I just went to go see Chappie yesterday, and I enjoyed it very much, but as much as I love movies, I also love the trailers beforehand. For this film, there were trailers for Aloha, Mad Max: Fury Road, and of course, Avengers: Age of Ultron. Being a huge fan of all things Marvel I was ecstatic when I saw the trailer (even though it was the same trailer I had watched 20+ times a few days earlier). After I finished marveling (pun intended) at Ultron's brilliance, [Chappie](movie:466720) started, and I realized the similarities between the two.
Synopsis - Chappie
Chappie is set in the future, in which special police robots are built to fight urban crime so that the number of human police casualties would lower. During a battle with the gangster known as Hippo, one of the robots gets wounded, and is sent in for scraps. The man who created these robots, Deon, had been working on a program to give robots the ability to think, feel, and learn.
After years of experiments, he finally is successful, and he tries the program on the recently wounded robot. The film captures the story of this robot as he learns the best and worst traits of humanity, and he has to decide what kind of path he is going to make for himself.
Synopsis - [The Avengers: Age Of Ultron](movie:293035)
Age of Ultron is the sequel to the original Avengers movie. Tony Stark, a.k.a. Iron Man, tries to boot-up a peacekeeping program, just in case the Avengers are not always there to help when evil strikes. However, one of the robots of the peacekeeping program becomes sentient, and he makes up his mind that he is not going to work for anyone.
He attempts to follow his main objective, which is to keep the peace. Unfortunately, Ultron sees the human race as the only obstacle standing in the way, and it's an obstacle he's ready to dispose of. It's up to the Avengers to save humanity as we know it, before their own creation renders humans extinct.
The Issue Of Sentience
"Sentience" is described as the ability to feel, perceive, or experience subjectively. Chappie experiences the idea of sentience in great detail. He experiences feelings and emotions the way a human would, and he uses these emotions to make decisions which greatly impact the outcome of the movie. He cares a lot for those around him, and does everything in his power to protect them.
Ultron goes through the same concept, though in an entirely different way. He perceives the actions of the humans around him, and he makes his own decision that they are unfit to exist. These two robotic life-forms are completely different versions of the same idea, one that has recently been popularized in film.
Sentience isn't a new concept. One of my favorite films, Short Circuit, explored the idea of a robot coming to life after being struck by lightning. Through the entirety of the movie, he is trying to prove that he is actually alive, while he is trying to be hunted down by his creators. Short Circuit came out in 1986, a whopping 29 years ago. Just this year, we are going to have two sentient-robot films by May 1st. Why now, in 2015, are we seeing more of this kind of film?
The answer is a lot more obvious than you think. We are in the age of technology. Over the past couple of decades, we have progressed exponentially. Remember those huge, bulky phones with obnoxious cords that used to be found in every household? Now the majority of people carry around a smart-phone, capable of doing research, playing games, and streaming music and video. In 1972, the game Pong was first developed by Atari. Now we have the Oculus Rift, a virtual reality headset that is preparing for household use.
Television and video games make robotics look like a thing of the future, but robots exist today! Valkyrie is a six-foot tall robot used by NASA to walk around and pick up tools. Ian the Invincible (unfortunately not named after me) is a robot created by Boston Dynamics that can drive a car. Florida International University is working on the Telebot, that police officers will be able to use to go on patrol. The Telebot even has a display to express emotions! The Guardium is a giant tank built by Israeli firms that not only can go on patrol, but can use remotely operated weapons to neutralize threats, much like the Moose robot in Chappie.
With all of these robots existing in today's society, many developers have posed the question of whether robots could be given software to be able to think for themselves. Chappie started out as a police robot before his developer found the key to sentience, and Ultron started out as a security system. However, both learned rapidly and ended up on two different sides of the A.I. spectrum.
Algorithms are already being developed that allow humans to have conversations with machines. Take Cleverbot for example. Cleverbot is an online website that reads your responses and searches its database for the best possible answer, allowing for a somewhat fluid conversation! You could even look at Siri for similarities. The helpful female voice on Apple products is programmed to respond to your questions (i.e. what is the weather like today? where is the closest grocery store? etc.). If the same program was put into modern robotics, it would become quite similar to the robots we see in movies.
Also, watch this trailer for Chappie, and listen closely to the date that Anderson Cooper says.
Did you hear that? He said that they first became popular in 2016. That's next year! I realize that it's a science fiction movie, but with the kind of advancements that are happening, it is extremely plausible that Chappie-like police robots could exist as early as next year.
This is why we're getting movies like Chappie and Age of Ultron. We're getting them because they are real possibilities in the modern world. If these kind of robots existed, what's to stop a software developer from manufacturing some device to apply a sentience to such robots. If these robots are developed within a few years, will they show the best in humanity like Chappie, or will they see humans as a plague like Ultron does?
That's just something to think about.