Artificial Intelligence (A.I.) causes a lot of unease. Will the created intelligence override the laws of robotics? Are they going to kill humans and take our place? Where does that leave us in the grand scheme of things? Film often exploits the living hell out of these fears, making robots and their artificial intelligence something to be feared. However, the A.I. in Doomsday Book‘s “The Heavenly Creature” section presents a rarity: the A.I. that does not want to overthrow us, but seeks to help humans in a benevolent manner. With delicate exploration, it comments on the laziness that technology can breed, as well as the ability of the A.I. to develop into something that obeys the laws of robotics while still managing to push forward for the good of mankind.
|My favorite segment by far.
When Park Do-won (Kim Kang-woo) first arrives at the temple, a monk informs him that “robot assistance allows us to focus on our practices,” hence the need for them. Immediately, we see that the simple act of guiding a tour is outsourced so that humans may have more time to devote to their true goals. Park establishes that the robot thinking is a type of defect, and prepares himself to follow company protocol for a defective robot. The model in question, RU-4, reveals himself to be a thinking being, calling himself “In-myung” and praying as a equal with other monks. “Please see me for what I am,” he asks of Park. “I realize this must be stressful for you. I am just a machine. Please feel at ease.” At this point, Park doesn’t want to recognize In-myung as an equal, nor does he want to treat In-myung as a mere machine; he wants him to be a robot without sentient thought because it is, in a word, easier. A place for everything, and everything in its place – In-myung goes outside of his ascribed place in social order, and this poses a potential threat. Ji-eun (Jo Yoon-hee) rushes to his defense, asking, “Why won’t you allow room for imagination?” Rather than dismiss In-myung, she views the robot as a sentient being that understands the goals of her philosophy better than she does, and therefore he is something that can assisst her in her own journey. Her approach is to view In-myung as a unifying bridge between philosophy and the human mind, rather than as a divider and, ultimately, a threat.
That In-myung seeks to teach Ji-eun is significant. During a talk between the pair, she expresses concern that the enlightened are labeled as Buddha, but that In-myung achieving enlightenment (in her opinion) gets labeled as a defect and merits death. This is a pretty heady concept as far as human thought goes, and he’s got a good point: often, those that think outside of the norm are viewed as somehow defective, and are put down in some form or another – discredit, exile, death. In-myung does not seek to argue his fate with her, choosing instead to make it a teaching point. He offers her the example of the clock and his arm, attempting to demonstrate that perception keeps us from making true connections concerning the nature of the self. He instructs her to let go of her attachments to find the path she is looking for, pleading with her, “Please see me for what I am.” He also closes his night with meditation, asking, “What am I? From where have I been, and where do I go?” In-myung does not want to take over the world or rob any of the temple’s inhabitants of their humanity. He wants to teach. He wants to help. In a sense, he wishes to serve the humans by helping them find a spiritual truth. In-myung knows that he was born without desires, so he has nothing to conquer. In this respect, he is far closer to enlightenment, and is therefore the one that can best show humans the way to achieve it. He takes on the role of teacher to help them find their collective objective, proving that this A.I. does not want to harm, but rather help in any way he can. While he thinks independently, he still wishes to put something positive into the world; one could argue that he has found a new directive that is beneficial for humans and is acting upon it. He does this until the very end, when he declares, “You were each born enlightened, but then have forgotten it” before shutting himself down. Rather than allow human life to be harmed (despite that he defended himself on one occasion), In-myung peacefully bows out to save lives from the human aggressors.
|Considering my love-hate relationship with clocks, this one hit deep.
By contrast, the humans’ need of the robot in order to achieve their ends brings about a type of slave-race-uprising anxiety. Chairman Kang (Song Young-chang) declares, “Science is subservient to mankind,” later adding, “A robot must obey unconditionally.” In-myung is a direct threat to Kang’s sense of social order: for Kang, they are a slave race that should not have feelings, lest they rebel. He’s worried about humans staying at the top of the food chain, and goes so far as to express that his company “provides the basic groundwork of the human race,” making himself a type of master architect to humankind. Funny that the human is the one who takes it upon himself to act as the grand master of eugenics. As this self-appointed architect, he brings up that the human race is falling short in the growth department: “The human brain has not evolved since the dissemination of computers, left with only basic arithmetic functions. What is the main number for this temple?” At this, half of the group whips out their cell phones to check for the number, reinforcing that the reliance upon technology has made them intellectually lazy. If this is the case, that renders them obsolete, and thereby confirms Kang’s fears.
However, Kang fails to see that In-myung directs his purpose – his servitude – toward helping humans embrace more robotic traits in order to achieve their spiritual goals. Robots, according to In-myung, are born in the state of nothingness, with the sole purpose to serve. This is the same path of nothingness which the Buddhist humans seek – to empty the mind of desire, to have to overcome the self. Robots are already enlightened. By sharing his experience, In-myung demonstrates that it’s less of a control issue and more of a connection issue. Yes, he has sentience, and therefore has the choice to act as think as he pleases. That he uses that sentience to make the connection of human desire – spiritual fulfillment – means that he has applied the knowledge and consciousness to good use. After all, his natural state is closer to the state which the humans wish to achieve; this becomes a consciousness symbiosis which benefits all.
|Everything is a teaching moment.
That Park is revealed to be a robot in the end is significant because it makes sense in terms of his enforcement of directive, yet we are also granted a chance to see A.I. continuing to do something positive after the advent of sentience. Let us not forget that Park wanted to fix the defect of In-myung – that he wound up defending him and then going on to give a piece of himself to aid the broken dog fell in line with the teachings of the Buddhist robot echoed that a positive impact had occurred across multiple facets. The humans felt spiritually uplifted; the robot was able to carry out his directive, yet give more of himself. Quite literally, Park both placed himself in the line of defense and gave of his body to ensure the survival of others. It wasn’t dangerous; it was assuring. Finally, we got an example of A.I. for the first time in a while that wasn’t out to kill us all.