For my family’s movie last night, I chose the only one in our dvd library that has a story centered on the mother. AI and robotics are already a part of our modern time and the the movie – AI Artificial Intelligence released in 2001 – envisions where that world may be headed. The movie credits the short story – Supertoys Last All Summer Long – by author Brian Aldiss. SPOILER ALERT (if there is anyone who would want to see the movie and actually still has not).
When one considers possible alternatives to adoption for couples experiencing the emotional pain of infertility and longing for a child’s love, which is what motivates them to take another woman’s child to raise as their own, a sentient child robot might appear to offer that solace. However, at least in the imaginings of this movie, there is made the point about all of the ways a robotic child, no matter how life like and responsive, will never be the same as a child a woman gives birth to.
A robotic (mecha in the movie) child will never grow old, cannot share in the family meal. The parents will age and eventually die, what becomes of such a frozen in time child ? That is an early question that the sentient robot child asks early on which reveals a fear many children have and not without reason that their parents may die and leave them orphaned.
When the mother’s comatose biological child awakens from a long coma and starts down the long road of recovery, there is a clear sibling jealousy between the two forms of children. Eventually, the issues become so serious, the mother abandons the child in the forest (this blog’s image is from that scene). Like Pinocchio in the story his adoptive mother reads to him, David wants to become “real” so that he can regain his mother’s love. This abandonment, rejection and the desire for reunion is at the heart of many adoptee stories.
The movie does a good job of conveying the complexities of creating such a child substitute. In the movie, climate change has first drown the coastal cities of Earth, wrecking such destruction that after a long period of suffering that ends humanity, the Earth enters another ice age. After 2,000 years, an alien race that is a sophisticated blend of sentient, powerful beings arrives and discovers the frozen robotic child in a thawing world.
For only one day, these powerful beings are able to observe human mother/child interactions drawn from the memory banks of the robotic child and are also able to recreate his long-deceased mother from a lock of hair once taken from her and saved by the supertoy Teddy bear that accompanies the robotic child on his quest to become real so his mother can love him or at the least, so he can feel loved by her again. As his mother falls asleep at the end of the one day granted the android child, she tells David that she has always loved him and this is the moment he had been seeking throughout his quest. David is able to go to sleep next to his recreated mother at the end of the movie, having satisfied his quest, and allow his own robotic self to enter a kind of permanent sleep state lying beside her in her bed, holding her hand.
And this is why this can’t actually be the love that drives couples to adopt someone else’s child . . .