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Headscratchers / A.I.: Artificial Intelligence

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  • The pole caps melted and cities on the sea were inundated with waters. Ok, but Manhattan buildings are still inhabitable? And not just the nice ones they wanted to save, but ruins? Shirley, the ruins would have long since collapsed into the sea.

  • The Flesh Fare guys seem amazed with David, a very real seeming boy, but there are many mechas with very real seeming faces. At this stage, literally decades into mecha production, is this believable?

  • Is there any sense at all behind the one-day rule? All There in the Manual explains that the "New Robots" are actually transhumans, implying transferring consciousness into robotic bodies has been achieved. So even if the cloned body was for some reason unstable (why would it be, anyway? Not to mention how cloning from DNA is somehow enough to also bring back the memories of the person), why not transfer her consciousness into a shiny new silicon body?
    • It was WAY more complicated than just clone a human. From what the advanced mecha briefly explains, it seems that they found a way to manipulate the space-time continuum to take a consciousness from the past and put it in the new body. It isn't just a copy, but actually "you". Problem was, the process was deemed a failure because for reasons they couldn't avoid the consciousness extracted from the past could not exist beyond that one day. Arguably, even if they put that consciousness on an artificial body, it would also simply become blank after that period of time.
    • It’s also possible this is just what they were telling to this “David” in their own simulation... meaning, despite what they say, they can recreate the future from this information that is saved.
  • The Specialist at submerged Manhattan (also the worst place to distribute robots ever) was totally wrong. David never grew, he never evolved. He was still just following his root programing: Love and be loved. Whether or not he felt love is irrelevant, that's what he's supposed to do. The specialist said that until David came along, Robots didn't desire unless they were told to do so. Well guess what! David was only doing what he was told to do! Albeit he got rather confused as how to achieve that, but he was still trying to earn "mommy's" love; just as he was programed to do. I never felt that David was moving beyond his design to earn mommy's love. Thus I can't see him getting that as anything other than the fulfillment of a program, the balancing of an equation, the end result of an algorithm. I felt as much emotion towards David as I did to a particularly loyal dog.
    • David isn't supposed to grow and improve and develop. The specialist, the guy who designed him, was ascribing too much to his creation because David was made in the image of his dead son. The idea is that, like the humans in the story, David is in pursuit of some lost part of themselves. They all latch onto imperfect replacements. The only thing that separates the humans from the robots is that the humans are unable to be content with their imperfect copies. It's a bit more ambiguous in Spielberg's version than it would have been had Kubrick seen it through.
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    • I thought it wasn't so much the 'I want Mommy' thing, as making the leap from 'I want Mommy' to 'Mommy wants a real boy, therefor I want to be a real boy', and then making another leap to 'the blue fairy made Pinochio a real boy, therefore I want to find the blue fairy', and then believing that the blue fairy, a fictional character, was real. The initial 'wanting Mommy' part was programmed, but David came up with searching for the blue fairy all by himself.
    • I think the key word here is desire. All of the robots shown onscreen do not actively pursue any goal, and do not show any compulsion or drive to do anything except perform their function, to the extent current environment allows them. The only exception is survival - we do know that robots "wish" to survive and "fear" death, although the very nature of these "feelings" is vague (they complain that they still can be OF USE); but if anything, their "survival instinct" is a given, not their choice. They also can "like" someone or something, if it is there for them. Specialist says the same thing: robots in the film's universe can't develop conscious wishes and motives or make decisions that fall out of the routine functioning. Note that the most "humane" robot except David, Joe, accepts their adventures rather calmly. He's curious and partial to David, and he has to run from authorities, that's all. Only the prospect of death makes him feel and somewhat rebel against it - in a kinda philosophical way. David, on the other hand, makes a series of decisions, driven by an exceptionally strong feelings. He is furious at the obstacles and afraid of failure. The existential questions that almost don't visit other robots are central to him (because of the unique instruction to love - i.e. be the only one). So I think plot covers it pretty thorough, and Specialist definitely has a point.
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    • Isn't that kind of exactly what humans do, though? And doesn't Joe kind of go against his programming by resisting his impulse seduce women while helping David?

