What Makes Us Humans: A Story of an Android

Editors

What makes us humans? This question popped up in my mind as I was watching A.I. Artificial Intelligence by Steven Spielberg. The movie addresses this issue by introducing the relationship between humanoid robot David and humans — Henry and his wife Monica. Throughout the whole movie, the story challenges the existing conventions about human morality and virtues. What struck me the most about Spielberg’s film is that the protagonist of the story, an android, acted more like a human being, compared with real humans. For example, David revealed a wide range of emotions when living with his new family. He showed determination when he wanted to win back his mother’s love. Although the boy is a machine, I, as a viewer, felt his genuine sorrow and loss when Henry decided to return to David so that the company could destroy him.

As for me, it was a cruel decision. It was not David’s fault his father could not love him back. It seems Henry was afraid of David because he differed from ordinary children. For them, David was a direct threat because he also wanted to become a part of the human family. It was unfair to poke David with a knife and provoke him to defend himself. Children knew that David would respond to such a stimulus. For them, he was a toy and an alien that could be humiliated just for fun. The juxtaposition between other children and David reminded me of the ever-exciting problem of racism. In case of discrimination and intolerable treatment, people with another cultural background or color of skin feel out of sorts. They are often labeled as “others” and “aliens.” To my mind, the story about an android is an allusive image of what modern society witnesses today. Racial injustice, hate crime, and other recurrent problems are results of the fear before the unknown. In this case, humanity is often questioned, especially when it comes to interpersonal relationships.

If to compare David’s behavior with that of people who surround him, one may notice an interesting tendency. Although David is a dynamic character who unleashes his personality with time, he remains faithful to his ideals and beliefs. For the boy, love is the highest reward. That is why he strives to become a human, just like Pinocchio in a fairy tale. For David, only humans are worthy of love. As the movie shows, humans lost the privilege of being loved. They destroyed the planet and created human-like robots for vanity’s sake. In this context, androids evolved into more spiritually mature creatures than humans. It can be particularly seen at a Flesh Fair where people destroyed machines before the cheering crowd. This event epitomized the moral decay of humans and proved that robots are capable of love and compassion more than people.

Following the philosophical narrative of the movie, love is not the only thing that makes us humans. Androids in the movie showed that even a machine can learn how to love and express emotional affection. David’s story emphasized that the ability to care about others makes us who we are. From this perspective, people care for each other to ensure society’s common good. Carrying also means respecting other people. When people care about each other, they also learn how to avoid rationalist judgments about the value of one’s life. Thus, just like the android in Spielberg’s movie-watching A.I. Artificial Intelligence, we seek affiliation and someone to care about. It can be achieved after overcoming ingrained stereotypes and biases about other people. Only when people learn how to be tolerant, open-minded, and respectful, they could be called humans.