Detective Del Spooner has gained permission to interrogate a robot he captured hiding at the scene of a purported suicide. He accuses the robot of murdering the victim, his designer, Dr. Alfred Lanning. The robot refers to Dr. Lanning as his father and insists that Dr. Lanning killed himself. He was hiding at the scene, he says, because he was afraid. Spooner rejects this explanation on the grounds that robots cannot feel. The robot insists that he feels and has even had dreams. Spooner rejects this outright and bates the robot into angrily shouting that he did not kill Dr.
Lanning, slamming his fists on the table for emphasis. Spooner proposes that the robot killed Dr. Lanning because he was teaching it to simulate emotion and things got out of control. The robot repeats, again, that he did not kill Dr. Lanning and reveals that his name is Sonny. He shows signs of introspection, self-doubt, tenderness, and even remorse, over Dr. Lanning’s death. In a second scene, the robot, Sonny, is being prepared for decommissioning.
As the procedure rolls out, Dr.Lanning is heard in voiceover speculating about the consciousness, free will, and “soul” of robots. 196 words Philosophers have long debated about the essence of a human being. Some have come up with an answer, calling it dualism. In this dualistic approach, humans are comprised of two different substances: a physical entity and a physic entity. The biological aspect of a human is evident; we all are composed from the same basic human genome and born by two other humans who are similar to ourselves.
However, the internal, subjective entity, what Doctor Lanning describes as the “bitter mote of the soul”, is a bit harder to dissect. It is this mind, our internal identity, which separates us from robots. A common example used to depict a computer’s “mind” is the Chinese Room, a thought experiment created by John Searle. It consists of a native Chinese speaker who can write and understand Chinese isolated from a person who does not understand Chinese at all but can manipulate the symbols and create an output. Over time, the native Chinese believes that the person inside the room is Chinese.
A machine acts much like the non – Chinese speaker, taking input, manipulating the data, and returning an output. Computers cannot possibly answer questions that rely on critical thinking; they are limited to superficial data analysis. This example exemplifies the robots in I, Robot. The NS-5’s of the movie are programmed to take in human commands and act accordingly. Their responses are limited by the Three Laws, created by Dr. Lanning. On the other hand, humans are not limited in their responses. While robots are programmed to act in the most logical way, humans have a choice.