I, Robot?

I wouldn't mind teaching this robot to love.

I wouldn’t mind teaching this robot to love.

Last night I watched Ridley Scott’s latest science fiction film Prometheus, unsure what to expect considering the fact that I’ve never seen any of the Alien films. While I enjoyed the film for the most part, I was mostly intrigued and fascinated by one character: David, the cold and calculating yet charismatic android. I’m not sure whether it was Michael Fassbender’s excellent acting (and handsome face) or the premise of a humanoid robot living and serving humans, but David’s complicated characterization and motivations carried the film for me. And it got me started thinking about the intersection between man and machine.

Every day human technology expands further into our everyday lives. Newer tech like Google Glass and Oculus Rift promise a future of immersive virtual reality while advances in artificial intelligence and robotics presage a future in which machines walk among us. Slowly but surely, the gap is narrowing between where our bodies end and technology begins. So it makes sense that anxiety about the consequences of this synthesis between man and machine manifests in our media.

Matt Damon, part machine in Elysium

Matt Damon, part machine in Elysium

The last time I saw a movie in theaters (I think it was Man of Steel) I was amazed by this common thread running through many of the previews: Pacific Rim, in which humans join minds with massive robot warriors to battle an alien invasion; Ender’s Game, where a young boy interacts with a virtual game interface in order to wage a war for mankind; Elysium, in which Matt Damon’s character becomes fused with a robotic exoskeleton that gives him superhuman strength. In each preview, the theme was clear–can humans maintain their humanity when their bodies and minds become fused with machines?

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Wherefore Vampires?

Who’s ready to sink their teeth into a little vampire discussion? (Pun totally intended.)

"Why yes, I do use my cheekbones to cut glass."

“Why yes, I do use my cheekbones
to cut glass.”

I recently read an interview with James Marsters, who played Spike in ‘Buffy the Vampire Slayer,’ in which he discussed what it meant to him to play a vampire and how the representation of vampires in the media has changed since ‘Buffy’ aired.

“In the world of ‘Buffy’, vampires were supposed to be ugly and very quickly dead,” Marsters commented. “Joss [Whedon]…didn’t want vampires to be romantic. That’s why in Buffy when we bite people we become hideously ugly. Because in ‘Buffy’ vampires are a metaphor for all the problems you face in adolescence. So, the vampires of today are very different.”

I thought this was a really interesting take on vampires, especially coming from someone who played one on TV for years. And it’s true: although vampires have been around since at least Victorian times, in the past few years, the plethora of books, movies, and TV shows about vampires tend to present vampires in a much sexier, romantic way than they used to. So why the change? And why, at the end of the day, are vampires so damn fascinating?

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