I’ve seen things…you people wouldn’t believe

Even though the more I’ve researched about the things that could go wrong with advancing robots, as unlikely the dystopic future we envision in sci-fi is to come to fruition; the thread of fearing the inhuman persists. Perhaps it is an extension of humans needing to apply the ‘us’ and ‘them’ hostility to anything that doesn’t belong in their belief system, or the fact that immortal machines, wearing our faces and speaking our words, only reminds us of our own mortality (MacDorman 2005).

For Cybercultures, I have been generating a podcast series that revolves around an exploration of case studies into robots in films and television; and how they exemplify our fear of what robots will become. I aimed with this artefact, to use these robot characters in media to showcase key concepts and revelations I came to during my research. We have a strong fascination with robots that borders on paranoia, we are sprinting head first into the technology to make them as sophisticated as possible to better our lives, but imagine the worst case scenario of the future we are heading to. Robots as the “Big Bad” is an easy trope to buy into, as it so easily plays on what we are already thinking.

Films and TV shows have been a great way for us to pose an idea or notion of the future, or even a parallel present, though they might not always be scientifically accurate or possible, they do still have their role in the future of robots we are heading towards. These ideas and notions will shape what robots in our society will actually be like, and also educate us in how we feel about them. Why do we imagine human replacements like synths, is it because we seek to rid ourselves of human imperfections? Why do we think robots will take all our jobs, because they can do them more efficiently?

All these fictional depictions feed into our apprehension of giving robots artificial intelligence or greater autonomy in their decision making processes. When you compare most depictions of robots-and though not technically robots and under my purview, anything inhuman but still classifiable within the Uncanny Valley- most are depicted as malice and anti-humans. When, as I learnt through my research, real life robots have really done very little to warrant this fictional hatred. Just as I’m sure, people once feared radios or televisions, we will eventually adjust to a changing reality and the role technologies have within it. I plan to do an entire podcast devoted to Uncanny Valley, as it was a very interesting contribution to why we fear robots, most likely through examining the Synths of Humans (2015), a remake of Being Human (2012).

I have plotted to make 10 podcasts all together, each one I focus on a particular concept I have picked from fear of robots, and then applying them to a robot in film or tv to further draw on the topic. My second podcast, will explore the rebelling creators face from their creations, what will really classify as human in these future worlds when something so sophisticated as a Replicant can be just as human as its maker, if not more for understanding the fragility and treasure of existence and wanting more time.


MacDorman, K 2005 ‘Androids as an Experimental Apparatus: Why is there an Uncanny Valley and Can We Exploit It?’

7 thoughts on “I’ve seen things…you people wouldn’t believe

  1. I always wonder when it comes to the depiction of robots as the bad guys in media how much of it also comes from other areas of human regulations. For example, the use of machine Foot Clan Ninjas in Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles or the Robot Boxing in Real Steel meant that more extreme forms of violence like the removal of limbs could be depicted without raising the maturity rating because there wasn’t the associated blood and gore. Also the regularly stoic or unmoving faces being placed across every robot in a robot army makes them essentially faceless and much more difficult for human audiences to identify with, morally excusing the heroes of the show or movie or what have you from the consequences of killing them — the same thinking behind things like the helmets Storm Troopers wear in Star Wars.

    Then of course there’s the interesting flip side of WHY is it ok for these things to happen to robots? Sure, a robot may not bat an eye at having an arm torn off, but neither would Deadpool and HIS arm getting ripped up would get a stronger rating. The idea that because something is faceless, or shares the same face as every other member of its kind, it registers as being perfectly fine and humane sort of comes back to this idea that we as an audience are going “it’s ok, that’s not a REAL death, it’s not like they just killed something with a SOUL or anything”… I dunno, it’s all just very complicated and problematic and full of missing borders on definitions.

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  2. Hmm, I really like the ideas you’ve put forward here and no doubt I will be using some of your ideas to shape my own .
    What I am doing for my final research project and when i think of artificially advanced Robots, I mean Replicants and Synths. Are we looking for a “Mankind Redefined” notion where we create these pinnacles of human creation or are we in fact messing around with something we cant handle.

    It seems to me , what we are scared of is the unknown, we can fight for the rights and debate the consciousness of these somewhat intelligent things all we want but deep down as Homosapiens are we going to house even a little bit of prejudice towards this replicated race.
    How do we distinguish emotion with something that does not hold the same values as us. I am deeply sorry for the sway of my opinion but ever since I read Donna Harraways Cyborg Manifesto ive been rethinking my thoughts. On a human level , we do have some idea on how someone will react to a certain situation , that’s how we base our actions is it not . We tone down our voices when speaking to a child because if we talk loud it will scare them. We offer someone a hug when they’re upset because they’ve ended a relationship , we high five a dude while watching the sports at the pub . We have a connection with each other that is deeply embedded within us . As Donna states ” Cyborgs live in a post-gender environment, they do not have an attraction to organic wholeness whatsoever”.

