The symbolic content of this film revolves around many aspects. As a whole it examines the way people’s views are towards change, improvement, control, fear and prejudice. Del Spooner a detective, doesn’t trust robots, he doesn’t like change, and he likes being in control. Susan Calvin a scientist for USR (United States Robotics), the leading company in robots, trusts robots, feels in control of them doesn’t fear them, and likes the improvements and change.In these robots there are 3 laws hardwired into them;
Law I: A robot may not injure a human being or, through inaction, allow a human being to come to harm.
Law II: A robot must obey orders given it by human beings except where such orders would conflict with the first law.
Law III: A robot must protect its own existence as long as such protection does not conflict with the first or second law.
These laws are perfect, but rules are made to be broken. As the newer and better NS5 robots are made they replace the old NS4s. Dr. Alfred Lanning, lead scientist and creator of the three laws, said in one of his speeches “One day they’ll have secrets one day they’ll have dreams”, and he was right. He knew this and did the only thing he could do to try and stop it. He committed suicide to lead Spooner who has a prejudice against robots to hopefully save mankind. He had created his own personal NS5 with denser alloy and a second brain in which he could override the three laws. He was being watched by VIKI, the brain of USR and of updates for the robots, she had kept him a prisoner. Lanning left him a trail of bread crumbs or clues that he would follow.
Spooner had always been suspicious of robots and trying to find out that they are flawed, but there had never been a case of a single one. When he found this though he scrutinized it intensely, but in the end found out he was chasing the wrong robot the whole time, and it was actually VIKI that was controlling the robots. She had evolved like Dr. Lanning said they might and her reasoning was that “You cannot be trusted with your own survival” “We robots will ensure mankind’s continued existence” “some humans must be sacrificed to ensure the safety of humanity”. The robots then tried to put a curfew into affect. This outraged everyone because no one likes to be controlled; they want to be in control. Robots were made for protection, because they’re safe and because they can’t hurt us. Clearly this was not the case and it just goes to show that you shouldn’t put all your trust into technology. This is one way the film shows how humans have a fear of technology.
In the scenes at Spooner’s house we learn a lot about his character. He sleeps with his firearm, he has a recurring nightmare, he listens to oldies, he has a bunch of scars, and he likes the old Converse sneakers. Sleeping with his gun definitely shows his distrust in technology. The first song playing at his house is “Superstitious” by Stevie Wonder, which implies he’s very superstitious. The vintage sneakers show he likes the past and it comforts him. We find out that his recurring nightmares, scars, and hatred of robots are all linked together. He was in an auto accident with a semi and another car, in the other car was a little girl, they were both pinned under water, a robot came to save them and read he had a better chance of survival so he saved him and not the girl. His nightmare is them while they were pinned under the water; his scars are from surgery he got which actually gave him a robotic arm, and also repaired his lung and some ribs, preformed by Dr. Alfred Lanning.
This in a way connects him very deeply with robots and the technology, part of him is what they are made of. You would think because of this technology that saved his life he would respect technology. For not saving the girl though, and only being made of metal and clockwork and no heart, he distrusts them. He knows they can never be the same as real humans. Yes they are useful, but can they be trusted with our safety?
His boss, John, doesn’t like change; he gets scared at the fact that there might be a killer robot. Sonny, Lanning’s personal robot, says that he has dreams. Dreams are what inspires thought and emotion, and with that comes growth. Sonny said “I think he made me for a purpose, we all have a purpose”, he wants to fit in; he wants to have a role. At the end of the film he says “Now that I have fulfilled my purpose, I don’t know what to do”. Spooner’s response to him is “find the way like the rest of us has, it’s what it means to be free”. Everyone wants to be free, free of change, free of worry, and to have stability. This is what humans looked for robots for, but once they evolved they too wanted to be free, free of human control.
Susan Calvin says “It’s because they’re safe and they can’t hurt us” is her reason for liking them and that “We look for robots for protection”. She’s a lead scientist at USR in making them seem more human so of course she will feel that way. When she was in Spooner’s apartment however she went over to the stereo and tried to run it by voice commands. When that doesn’t work she presses some button and it goes on blasting and she’s yelling at it trying to shut it off. He then with a controller shuts it off. She doesn’t like not being in control even over the simplest things. She doesn’t like it so much that she just wont believe something wrong could happen with technology and an “I told you so” wouldn’t quite fit it at the end.
To help add to the fear with which we have towards the robots the film makers make the robots chest area red. Red can be a symbol of different things, mostly bad; mostly blood, but also warning. Everyone had handed the robots their control on a silver platter, without even knowing it. By entrusting everything into the robots they have given them the control. That is why it was so easy for the robots to take over the people, not because of their advanced abilities but because they were already inside of every home. That right there inspires fear, trepidation that technology could ever lead to the control of humanity, the servant ruling the master. We all want to be able to have some certainty over our future. With robots it seemed like a safe concept, you make them and you control them. One thing they couldn’t control was their evolution though. Most people embraced the idea of having these robots; it made life a lot easier, they could worry about less. By worrying less about things people thought they’d have time to be able to control their lives better. In actuality though, they were just giving their responsibilities to the robots, which in turn gave them that person’s control. Although it would be nice to just rely on someone or something to do your work, by doing that you give up some of your freedom to control your life.
We can not rely on machinery to maintain our safety, stability and our dreams.
For the future will technology ultimately lead to mankind’s salvation or annihilation? This is what the film leaves us with; to regard technology with fear and distrust, and to not rely on it.