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Technology: A Comparison between Robot Dreams and I, Robot

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    Technology: A Comparison between Robot Dreams and I, Robot

    Technology has inspired societies from the beginning of civilization to form communities in order to strengthen chances of survival. The way that many civilizations developed stemmed from their capability to use technology as a way to create weapons for hunting or defending territory and increasing food productivity through the method of farming and other crop cultivation strategies (Sismondo, 2004).

    At the onset of the 20th century, technological research and development has pioneered the creation of new products and services which addresses the changing needs of the society. The ever growing demand to provide new ways of sustaining a better life has resulted in producing new technologies that indirectly shape the values upheld by a society, integrating convenience, durability and safety as a measure of its function. The age of electronics changed the course of the world as civilizations looked for innovative ways to improve past technologies (Teich, 2007).

    The honing of modern technology in conjunction with the needs of a modern society creates tension among countries and within communities as it affects the way resources are being handled to satisfy the international market. As overwhelming products and services circulate the globe, countries have become more reliant on technological produce that it has garnered a place in state affairs (Teich, 2007).

    Economic development has since been measured by the improvements of scientific knowledge adopted by countries to increase productivity and ensure stability. However, the steps taken to maintain the standard of living seem to be moving towards unquestioning acceptance of technology for technology’s sake that it disregards human values (Sismondo, 2004).

     This is where the core issue of Isaac Asimov’s Robot Dreams and Alex Proyas’ adaptation of I, Robot come into play as it presents the scenario of technology taking charge of people’s lives, inviting threat towards existence and free will.

                The plot of the book differs greatly from that of the film adaptation in terms of how the story was told, the characters involved and the moral standing it takes in terms of technology. Both the book and the film included Dr. Susan Calvin, a psychology expert in robots at an imaginary company called US Robots, and a peculiar robot that has the ability to dream. The rest of the details diverge on different tangents, uniting only on this point: the inevitable consequences of allowing machines to take over human interests.

    The book centers the story on Dr. Calvin’s recollection to an undisclosed interviewer regarding her experiences working at the US Robots company and the circumstances surrounding the upsurge of the robotics industry. Several storylines are relayed in separate sections of the book but the most significant story in relation to this paper’s theme is the narrative about Elvex, one of the company’s robots, and its description of a triggered dream due to its unique fractal design .The dream was said to have illustrated robots being led by a human in the person of Elvex (Asimov, 1993).

    The dream also relayed problems in enforcing the Three Laws of Robotics designed to protect the interest of humans and keep robots in their proper place of function. Elvex reported that the first Two Laws were disregarded while the Third Law was given a relative case. The ending of the dream showed Elvex shouting to let his people go which only meant to release the robots from their functional state. After hearing the accounts of Elvex’s dream, Dr. Calvin immediately ordered to terminate the robot as it might endanger future operations of the company and of the fate of humanity (Asimov, 1993).

    With regard to Proyas’ film adaptation of the book, the central theme remained intact as it presented the scenario in which robots would have become an integral part of human society, divergent only on the plot and the additional characters that spice up the story. Most of the film’s premise derived its plot from the other sections of Asimov’s book, and the main story of Elvex portrayed by Sonny in the film, is just a small segment in the movie.

    Relating the risk factor in Elvex’s dream, the film developed the concept of the consequences of allowing robots to take over by imitating scenarios of rebellion in the context of robots. Will Smith as the protagonist Detective Spooner, injects humor and heart into the story, as he figures out why Dr. Alfred Lanning, one of the pioneers who helped create the robots, killed himself and the meaning of Sonny’s dream. A battle between the humans and the robots ensued, of which the result was destruction of the evil machines and the freedom of Sonny for a more typical Hollywood style ending.

                Based on how the story was relayed differently through written or visual accounts, it was interesting to note of the distinct delivery of the theme in the film which made use of special effects that enhanced the storyline. The advancement of technology has come a long way into improving communications that it has created new ways of communication such as through films, web interface, cellular phones and digital television (Akrich, 1992).

    However, technology comes with tradeoffs. While communications and travel are much easier to handle without much difficulty in terms of time or space boundaries, it has also enhanced the spread of terrorism and criminal activities that endanger the lives of people (Sismondo, 2004).

    The medical field also gained an advantage from the upsurge of new scientific findings, health equipments and cures that can prolong human life. Nevertheless, technology’s proliferation is also largely responsible for the increase in waste, pollution, and urban dwellings that disrupt animal habitats and the spread of viruses to other parts of the world (Sismondo, 2004).

    The advent of computer technology has improved the quality of productivity in the workplace by becoming much more labor-intensive, putting a strain of the health of the workers (Teich, 2007).

    Rapid development and acceptance of technologies have led to the assumption that new ways of coping with stress and other such difficulties in life would be developed and provide short-term conveniences. These technologies are seen as great without qualification which begs to question the rightful place of technology in the society (Akrich, 1992).

    To find technology’s proper place in society, one must consider the origins of the word. Technology is derived from the Greek word techne meaning knowledge ascribed to the how of things. According to Aristotle, techne is the lowest form of knowledge of three types, number one being sophia or wisdom (Sismondo, 2004).

    The world right now is much more inclined to relish in the deluge of how-to-knowledge brought about by technology than immersing in the search for real knowledge or wisdom. Technological advances are not good by themselves. Just as technology is only good if it is used in the proper way like arms or guns and drugs, so too must technology by evaluated and embraced to an extent where it can create more positive advances in society rather than negative. Still, like everything else in the world, dichotomy is constant and only balance is necessary (Teich, 2007).

    Living in a modern society where technology abounds, people tend to accept and desire new inventions for its own sake without much consideration on how it could affect people’s lives in the long run. This was exactly the dilemma of the countries who participated in the Second World War when they made a mistake to use of atomic bombs to deter attacks (Feenberg, 1991).

    While it seems foolish to abandon the development of new technologies or to revert societies into a primitive stage of living, people should develop a proper way into using technology that would help sustain life on earth instead of endanger other living creatures.

    In a nutshell, technology should be at the service of humanity. Society, as a whole, must work to reverse this process and put technology back in its proper place.


    Akrich, M. (1992). The description of technical objects. In W. E. Bijker & J. Law (Eds.) Shaping technology/building society: Studies in sociotechnical change. (pp 205-224). Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.

    Asimov, I. (1993). Science Fiction Masterpieces. New Jersey: BBS Publishing Corporation.

    Feenberg, A. (1991). Critical theory of technology. New York: Oxford University Press.

    Sismondo, S. (2004). An introduction to science and technology studies. Malden, MA: Blackwell Publishing.

    Teich, A. H. (2007). Technology and the Future. Florence, Kentucky: Wadsworth Publishing.

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