Archetype Movie Asks: Can The Dead Live On As Robots?

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Are we our memories? If so, what happens when we place them in machines?

Immortality comes in many flavors, but the tastiest may be robotic. Why keep living in your organic body forever when you can have a stronger, faster, more robust one that will keep you from accidentally expiring? Of course, once you place your mind inside a machine, there’s little to keep others from treating you as a machine. That’s part of the premise behind Aaron Sims‘ short film Archetype. Set to be released at the end of the summer, Archetype explores the ‘life’ of RL7, an eight foot tall combat robot that is beginning to remember being a man. Sims, who has an astounding record as an art designer in Hollywood, sets a grim but intriguing tone in the teaser trailer – check it out below. I love Archetype’s tagline, “Your memories are a glitch.” When humanity stops being completely human, we will sacrifice our rights along with our biology?

Aaron Sims has an absurdly impressive resume. I Am Legend, War of the Worlds, Clash of the Titans, Sucker Punch, Green Lantern…you know what, if you’ve seen a cool looking character in a science fiction flick in the last five years there’s a good chance you were watching his work, that’s how prolific he is. Currently he’s working on Rise of the Planet of the Apes and Amazing Spiderman. You can see this level of expertise in the reserved but immersive world of Archetype:

Just for fun, here’s the Sims production highlight reel – so many awesome movies!

Archetype seems to be exploring the consequences of transferring human thought into thinking machines. RL7 will not only have to confront his memories of being human, but fight against the company that makes him and that sees him as dangerous (or possibly just defective). Can something still be property when it has the memories of a living person, and for that matter, how much memories of human life will it take before a machine has human rights?

While science fiction has been exploring this theme for years (witness Caprica and Surrogates as some other recent examples), it has done so with an interest in entertaining rather than educating. Clearly such a debate is a bit premature, we have neither the technology, nor the widespread interest (yet) for transferring our minds into electronic media. The time to address these concerns, however, may be sooner rather than later. Already we’ve seen a few pioneering neuroscientists ponder the legal ramifications of our ongoing research into the mind and mind-like machines. Futurist Ray Kurzweil not only wants to resurrect deceased loved ones, his film, the Singularity is Near, explores the rights of those beings we build (whether from human memories or from scratch).

It may take us decades to create the technologies necessary to transfer human consciousness, or approximate it in purely synthetic creatures, but the same questions surrounding their rights may become relevant in other ways much sooner. It was only last year that MRI scans revealed some patients in a permanent vegetative state were still actually conscious! For years we had been treating such people as little more than the biological property of their next of kin. Imagine the legal and social impact of upcoming advances in neuroscience will have. True, Aaron Sims’ vision of robotic memory shown in Archetype may be set in the future, but we should ponder some of the deeper questions it raises today. For all we know, tomorrow’s neurologists could reveal that all our memories are pretty much glitches.

That’s certainly how I feel most mornings.

[image and video credits: Archetype Movie, Aaron Sims]
[source: Archetype Movie]

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