Wednesday, December 03, 2008

What Scares You?

Making a robot the hero of a story is, on some levels, an unsettling idea; robots, after all, are not just machines. They are machines designed to replace people.

The concept of a "robot" began as a way to express the dehumanization of workers in the industrial age. A person who used machinery to do their job in those days was forced to do repetitive and often dangerous tasks. Often, the machine was more valuable to the owner of the company than the worker... meaning it was often felt that having workers at all was almost an inconvenience.

Why not, a person might ask, simply replace the human with a machine all together? Why not build a mechanical "man" who never has to eat or sleep or complain or get paid? Watch any early movie featuring robots or read any of the pulp magazines of the day, and you'll see the robot was at best a replacement for humans in dangerous tasks and at worse a villan outright.

Like the giant monsters of Myth, the robot represented a fear.

Not the fear of the unknown, but the fear of being replaced or being no longer needed...


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