The Rebellion of the Machines

"With time, machines became so smart, they rose up and demanded equal rights"

The notion of a humanoid (or human- like nonhuman) dates back to Pandora's myth, 2,500 years ago and even earlier. Egyptian, Babylonian, and Sumerian legends, 5,000 years old, reflect the widespread image of the creation, with god- men breathing life into clay models.

The ancient Greek myth of Prometheus, the Titan who stole the fire from Zeus to give to humanity, is the goldmine where the novelist's creativity drew so many ideas and images.

The Legend of the Golem (from the Hebrew word gelem, meaning raw material) is a medieval Jewish novel where a clay monster, crated by Great Rabbi Loew, rises against its creator.

In 1816, Mary W. Shelley wrote the novel Frankenstein, the Modern Prometheus. It is the world-famous story of a doctor, Victor Frankenstein, interested in natural philosophy, electricity, chemistry and mathematics, and of his monster. Dr. Frankenstein was able to "bestow animation upon lifeless matter" and created a monster of gigantic proportion from assembled body parts taken from graveyards. The story ends in tragedy.

RUR Rossum's Universal Robots (1920) is the play by Karel Capek, in which the word ROBOT was used for the first time in history. Another story of rebellion: On an island in the middle of the ocean, is the central factory of Rossum's universal robots. These Robots are being sold to the world as cheap labour force. When the factory director gives the Robots a soul, enables them to make decisions and to behave humanly. The Robots realise their physical and mental superiority, declare war on all humans and destroy all of the human race.

Metropolis (1926) is the title of a famous movie by the Austrian-American film director Fritz Lang. The story - which takes place in 2026, one-hundred years from when the movie was made - stages a beautiful robot, named Robotrix. And again, the robot is pictured as evil.

In 1968, one year before the first manned moon landing, director Stanley Kubrick and writer Arthur C. Clarke presented 2001 Space Odyssey. The Sci-fi movie shows HAL, the computer aboard a mission to Jupiter deciding (itself) to do away with its human co-pilots.

The movie Blade Runner (1982, based on the script "Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep", by Philip K. Dick) and the series of the Terminator and The Matrix (a science fictional account of a future where highly intelligent, human-like machines take over and control the human race) have continued the catastrophic theme portraying the dawn of Artificial Intelligence as a disaster for humankind.

Books by novelist Michael Crichton such as Prey (2000) have introduced the idea that nano-robots can learn and modify their behaviour accordingly. The "prey" are women and men.

In sum, it appears that, from RUR to Terminator3, the message is clear:

"The only good self-aware machine is an unplugged one"

Edited by Fiorella Operto

Draft 5th Jan '04