“Bicentennial Man,” directed by Chris Columbus, addresses many thematic elements such as the meaning and origins of humanity by placing the focus of the story on a life-sized android man whose purpose is to serve humans. In this world, the owner of the robot, Sir Richard Martin, realized that there was something about the robot that was different and that the flaw within its programming gave it the capacity to process and interpret complex, human emotions. In this, the story ponders upon the nature of consciousness and what the concept of humanity actually means when one considers its complexities. Andrew, the robot, goes on to live for another 200 years and it is during this time that he begins to interpret and understand the complexities that are associated with being a human. He cultivates relationships with humans and showcases a broad, powerful semblance of emotional awareness and empathy. These experiences present the viewer with a plethora of examinations on what constitutes being human and conscious.
In order to understand the effectiveness of the story’s development, it is crucial to know and comprehend Isaac Asimov’s Three Laws of Robotics. They include the first law, which states that a robot may not harm a human being, or through any inaction or miscalculation, allow a human to be harmed. The second law states that they must obey the orders that are given to them by humans except when any order directly conflicts with the first law’s demands. Lastly, the third law states that a robot must constantly protect it’s own livelihood and existence so long as it does not conflict with the first two laws. Andrew eventually becomes part of the Martin family and earns his place among them over several years. He develops a strong and deep attachment to “Little Miss” and grows closer to her as he develops his own interpretation of his emotional engagement.
He begins to find it difficult to follow the second law when ‘Sir tells him that he has to leave the family at once. It is here that the functions of his program begin to take shape as a compelling level of empathy. (Roberts, 34) This becomes difficult for Andrew to do because he has developed a curious, intimate relationship with the members of the family and has subsequently become attached. It is after he banished from the family that he begins to develop a deep sense of loss and loses confidence in his identity, coming to the realization that he is not in fact human. (Cooper, 224) Yet, he begins to comprehend the level of his own consciousness and the depth of his ability to empathize with these individuals, and in this regard, he beings pursuing a process of becoming more like the humans in this world. This becomes his primary goal, to continually progress into becoming more human-like so as to gain the status of being a human. Columbus confronts the nature of existence by choosing to address the symbolic attempts that he makes to acquiring more human-like characteristics, when there is already such a present, developed identity. Andrew learns to appreciate and be held in utter wonder of things like freedom, family, friendship, creativity and death. (Cooper, 226)
His journey is symbolically represented when he goes off to find other robots that are like him. This in itself comprises a large portion of the human journey that we all experience; it is a sequence of events that we use to hopefully gain insight into our world and the nature of our place within it. In essence, essentially all of humanity is locked in some present engagement with their own person and how they correlate to those around them. It’s an essential part of life that defines how humans exist and with whom they exist. Along the way, Andrew discovers a robot that looks much like a woman and even knows how to dance like a human. He is captivated by her presence and wishes to understand more about her and how their beings and perceptions correlate with one another. He says, “I can’t believe that I finally found you. When did you know what you were unique?” (Cooper, 222) She informs him that she knew from the beginning but as he continues talking with her, he understands that she is merely programmed to have a sense of personality and that she wasn’t actually capable of independent thought or of understanding the relevance of her own being.
Symbolically, she embodies a complex realization that the director and the writer of the initial short story from which the movie was based, Isaac Asimov, attempted inject within the narrative of the story. Humanity is presented as not just an extension of personality but a reflection of consciousness and an ability to contemplate on the value and meaning of life. At one point, this robot even goes to state that “I think personality is much more fun than intelligence.” (Cooper, 224)This comprises an expansive point that the directors make in the examination of humanity and this point reiterates itself at many different parts of the story’s narrative. Overall, there are many moments in which Andrew is apparently more capable of empathy and a deeper level consciousness than even some of his human counterparts. As he grows to gain more surgeries and attempts to convert himself more and more to becoming human-like, he runs into issues that are orchestrated by a council of humans that determine if an entity is a person or not, known as the World Legislature.
Andrew is forced to go through significant levels of legal and political drama to attempt to have his humanity officially recognized, and at many times, this is halted. Many of the opponents of him regarded as a human base their arguments around the idea that even though the prosthetics that he eventually obtains makes him look like a human in many ways, they still don’t constitute enough to regard him as a human. They state that he must perform human functions and this is where the scene’s pivotal moment comes in to play. Andrew seeks out a robotic surgeon that is to perform an operation which will ultimately kill him: altering the brain that he has so that it will eventually decay. He establishes that the operation will allow him to live to be 200 years old. It is this act that motivates the World Legislature to declare him a human being, signing a law on his two-hundredth birthday and finally declaring him a man. (Roberts, 36) In his final moments, as he attempts to reflect upon what had defined him as a human, his consciousness fades and the only thing that he can think of is Little Miss.
The main purpose of the article “The Mechanics of the Bicentennial Man” by Dave Neil is in interpreting the key elements of the movie and understanding how the writers and director came to interpret the meaning of existence and the reflection on humanity that Isaac Asimov had intended.
The key question that the author is addressing is in whether or not humans can define themselves by their physical attributes or if there is some deeper correlative point that we share that extends beyond just our human-like appearance? (Neill, 11)
The most important information in this article is in the examinations of Andrew’s character and the comparisons that the author makes towards other characters, such as the human legislators who refuse to admit his humanity or in the female, dancing robot who he initially perceives as being somewhat like him.
The main inferences and conclusions in this article is that Andrew’s character was conscientious of his own innate self-awareness and had both empathetic tendencies and complex capacities to understand the significant of events and people in his life. (Neill, 14) As he continued to progress into discovering his own humanity, these themes grew and compounded upon themselves.
The key concepts that we need to understand in this article is that humans are defined not by their exteriors, but by their spirits which are manifested through empathy and awareness. By these concepts the author means that we are defined by how we interpret the world and the significant of those in it.
The main assumption underlying the author’s thinking is that empathy is the defining trait that helps to showcase what our capacities are in terms of humanity.
If we take this line of reasoning seriously, the implications are that we can understand and interpret the complexities of humanity more intimately and see that these conditions are only defined by intrinsic value and worth.
If we fail to take this line of reasoning seriously, the implications are that many individuals throughout the world will be predisposed to levels of inhumanity, given their obsession with defining the subject and simultaneous lack of capacity to understand the broader scope of what humanity encompasses.
The main point of view presented in this article is using the reflections of Andrew’s being and the capacity through which he attempts to surmise the foundation of his own humanity to reinforce the present of his actual, real human-like characteristics.