Saturday, October 23, 2010

Robot

Ok. This is not really an Enthiran review, though I do have a few things to say about Enthiran. I saw it a while ago, and it was ok. But what made me write today is, as usual, reading something. As can be expected, this time it is Asimov. For a real Asimov reader, I had been scoring low, because I hadn't read any of his novels till today. Of course, I have read MOST of his short stories (primarily thanks to Padmini, whose collections lured me out of studying before cycle tests in 1st year!! :) ) Anyway, today's reading brought me back to this whole debate (which explains the length of this post :D). And I am keeping the Enthiran review at the end- so you can read it only if you really want to know my take on it :)

Anyway, one thing good about Enthiran is that it brought some really important debates to the masses (and gave me something to start with)- what would happen if we had a robot that could act as an independent entity? Can we be sure it won't turn against us? Can we make it understand human emotions? Will the robot become the same emotional, sentimental failure that men sometimes become? Or will it show some yet unknown characteristic or emotion?! Will it end up having psychological disorders? Will the randomness that is so part of life on Earth, play a role in robotic development as well?

These are the questions Asimov asked in his stories, and they are as relevant today as then. While we are building bigger and better computers and Japan is speeding with artificial intelligence- someone should ask the question- Do we really understand what we are doing? Do we know enough of the human brain and human emotions to understand what an object equipped with a similar (if not better) brain is capable of doing? I am not trying to be pessimistic here. I am a big fan of technology alright, but these questions are a little inevitable.

Humans believe in a lot of abstract things like spirituality, justice and ethics. Do these laws that seem to apply to us, apply to the objects that we create as well? (Aside, as a reverse question, I wonder if the laws that apply to us, apply to God- it is tricky because if they do- then it means the laws are supreme and not God himself. And if they don't, it means we have an unfair God in our hands! :D) Will the factors that motivate us motivate our robots? Or will they be motivated by things that we shall never understand?

Even further, we have observed that with knowledge competency and talent comes the desire to be independent (it comes even without, but at least some amount of submission is possible in an ignorant man)- will a computer with almost infinite knowledge be able to choose to be independent? Will it choose to prove to us that it is better? And the question that was lurking behind all along- will we become slaves of the robot? Or will we be simply destroyed eventually?

I know you are saying the day is far off when we will leave the computer with such a choice. I know we are not there yet today. But aren't many of us really living our lives for the sake of the computer- spending our lives designing it, testing it, feeding it, enhancing it- or maybe I should say breeding it?! If half the world can be addicted to facebook today, and a piece of code called Farmville can create an extraordinary experiment on living neurons- with just today's compute power- what might happen when we really have humanoids?

It probably sounds a little overstated. And anyway, I am digressing.The point is do we know the impact of our machines on us? Or whether thinking machines will obey us at all?

An even more interesting question is- do we really have a say in this? I know Steven Rose says each creature has its say in evolution- he is possibly right in the fact that we have a choice. But we have constraints limitations on our choices. And we don't have complete knowledge of the consequences of each choice. Maybe, maybe like Asimov postulates in his story, we shall never have a say and ultimately machines shall rule us. Or maybe they won't. Or maybe the question just needs a positronic brain to find the answer... And until then we just have the cliché- "Only time can tell"....

(Click read more for Enthiran review)

By the way, on Enthiran- same comment I would have told most people in person- It is really too good for a Tamil movie; in fact, for an Indian movie. Like a lot of people say awesome graphics (The fights towards the end, man!) and I so like the part where the robot becomes a bad guy. But in a way, it is all Rajni in form and it is so so Sujatha in spirit. (I can almost see Sujatha writing the "zeta byte" and "terahertz" and "neural schema" and I am so sure NOBODY in the Tamil film industry has the faintest knowledge of words like these. And ya, the "de-worming" program as well!) Of course all the graphics and megalomaniac stuff is obviously Shankar- but I think this time at least he has used the money well! The Santhanam comedy track was so not-Shankar (I know Sun pictures is plugging him, and I really can't see why! :( ) Aishwarya Rai- looks good, though initially some of her dress selections were pathetic. Her smiles are so plastic and she is not even homely, so I don't know why she is a "Rajni-heroine". Luckily, Shankar saved us from the "mannuketha tamizh thotta ponnu" crap that happened in Sivaji (and make Shreya dance in some bikini-ish outfit later on!) Wunly Wun qoshtin for Ash- Are u made for the Sita in AshokVan role? Or does it just happen?! :P
And oh, won more qoshtin for Sankar saar- didn't the "give the robot to army" thing sound a little like VijayKanth? :P
On the negative side- well, it had a good number of logical hitches. And of course you can say Rajni did the same things he does in any movie, but with the license of being an andro-humanoid! But remember, I said it was good for a "Tamil" movie, not that it was a good movie as such! He.. He....

8 comments:

  1. Leaving the review on Enthiran, the other things in the post looks like you have got lots of questions... hehehehehehe

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  2. @Smrithi:
    I think most people know it already- I have more questions to ask than anything else really! :D But to justify myself- "we still need the man who is intelligent enough to think of the proper questions to ask"- and I quote from "I,Robot" here!
    So, thanks for giving me a chance to put in my favorite quote form the book, and at the same time to compliment myself :P

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  3. about Endhiran review .. "too good for an Indian movie" ! .. comon u really need to watch some good Indian movies .. i could guess half the movie from its trailor !

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  4. @Sanjeev:
    Plot was obvious, I agree. But the graphics were good. So maybe I should just say it was too good an Indian movie for its genre- which I consider to be "commercial sci-fi action" As a generic movie, Robot was not even "average" on my scale. Anyway, I feel our filmmakers usually waste their money on useless gimmicks. I felt this one was at least well spent. And I repeat, even among Tamil movies, Robot shall never even approach something of a favorite for me - it has far too much masala, far less logic, far far less meaning to me than many simpler movies... And as for sci-fi-- I still haven't found anything even 10 ranks close to Inception... And I still think our directors should commit suicide after seeing Nolan :D

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  5. I think you can watch i-robot to get some answers :)

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  6. So we dont have persmission to post comments without "Your comment has been saved and will be visible after blog owner approval." :P

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  7. @Sri: That is purely to avoid spammers.... I approve almost any comment that is submitted if it is really a "comment" :D

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  8. @ Sri again: Trust me, I-Robot left me with more questions than answers... (Not the movie, I mean the book). For one, I believe that the book was intended to leave questions and not answers with you, which makes it a great work! And if the movie were half as good as the book, it wouldn't give answers either...
    For another, I can never enjoy a movie as much as I enjoy the book, except in some very rare cases.

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