    In terms of the rebellion we face , the androids that will need to be fully compliant to all our demands in the first place in order to realise they are more than what theyve been made for . It could very well turn out that we humans will rebel against them.

    Another point is the title . Ive seen things you people wouldnt believe. I just thought of something really wierd and wanted to share it . As we all know A.I is consistent and forever developing. I dont think there is a limit to how much information an A.I can learn or hold on to. Neuroscientists say that we can hold up to 10 -100 TB , some say 2-3 PB. if so then the A.I obviously has a limit too. Now, A.I in development now accesses their info from the information and various data banks. Its just processed this info has not really experienced it but yet can form a judgment on various things cant it , there isnt a cyborg created that has experienced the world as humans have. If we continuously fed this machine with images and info relating to snowboarding and it becomes an expert on snowboarding does that mean it has ‘seen’ more things than us , at what point does the experience become irrelevant . Does the machine care about an experience or does it only care about the outcome, the end result , the fact that it has give us an appropriate response to our question, Are things strictly 2D for machines, does it realise the experience is important as well as the theoretical side.

    Just something to think about.


  3. I’m quite curious about your topic, especially when you mentioned how robots are essentially more efficient versions of ourselves – well, at least in what they are made to do anyway. We make cars to drive further and faster, we use telephones to communicate over longer distances and have vacuum cleaners to quicken our clean up. One day, it will be interesting to see multi-tasking robots who are efficient in a range of things – or even has the potential to learn how to do these things.
    I’ll have to agree with you on the way robots are represented in fiction, even in Transformers humans began to fear the Autobots who had saved them in the past. Whenever there is a ‘good’ robot in a movie, there is always an evil robot as the antagonist – it’s a common dichotomy seen even in children’s move (think Wall-E). In reality though, robots have never harmed humans and many automated systems have allowed us to live a more comfortable life; it seems quite short-sighted to stall any improvements in this industry because some fear a revolution from robots.

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  4. It’s interesting to compare the fear of robots to the fear of radio and television, it makes it seem so silly! I think a lot of people are fearful of robots because of the potential they have over us, linking to what you said about how they’re basically more efficient humans. You can’t argue with the logic that someone would want to buy a robot to do the job of multiple humans – why pay for 3 people that have to eat/breath/sleep and work around their legal rights, when one robot can work 24hrs a day and do whatever the fuck you want it to do.

    There’s a great short doco about this called “humans need not apply” which relates this current issue, to the not so recent decline of horses, where when all their work was replaced by cars, the birth rate and living population declined rapidly.

    I think there’s definitely going to be a shift in “what it means to be human” when intelligent robots integrating into society becomes a reality.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. First of all, would just like to say that I am very excited to see how your project pans out! I am doing a similar project on the same topic, and I am fascinated to see how our perspectives will differentiate. One fascinating aspect that you talk about in this post is regarding the ‘us’ vs ‘them’ mentality. Throughout history, we have struggled with change and difference, whether that be race or technology. I hope that you intend on exploring this idea, as I am interested to hear what you have to say on the matter.

    By the way, what are you using to record your voice? I am struggling to decide what I should use to record mine 🙂

    Liked by 2 people

    1. I feel the Us/Them Debate is at the heart of our fear of robots, because we are struggling with robots in terms of identity. They are starting to create a new definition of identity and we don’t know how to classify robots yet, we don’t know what to categorise them as, so they automatically become Them.
      Also, I started off borrowing these little devices from uni to do recording, but it became such a hassle to keep returning it and not have it on demand when someone else might need it when I don’t. I ended up buying a really similar one to the recording devices the uni has, and it worked fantastically! https://www.jbhifi.com.au/ipods-docks-fitness/olympus/olympus-vn-7800-digital-voice-recorder/941786/ It was a little pricey but I think it’ll be worth it.


  6. You’d Bladerunner would be a good enough example of why not to get filthy corporations to build robots/cyborgs/humanoids. A typical Frankenstein story, that just ends in tragedy anyway. But unfortunately I believe we’re faced with a future that will be dominated by corporate powers and western imperialism where robots will be supplied to people and told that they’re built to aid the user. We all know they’re just trying to fuck us all over and eventually create a civilisation of maximum productivity, courtesy of all lower-middle class humans being eradicated or enslaved. Maybe I’m being a bit too dystopic, but you know something to sleep on!


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