through a series of events, David is forced to fend for himself as he embarks on a 2,000 year journey.

AI, like many other science fiction movies and television shows, use robots and androids as a means to ask questions about our humanity. AI poses interesting questions. What is the nature and purpose of life? What does it mean to be a human being? Is there something more than flesh and blood? Is there something within us that defines our existence beyond the physical body?

David is certainly intelligent, and his programming has allowed him to feel and express emotions. He only desires his mother to love him. He believes that will only be possible if he can become human. But what makes us different from any other species on our planet? Is intelligence merely enough? David is really not that different than any of us. We are all looking for answers. Is there more than just me?

AI provides a perfect platform to explore such mind-bending questions. It’s a perfect place to explore our own humanity. But where do we start? First, we must see ourselves as more than just a physical being. We must recognize there is something bigger than us. We are only a speck on the backdrop of a gigantic galaxy. Like David and many other Sci-fi characters such as, Data from Star Trek: the Next Generation; the Cylons from Battlestar Galactica; Viger in the first Star Trek movie, and Hal from 2001. They are looking to connect to their creator.

We too, in order to discover who we are, we must know who God is. Somehow, we all know there is a creator. It’s instinctive. As the androids and robots search for meaning, we also search for meaning. Our humanity is found in God. As we connect with him, we discover his nature and character. We find our purpose and destiny. We are made in God’s image. And it’s through his image that we become fully human. So what does our quest teach us? Our humanity does not revolve around our wants and needs but is defined by our love for others.

David may very well have been human because of his love for his mother. Without self-sacrifice and the capacity to love, we can never fully understand or embrace what it means to be human. Therefore humanity has nothing to do with intelligence or with being flesh and blood but has everything to do with the spirit.

The next time you watch a science fiction movie, perhaps you will see something more than aliens, robots, or androids. Perhaps, there are legitimate questions being asked about you and me and our future.

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