His child-likeness viewed the world as honest, and pure. Meet the fictional humanoid Chappie in the thought-provoking film directed by Neill Blomkamp, starring Hugh Jackman, Sigourney Weaver (Michelle Bradley), and Sharlto Copley as the self-aware, child-like robot. Chappie comes into this world like we all do as a blank slate learning to paint, draw and enjoy music. Violence confuses the first self-aware robot, as he navigates the crime society of Jo’burg after being programmed to start life at infancy.
The fictional world is already governed by autonomous police androids, the Scouts, which don’t negotiate and have no human factor. Chappie was a robot on this police force, but his shell was stolen by scientist Deon Wilson (Dev Patel), who gave Chappie human life, but he falls into the hand of low level criminal gang that exploits him for riches and crime sprees.
Today we hear about drones on the battle field or Amazon working to get approval of droids dropping off packages, IBM’s Watson, but a purely sentient robot?
No way, said protagonist and ex-military, bad boy scientist Vincent, starring Jackman. Vincent believes he sacrificed everything for the creation of his weapon, the Moose, controlled by brain waves, and an autonomous robot is playing God.
Jackman is an optimist unlike his character, and has given the subject much thought outside of the role.
“Every major point in history, the creation of the train for example, there were many, many people who felt it was the end of civilization--that this would be the road to doom and mankind. I am a firm believer the pull for human beings is towards the good generally and outweighing the bad,” said Jackman. “Maybe it’s my naive optimistic view that any knowledge we gain if we can understand what consciousness is and we somehow create that, that it will be ultimately used for good. Unlike my character I like to think optimistically about these discoveries.”
Blomkamp said he’s not sure that humans could give birth to artificial intelligence as depicted in films, and it would be resisted. We have computer systems, soft and hard AI that is basically human. “In the case of strong AI, I think it troubles humans,” said the “District 9” director relating to Vincent.
“We don’t know why we’re here or how consciousness was created or the nature of consciousness. Whether it becomes a spiritual or philosophical discussion or it’s simply running electrical currents through synapses that lead to consciousness, I think it isn’t that. It’s the most core fundamental question humans can ask.”
Physicist and Engineer Wolfgang Fink, founded Visual and Autonomous Exploration Systems Research Laboratory at the California Institute of Technology believe a lot of these questions will be answered and we could have the software to keep man out of the loop, like Chappie. We already have the Moose controlled by brain waves, helmets, and joy sticks, basically in the end it’s an extension of a human, said Fink who developed retinal implants stimulation for the blind and is developing robots for autonomous space exploration.
The police robots in the film can act by themselves, they represent artificial intelligence as we understand it the scientific world where a system has rules, which it abides no matter what, and we are on the verge of having this system. “Chappie is a truly autonomous robot. He is self-aware and situation aware and is a totally different entity,” Fink explained. Hardware is not the problem for a Chappie to become a reality-- it’s the software. It not a matter of how, it’s when.
“When the robot said ‘I am Chappie.’ That was a profound statement said the scientist as Chappie has become self-aware, and became a truly autonomous system. “If you give a system the necessary ingredients and tools to modify itself and how it thinks, feels, reasons and judges, the outcome of its own actions and now you created something which can far exceed your capabilities.”