Bad robots and metallic temptations
From the mid-1960s through the mid-1970s, a number of films explored the borders between artificial intelligence and the human mind, and considered the implications of machines that could think, and even surpass the abilities of the humans that built them. But what of the body? Where Colossus, HAL, and others suggested that our brains might become outmoded instruments, the notion of machines able to imitate the human body lagged behind, at least for a while. Yet once androids found their way into movies, it became hard to shake the possibilities they raised, or their implications.
Walt Disney’s contribution to the 1964 World’s Fair was nothing less than the reincarnation of his hero, Abraham Lincoln, who, in the form of a robot, walked to a podium and delivered an address cobbled together from bits and pieces of the real Lincoln’s famous speeches. Lincoln wasn’t the only Disney robot in attendance. As Time noted in its cover story on the Fair, “Disney’s realistic robots, in fact, stalk the fair. Pepsi-Cola has about 350 of them, doll-size, flanking a boat ride that children seem to like more than anything else.” “The dolls,” the article continues, “sing an original tune about the cohesion of the peoples of the world.” That song, of course, is “It’s A Small World,” but the chirpy, multinational children united in singing it were closer to puppets than robots.
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