  • Is it me or was Henry somewhat hypocritical when he practically pushed David onto Monica and then he disliked how close David and Monica became. Remember, Henry started acted that way just after Monica had "imprinted" herself onto David and long before Martin got well and came home.
    • He's just uneasy. Remember, he wanted to "cure" Monica's grief with David, partly for his own sake of course, because her grief pained him. But after that, Monica began to genuinely love David almost like she would a new baby, once again somewhat turning away from Henry - the turn he didn't anticipate. So in crude terms, he wanted to "fix" Monica and instead created a rival for himself and Martin.
    • It's sort of the point that he's hypocritical. To him, David is another mechanical appliance. He bought it for the convenience, and like a malfunctioning toaster or a TV on which everyone else gets to decide what to watch, it's not benefiting him anymore, so what good is it now?

  • Did Teddy die too at the end along with David and Monica? We see him climb onto the bed, see their lifeless bodies, and then just sit down and.... did Teddy live years and years afterward without his owners? Or did he "die" after sitting down? I wish the movie made this part more clear. It kind of ruins the, otherwise, great ending.
    • Well, it is possible that he did "die" after sitting down. He could have run out of "battery juice" like David at that point. Teddy might have computer code programmed in him that will cause him to "die" if he finds out his owners died. You are right, that part should not have been made ambiguous. It would make more sense for him to "die" after sitting down than to live years and years afterward.
    • Or maybe after David "died", Teddy became a comforter and companion to the future mecha instead. He'd known living humans too, after all, and unlike David he wasn't plagued by angst about reuniting with any particular human. Having Teddy survive would mean the future-mecha civilization would still have a living testament to what the people of the distant past were like.

  • Did the Ancients from Stargate build David? How would it be possible for a machine to be usable after spending 10-20,000 YEARS in salt water? Even if it was low saline ice,metal would corrode after less than 100 years.
    • The movie says it has been 2,000 years. He was also sealed in an airtight cockpit the entire time. We have no idea what the mecha did to him when they reactivated him and after they put him to sleep. Maybe a tune-up.
    • The new robots had to wave their hand in front of David in order to jumpstart him back up. It's pretty clear that David was non-functional when they first arrived.

  • No humans survived until the Ice Age? Even w/ modern technology? Really?
    • Who knows how they died? They could have very well wiped themselves out.
    • Or it could've been a robot war. Things were clearly hostile between the two groups.
    • Or the humans and robots could've merged. With the advancement of robots, transhumanism wouldn't be far behind. Those super robots at the end looked at least semi-organic.
    • Or maybe they up and left when the Earth got too cold for them, leaving the future robots' ancestors behind.
    • Word of God says the robots at the end are our transhuman descendants, humanity having transitioned from carbon to silicon based physiology. So, to answer your question - the humans were right there.

