Robots Take Over the Big Screen in 2015

As technology grows, so can our aversion to it. Technophobia has been around since the industrial revolution, but the more technology advances, the more, it seems, mankind fears it. Often, these fears take hold of our imaginations through popular fiction.

Millenials have shared a particularly strange relationship with technology, from the Nintendos of our youth to the smart phones that we’ve become dependent on today. More and more, our fears of the unknown are envisioned in films like Avengers: Age of Ultron or Ex Machina. Each of these high profile films highlight a different side of our technophobia. Ultron features a mechanical being seeking revenge and destruction, while Ex Machina explores the fine line between technology and the human heart. These very concepts are about as old as cinema itself.

One of the earliest examples of film reflecting our technophobia came in 1927, with the German expressionist film Metropolis, directed by Fritz Lang. The industrial revolution of the early 20th century was a great time for progress. Machines were changing the way people lived their everyday lives, but not everyone was excited about this new norm. In Metropolis, these fears of automated machinery were brought to life via a robot made to replace a lost love. Eventually, this robot grows to turn on its human creator.

Godzilla, a creature typically associated with cheesy monster flicks and cardboard destruction, is another classic science-fiction metaphor for our fear of technology. Less than ten years before the release of Gojira in 1954, one of the most tragic events in human history occurred; the bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki conveyed technology in a new light, and the entire world saw the immensely destructive power technology can wield. Filmmaker Ishiro Honda took that fear and turned it into Godzilla, a monster created from the ash of nuclear bomb testing.

The tale of the vengeful AI who was initially created for good is one that has been seen in many variations throughout time. One of the oldest versions is the classic monster novel, Frankenstein. This fear has continued in films like Terminator (which is getting yet another sequel this year) or The Matrix, each showing us a bleak future ruled by machines.

Yet in Ex Machina, another form of fear is explored. In the movie, a man is sent to test out a new AI and ends up grappling with the possibility of falling in love with a robot. This is the latest twist on our technophobia: a fear where the separation between man and machine is so thin, it’s almost indiscernible – something that is perhaps most effectively explored under the theme of love.

But where does all this fear stem from? At the heart of technophobia is the idea of not knowing; not knowing what is coming next, not understanding the technology we use, and not knowing when the machine ends and the human begins. As technology grows, chances are there will not be an end to our technophobia, only more fear of the things we don’t quite understand.

The surge in robot films shows humanity’s aversion – and, admittedly, fascination – with artificial intelligence and technology. People throughout the United States have become dependent upon technology in ways they never were before, which isn’t an entirely bad thing in and of itself: consider the rescue devices that were recently displayed in Texas, or the automated home security systems that are helping Chicago residents in one of the most crime-stricken cities in the United States. Though humans are reliant on technology, they need to regulate machine intelligence so that the fears in these films are not fulfilled.

Photo: Spinster Cardigan

the author

Maria Ramos