Last Sunday, I was watching a new episode of The Simpsons and a storyline came up that instantly reminded me of the topic we’ve been discussing in class recently. The storyline was that Bart and Martin created a toy seal robot for their science fair. No surprise, the boys won first place. Prior to accepting their award, Principal Skinner exclaims how the boys’ invention “will provide comfort when humans fail to.”
I found the irony in what we have been talking about recently, especially how robots will sooner or later be replacing our human relationships, and now of all shows, The Simpsons are satirizing about robotic animals companionship that they provide to humans. As Bart exclaims, “You will never need to clean up after them!” After all, the best part of the relationship between man and animal is the companionship, even though animals will never be able to say a word – unless of course they are robots and can “voice” their feelings.
As the episode progress, the retirement home takes a liking to the boys’ invention because it provided companionship and made them happy. However, the funeral directors find a way to turn the robots evil so the senior citizens become miserable again and die quickly in order to make money. Doesn’t that sound a bit like capitalism?
The last shot of the episode was a robot seal with a menacing face, even though Bart, Martin and some nerds made, what we assumed, all the robot seals back to friendly robots. Could this foreshadow the ultimate doom of our robotic relationships? Eventually, robots could figure out what their true use are and ultimately turn against the people who create them just by the flick of a switch.