I, Robot

I, Robot
Electric Soul

Brendan Main | 27 Oct 2009 12:52
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It's a fitting allusion. Prometheus, the Titan of Greek myth, was a thinker as well. Seeing the miserable plight of humankind, he stole fire from his creators and shared it with the world. For this act of mercy, he was punished, lashed to a mountainside where every morning a great bird would come down to tear out his liver, and every night his body would be restored. Immortality as a cause of suffering, kindness met with cruelty - Robo may be from the future, but his make and model are ancient.

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Cast in this mythical light, Robo seems doomed to misery, living a half-life between masochism and martyrdom. Taken cynically, he could be understood as a warning against those who would disturb the status quo. Other robots are perfectly content with their role as gleaming murder machines, and whatever humans are left have long ago embraced their fate as the last of a dying tribe. But as a survivor of an unforgiving future, Robo truly is a defect - a glitch in an otherwise working system. It's only because Robo can think for himself that this world becomes a nightmare - one the planet itself must wake up from. But if this false future doesn't belong, then neither does he. To fix the world may be to destroy himself.

Yet back there in the forest, things seem different. In the desolate industrial future, Robo is a total failure: His weaknesses are exploited, his sentimentality ignored. But down among the roots and trees, he is somehow at home. Though mechanical, he has a knack for the organic - a love of all life, great and small. Even after wrecking himself through years of hard labor, he seems nourished from the experience - at peace with things.

While the rest of your party sleeps, he shares a secret with the girl who salvaged him from the future and repaired his injuries. Hidden deep within his body, he has kept a small drop of resin, turned into a knot of amber over the centuries. He gives it to her as a gift. This moment reminds me of a newer mythology: the Tin Man getting his heart. Through his tireless service to others, through his goodness and humility, he has finally won something for himself.

He earns a soul.

Brendan Main hails from the frosty reaches of Canada, which is pretty much a post-apocalyptic wasteland with better coffee. When not trying to erase himself through paradox, he blogs at www.kingandrook.com.

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