Tuesday, February 5, 2008

The Sarah Connor Chronicles: 4: A Robot Primer

As the bad Terminator model inexorably gathers strength in Episode 4 of The Sarah Connor Chronicles, Sarah speaks of the Golem, and its relevance to her situation...

The Golem of Prague is a story of a 16th century rabbi who creates a human-like being from clay to protect the Jewish people. Various versions of the story have the golem doing its job, but sometimes turning on its creator and the people it was supposed to protect.

The Golem has become the template for every robot, android, or otherwise artificial being that has turned bad or against its creators. Mary Shelley's Frankenstein (1818) is the most famous. Rossum's Universal Robots - R.U.R. - appeared in Prague, of all places, in 1921. Karel Capek's play introduced the term "robots". They rebel against the human race and spell our demise.

Isaac Asimov struck a blow for the good robot with his "Three Laws of Robotics" in the 1940s. The First Law says a robot can never by action or inaction allow any harm to befall a human. Suffice to say that humans and robots in Asimov's worlds often manage to surmount this law and do all kinds of damage - which is why Asimov's robot stories are so riveting. (I recommend beginning with Asimov's first robot novel, The Caves of Steel, 1954.)

The Terminators embody all of these traditions. Sarah Connor's problem is that she needs beautiful Cameron, the good Terminator, to stop the bad Terminators from killing John in our present world. But if Sarah does this by preventing the Terminators from arising in the first place, then how will Cameron have been able to come back and help Sarah?

Time travels adds that additional delicious paradoxical element to the robot story.

See also: The Sarah Connor Chronicles 1 and 2 ... 3 ... 5 ... 6 ... 7 ... 8-9: Terminate with Puzzles, Surprises, and Soul

The Plot to Save Socrates

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