  • Am I the only one who noticed that David is basically just one big construction error that would never have made it through the planning stage in the form we see in the movie? He especially couldn't be marketed to parents who are looking for a child replacement, since he doesn't really act human. He has a few moments where he seems more human, but generally it is painfully obvious that he isn't (Teddy seemed more human, actually). And then there is the whole "never blinks, never sleeps, never eats, doesn't have bodily functions" thing, which seems kinda hard to ignore. I mean, would YOU believe that he is human? And, of course, why the hell is there no barrier in his throat that prevents things like that spinach incident from happening? Well, apparently, there is some sort of barrier that prevents water from entering his torso but fails at preventing a thick substance like spinach from doing so.
    • And why is he only imprinted with one parent? Don't parents normally come in twos?
      • It's the future, single parenting has probably become even more common and accepted. Still, there should have at least been a two-parent option rather than having a couple say "Okay, we have to pick one of us for this kid to love forever."
      • For all we know, maybe he can be imprinted with both of them. Henry just didn't activate his part of the imprint. It's also possible (and likely) that the imprints for "Daddy" and "Mommy" are different; children are typically raised to be affectionate toward the opposite-sex parent, and admiring of the same-sex parent. The later "Darla" model probably has the same programs, but with the imprints reversed so she'll be a Daddy's Girl just as "David" is designed to be a Mama's Boy.
      • There is probably a huge market for robot kids for spinsters who never get married but still want to care for a child.
    • Well yes, he's basically an Obvious Beta taken to futuristic extremes. Granted, his designer(s) probably should have caught more of those design errors from the start, but the complaint mostly strikes me as a case of Reality Is Unrealistic: considering how sloppy some designers and programmers are with their product releases right now, and how selfish and short-sighted this film indicates corporations and people in general still to be in the future, is it really so difficult to believe Cybertronics would produce such a buggy prototype for their beta testers? This is even more credible if Professor Hobby insisted on doing all the design work on David's personality himself; the man apparently lives all alone in his lab in flooded Manhattan, and probably hasn't engaged in anything remotely resembling family social activities for years. Of course he forgets to build in some obvious safeguards against David's wanting to eat and sleep in imitation of what he sees the people around him doing; Hobby doesn't have a family table or any children's bedrooms at his lab.
      • Absolutely. He’s actually a very good beta in most respects. He does obviously veer way into uncanny valley territory... Teddy actually behaves more like a “real” person, though that could be due to Teddy having lived longer and experienced more. But the key new thing about David was actually that he *looked* completely like a real kid. It’s possible they even had the same basic software.
  • I'm sorry, but there is no parent in the world, no matter how desperate, who would want to take care of a young child forever. Even my parents, who love me a lot, wouldn't want to take care of young-me for the rest of their lives. Because having a forever-young child would get seriously old after a while; drawing with crayons might be fun for a few years, but can you imagine doing it for decades? I imagine that these robots tanked really hard really fast when the parents realized what they were in for.
    • I thought this at first too, but after thinking about it longer, the Davids make more and more sense. The David-bot is there to be used as a coping mechanism for a parent who has lost their child. It's not really meant to be with you forever, it's meant to be there for until the parent basically gets bored of it (the imprinting feature is there just to delay the parent from getting bored). Does the company really care if the parent keeps the child forever and ever? Not really, they already made a sale. After the parent is bored, David is thrown out like all other robots eventually are. And since I can't imagine a family buying more than one, this is a successful business model.
      • And although David is tested on a family that "lost" a child, the Professor in his pitch specifically says that the bot is for people who cannot get a licence for pregnancy - a license the opening narration implies is difficult to acquire. Presumably they are banking on people absolutely desperate to have a child. Humorously, the Professor clearly had no intent upon destroying David if he was returned (assuming it had't malfunctioned), so maybe they would tell the public retired Davids end up on a farm upstate.

        Essentially, I imagine the fate we saw David meet (loved until eventually thrown out) would pretty much happen if Davids were to be sold en masse.
    • A genuine Kubrick-style crazy premise, made to experiment on character's minds. Look at his other films! All the "errors" on part of David's designers and marketing people, who churned out scores of child robots BEFORE the conclusion of the field test, and didn't "reality proof" him, are made to this purpose.
    • From a more cynical point of view, this makes sense. The company doesn't care about how long it lasts, only if they make a sale. So they don't really care if a greiving parent throws out their David after being bored of its childishness. David has a temporary lifespan, like all the other robots.
    • The original post strikes me as a case of It Will Never Catch On writ large. Even considering that we're shown the humans in this story seem to be rather callously willing to dispose of even their favorite bots when they get tired of them (and so probably wouldn't have that much difficulty disposing of artificial "children" when they get tired of them too), the danger to humans in this story seems to be the exact opposite: that these robots totally do catch on with lonely wannabe parents, and they really will want to take care of these robots for the rest of their lives, especially since they don't consume much in the way of real resources (their prototype isn't even able to eat food), and can be programmed to take care of all their most basic needs and never get into any serious mischief. As Gigolo Joe tells one of his clients early on, "Once you've had a lover robot, you will never want a real man again."

