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Little Robot, Big Implications Essay

1719 words - 7 pages

We fall to our mechanized overlords. Their mighty fists smite all of mankind and the ashes left of behind will be nothing more than desperate, animalistic humans. These people must scrounge for food. They live in total anarchy. They endure the resentment of their creations, of their Frankenstein's monster.
We live in luxury, overlords of the mechanized. Our mighty fists command them to do as we ask and abide by our laws. They bring us margaritas at the golf course. They abide by a stone-tablet code of ethics. They endure the lifestyles of their creators, their Dr. Morbius.
Throughout the history of science fiction, robots either act as our unblinking comrades or our worst foes. Depictions of the cybernetic future show two, starkly different prophecies: the dystopia and the utopia. The Good and the bad. WALL-E (Andrew Stanton, 2008) is the ugly. Its robots are not loyal servants, but rather reliant on their own freewill. The world is, indeed, a dystopia. But the robots return us to normalcy, restoring Earth to its old form. WALL-E asks us to consider the consequence of technology, and humanity's aversion to use it for good. When compared to movies like Forbidden Planet (Fred Wilcox, 1956), 2001: A Space Odyssey (Stanley Kubrik, 1968), or Metropolis (Fritz Lang, 1927), WALL-E's message is a step forward in sophistication. WALL-E shows technology as neither good or evil, but distinguishes humanity's use of it as flawed and selfish.
WALL-E opens with an image of Earth. Its oceans dried into nothingness, the whole planet is brown. The Buy and Large corporation took over, selling everything from gasoline to subway tickets. The company generated so much excess that, after years of planetary degradation, the Earth grew unfit for mankind. Then, they moved humanity onto Starliners, space crafts that hover above in the heavens. They deployed robots called WALL-Es to clean up the mess. The plan failed, though. Most of the WALL-Es died. Mankind never returned, instead living forever in space.
One Wall-E remains. He continues his mechanical duty of cleaning the planet. After years of isolation, he develops a sort of cognizance. One day, a space craft lands on Earth and deploys a new, sleeker robot named EVE. WALL-E is in love. She goes into space, WALL-E sneaking along with her. The two robots, in their journey to unite with each other, send the Starliner back to Earth. Afterwards, mankind begins rebuilding the planet.
The robots in this fairy tale share many traits with the projected shadows in Plato's allegory to the cave. The shadows symbolize the world, a "meaningless illusion" (Plato, 198). To go beyond them is to see reality. Worth noting is that these are "nothing but the shadows of... artificial objects" (Plato, 198). Our perception of them is a sort of projection, then. Society, in Plato's allegory, colors the neutrality of our inventions. WALL-E proves this neutrality several times in its first 30 minutes. In one moment, we see WALL-E...

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