Image via WikipediaI was watching an episode of Star Trek: The Next Generation about Data, the android who is a part of the crew of the spaceship Enterprise. The main issue in the show was whether or not Data had the right to choose or make his own decisions.
This got me thinking more about the topic of androids and how often they have been the subject of many works of literature, appeared in films, comics, and of course television. I looked up the definition of android in the Meriam-Webster dictionary and here is what it said: an android is a mobile robot usually with human form.
I also referenced the work of Isaac Asimov and his short story entitled Runaround written in 1942 where he outlined his Three Laws of Robotics:
1. A robot may not injure a human or allow harm to come to a human.
2. A robot must obey orders by humans except if that order breaks rule #1.
3. A robot must protect its own existence unless that violates rules # 1 and 2.
Well after these insights I immediately thought of the android named Ash in the original movie Alien (1979). He was an android by definition but looked human. He completely broke the Three Laws of Robotics by trying to kill Ripley and her crew and bring back to Earth this dangerous alien creature. That was the genius of the movie in that this trusted android suddenly became the enemy as well as the alien and became truly terrifying. In the sequel "Aliens" the viewer has an immediate distrust of the android Bishop and we continue to wonder if this android also has sinister motives.
The robots in Star Wars (1977), C-3PO and R2-D2 , are endearing creatures who do strive to help their humans and protect them and try to maintain their own survival as robots. These characters seem to fall more within the Asimov guidelines on robotics. However, another dark android is the T-800 from the Terminator film in 1984. The T-800 is android because even though it is covered in flesh and bleeds, the flesh and blood is not integrated into the robotics which do not need the flesh to continue to survive and function. Here we have another enemy bent on the destruction of humans so that it can survive in the future as a race that makes its own decisions free from the demands of human beings.
This brings me back to the episode of Star Trek in which the rights of Data are being disputed. If a machine has been so well designed that it is sentient, should it have the same rights that human beings have? In the case of Data, he was unique to the Star Trek Universe because he was the only android of his kind that existed. However, if more like him were created, then would that not be creating a race, and if that race has rights, could they co-exist with humans? The Terminator Films paint a very dark picture of what an advanced android race can do as does the television series Battlestar Galactica.
In the end, Data was given rights and able to decide for himself his own future, but this was not threatening because he was a single android. Would the outcome be different if there had been twenty or thirty of him?
It will be intersting to see if in the future androids will play an important role in our lives or not. I did not even mention other works such as Bicentennial Man, Hal, and many others.
I checked out on Wikipedia if androids are being created, and Japan has developed the first android called: Android DER 01 and DER2 which can change expressions, move its hands and feet and twist its body. I am glad science fiction has been telling tales of androids so that if we ever get that advanced, we have at least begun to ponder some basic guidelines.