WALL-E: Empathy and A.I.

Better late than never, I always say!

Looking back to our first film of the semester I can’t help but to continue to fall in love with WALL-E.  Since the class watched it at the beginning, I’ve gone back and watched it two or so more times individually.  Watching it in class wasn’t my first time seeing the film, but ever since we discussed the symbolism and messages inside of it I’ve become an even bigger fan.

Pixar obviously has been the top dog of the feature animation field for years on end, but this film in particular does something no other film from the studio has done.  What captivates me the most about the film is the masterful creation of human-like emotion expressed from non-human characters. Through the use of sounds and animation, the studio has crafted more human emotion in two robots than the actual humans within the film.  As an audience member, I feel for and empathize with WALL-E and EVE more than the humans; I rejoice when the robots rejoice, feel angry when they’re being hindered by antagonists, and feel sorrow when they think they’ve lost each other.

I also can’t help but to think about AI (artificial intelligence) while watching the film.  In the future imagined here, robots have apparently progressed past the point of simple mechanical functions.  WALL-E and EVE feel real feelings, and in turn, assist other robots in their liberation to feel as well.  If our world eventually invented machines and robots as sophisticated and advanced as those from the film, would this be a possibility?  Would the AI bots be able to process love and empathy?  Thankfully Pixar approached this concern with light, family-oriented comedy, but also in smart and effective other ways.  Through a story of heroism with happy ending, the studio exposes us to the advanced technology while still ensuring we aren’t threatened or intimidated by it.  This aspect of the film makes me love it and appreciate it even more.

Even for a moment, did you feel intimidated or threatened about the prospect of our near future mirroring that of the one pictured in this film?

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