Sunday, February 12, 2006

Super-Toys Last All Summer Long

One of my most-hated films is Steven Spielberg's Artificial Intelligence: AI. The short story which inspired this disaster, "Super-Toys Last All Summer Long" by Brian Aldiss, is actually pretty cool and is available to read online from

Unlike the movie, which devolves from the awesome premise to a lame sci-fi version of Pinocchio, Brian Aldiss's story is about loneliness in an overpopulated world, raising the question of whether that loneliness can be treated with AI companions while pointing out the fact that the problem stems from human selfishness.

The film instead focuses on David and his efforts to gain his mother's love, making the worst sci-fi mistake of focusing on the technology instead of the people. And why? All to rehash a rather uninspiring children's story, made worse by the fact that David only predictably carries out his programming.

A far more inspiring film would have concerned itself with Aldiss's original theme. The film should have been about the results of people surrounding themselves with idealized artificial companions to fulfill their need for interpersonal relationships instead of real people, machines which love unconditionally with total self-sacrifice, the extreme of narcissism.

That would be a truly interesting story, because it's a problem we will likely face in the coming decades. Will people actually be happy when surrounded by these super-toy friends, family members, and lovers? If so, will their ability to relate and socialize with real people be diminished? Will these super-toys make us less human?

This is why I hate this film. Spielberg creates such an engrossing vision of the future with such story-telling potential... Only to waste it.


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