      Just as that's clearly no idle boast in his sex trade, so too that would likely be a very real problem with artificial children: real children may grow up to reject your values, crash your car, fall in with gangs of other juvenile delinquents, lead a life of crime, and break your heart in multiple ways. Mecha children will never do any of those things. I'll bet David and Darla were every bit as instrumental in humanity's extinction with their hassle-free child-rearing as Gigolo Joe and his fellow prostitutes were in providing humanity with a nigh-endless supply of strings-free sex.
  • At some point in the movie it was stated that if the parents want the child to leave they send it back to Cybertronics, where he gets destroyed. Why would they destroy the boy completely, when they could just as good switch brains and reuse the seemingly indestructible body? Would be more eco-friendly, especially considering those robots only get build instead of real people because they never need any recources after being build.
    • Maybe that's what they mean by "destroyed". The robot would have wear and tear on it, so maybe they disassemble him, wipe the hard drive and refurbish the parts into a new David.
  • Why didn't the robots clone the clone of Monica, and so on and so forth?
    • Have you ever watched a video that was a copy of a copy? Maybe cloning works like that.
      • It probably does. For that matter, ordinary cellular division is known to work like that, which is a big part of the aging process.
      • No, it does not. Cloning works just like child birth, but with only one genome instead of two mixed ones. Think of making babies as cloning two people into one.
      • My understanding is that the problem is very similar to make a copy of a copy. DNA goes through degradation over time, and the protective proteins decrease. If you have a "master" DNA source, it's like making video copies from the master. If you are using an older DNA source, it will have all the accumulated degradation; you would have to "remaster" the DNA sample to correct that degradation. It's why cancer is such a problem; it's the DNA having degraded so far that some parts aren't making it through cell division properly and causing malfunctions.
    • Ultimately, the problem wasn't one of cloning the physical body. It was that the memories, the things that made the body more then a shell, were suspended in the space-time continuum as a sort of "imprint" by the living person. Once made, it couldn't normally be duplicated. The ultratech androids managed to pull out the imprint with great difficulty and put it in a body, but after one day, the revived personality was pulled back into the ether, and the now-empty shell then died. It was a spiritual sort of Cloning Blues, rather then a physical one.
    • Yeah, because you want to see you mom die every night.
      • She looks like she's falling asleep, and she could be replaced every night while David wasn't in the room, barring the above.
  • In the first part of the film, Manhattan is under water presumably due to melting icecaps. Fine, but... at the end of the film, the water is frozen at the same level. It should have reformed the ice caps first, causing the water to recede before it got cold enough to freeze the ocean at New York.
    • Possibly the freezing happened because of a sudden disaster, like a massive asteroid impact, rather than a gradual shift in climate.
  • David's manufacturers were obviously anxious to get him back. Why did they not pull him out of the water within a few hours, at most, after he found the Blue Fairy at sunken Coney Island?
    • Well, a ferris wheel did land on his copter, maybe they couldn't find it under all the debris? Maybe the only reason the mecha descendants 2000 years later found it was because they were part of a detailed archeological expedition.
  • What was the deal with Gigolo Joe and the whole "bad trouble" thing? Joe walks in on a client of his who was clearly murdered, and believes that he has to run away or be destroyed? Why? Are the cops stupid enough to pin any crime on the next robot that they see? And Joe has to belong to somebody, so what about his owner?
    • Possibly disassembling a robot witness for analysis is standard practice when it's impounded as evidence, much like checking a confiscated laptop for signs of tampering is common for computer crimes. This could be devastating or fatal for the robot's personality, even if it's just an innocent bystander.
      • Given that the husband deliberately waited around for Joe, and clearly doesn't see him as a threatening witness, it's quite possible that Joe is being set up for the murder. Why bother chasing a human suspect when you've got a compliant robot right there? If you read the scene as Joe being framed, the clerk's "helpful" suggestion about the operating license also sounds a lot more suspicious.
      • He even asked Joe how long it had been since he last saw the woman. Joe counted down the time that had passed down to the very SECOND, giving him more than enough of a solid alibi to prove that he wasn't involved in the murder. Yet we see him running out and cutting out the clock from his chest? WHY!?
      • He's removing his operating license, not a clock, but the question still stands.
    • Most likely, the police would disassemble Joe to look for signs of tampering, in case a human with the grudge against the woman had reprogrammed Joe to kill her. Tough luck for Joe if they don't find anything incriminating, just a whole lot of pieces nobody bothers putting back together.
    • Given the amount of contempt people seem to have for mecha, it's not unlikely that the police won't bother to look for real evidence as long as there were witnesses to the fact that Joe had an appointment with that woman in that hotel.
      • That certainly gels with the treatment of mecha we see, the problem with that is it creates a world where getting away with murder is as easy as buying an android patsy. Even in the worst days of slavery and prejudice you couldn't just kill your wife and say your slave did it, could you?
      • Read about Joseph bin Jacob in The Bible. He gets falsely accused of rape (by the supposed victim) and imprisoned for it. Keep in mind, women of that time (particularly ones who were raped) weren't well respected. They still took her word over a slave's.
    • Gigolo Joe is a veritable walking fount of Fridge Horror when you get to asking such questions as why he has a scalpel readily available in the tool kit in his arm, why he has pain sensors, and why the programming for this most disposable kind of Disposable Sex Worker includes such a strong desire for self-preservation. In view of some people's most depraved and sadistic desires, it's not too difficult to guess the answers to a lot of these questions. The people at the Flesh Fair probably aren't the only people amusing themselves by going around tearing apart and trashing Ridiculously Human Robots (and at least the Flesh Fair doesn't seem to feel the need to torture them first the way some of the robot prostitutes' sadistic "clients" might).

      One question that we're left to figure out on our own is, if Gigolo Joe is essentially a robotic Sex Slave, who or what is his owner? While he mentions having first been brought online and tried out in Rouge City, he obviously was given a great deal of autonomy concerning where to find clients, since he was operating in a red-light district a fair distance away from there. Basically, he's almost a slave without a master; his programming is so effective at making him behave himself that apparently nobody even bothered to install any kind of remote control or override in him.

      To answer the original poster, Gigolo Joe's fear probably isn't that he'll be framed for the murder (since he clearly has extensive memory banks and likely has copious evidence of his innocence and the jealous man's guilt) or that the police will tear him apart to get at it (since he presumably has an easily accessible mind cube just like Professor Hobby's robot secretary Sheila at the beginning of the movie). His real fear is that since he's now mixed up in a murder case, the police will likely confiscate that mind cube of his as state's evidence against the murderer and then hold on to it until the case is closed and they dispose of it along with all the other evidence. Since they can ship his body back to his owner(s) in the meantime to be refurbished with another cube very much like it, there will soon be another Gigolo Joe on the streets, and nobody will miss the original very much (if at all).

      Basically, Joe's fear is the robotic version of the Cloning Blues: he knows humans only value him for what he does, and how easily he can be replaced. He's also self-aware enough to realize that even an exact copy of him won't actually be him, and that the police will for all practical purposes be killing him as a matter of routine just for being the witness to a murder. Thus, his self-preservation programming mandates that he must try to evade them; that license of his probably also serves as a financial tracker for his owner(s) and can be used as a homing beacon, so of course the first thing he does at his earliest opportunity is to dispose of it.
  • Why can eating tons of spinach essentially short David out, requiring a professional cleaning, but being completely submerged in water does nothing to him whatsoever? Especially at the end when the water is debris-ridden??
    • A robot replica of a small child needs a mouth, but not a stomach. It is logical from a design standpoint for that mouth to also serve as an easy limited-access port to internal workings. It is also logical for there to be an automatic seal or artificial sphincter that opens and closes to prevent water from getting inside to damage those delicate workings. Unfortunately, it is also "logical" for a robot attempting imitative behavior to notice that the humans around him are putting all that food somewhere inside them, and open up that sphincter, clogging its works with spinach.
  • What did Joe mean by his last line, "I am. I was!"?
    • My interpretation is that he was asserting his existence, likely in the face of (believed) potential disassembly.
    • Renee Descartes: "I think therefore I am"
  • Why are there robots wandering around in the woods waiting to be captured and trashed at the Flesh Fair? I thought resources were limited; don't people throw out or recycle their old robots? Why would old robots be let loose in the woods? They're machines, not wild animals.
    • They were waiting for the dump truck to dump parts, like scavengers.
    • There are probably a whole lot of interesting stories concerning how they got there in the first place. While probably most of the other androids weren't exactly abandoned as David was (though a few might be "orphans" whose former owners died), their former owners might have had any number of reasons for failing to destroy them or return them to the factory to be recycled. For just one example, old robots and their parts would certainly qualify as E-waste, and a lot of local and national governments have ordinances requiring people to pay a fee to dispose of that stuff; and those governments have plenty of trouble with lazy people and cheapskates illegally dumping their electronics in secluded places (such as the woods) instead. If their "E-waste" is also somewhat sentient, programmed to obey their orders to the end, and has a self-preservation instinct, how much easier would it be for illegal dumpers simply to "emancipate" their robots on the condition that they never tell anyone who their former owners were?

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