“A Robot is a Robot” at DUST by Danish cartoonists Emil Friis Ernst and Nilas Røpke Driessen (February 2, 2021, 05:49 min) tells a tale: “A disabled robot war veteran finds its home among humans in the tender care of an old lady, and her hair salon for cats.”
The story is told, intriguingly, as a series of cartoon stills and animated stills, beginning with the robot veteran begging on the sidewalk, whereupon the old lady takes him in. The robot floats on a single wheel and has a body like a metal tea cozy — a nice change from the more “android” type. She employs the robot to groom cats, who seem to appreciate his work, until he encounters a difficult feline. The interaction between the cat and the robot is priceless.
That said, the story ends on a grim note, no spoilers. The message seems to be that robots — like all computers — utterly lack common sense.
One appeal of this story is that it riffs off genuine concerns voiced by — for example, computer scientists associated with the prestigious Max Planck Institute in Germany — that we may not be able to control intelligent robots. Not only don’t we know what they will do but we can’t know. In a research paper, they discussed ways to hobble the danger but concluded that that’s not possible. This film offers an excellent illustration.
Incidentally, cat intelligence is often misunderstood. Comparisons between cat and dog intelligence are futile because dogs have been bred for thousands of years to have a certain type of intelligence, which does not include the dog solving his own perceived problems his own way but rather doing what he is told. Cats are more like wolves. They solve their own problems their own way. Wolves are probably smarter than cats but at least it is a fair comparison.
Definitely worth your five minutes, in part in order to see what cartoonists can do in sci-fi with animated stills.
Other reviews from the “We are but DUST” files:
Sci-fi Saturday: A girl with kinetic powers faces a choice. Should she help relatives with activities she knows to be wrong?
“Kinetic” is well executed but it breaks a fundamental rule of science fiction: There must be a clear science basis for the story premise.
Sci-fi Saturday: An asteroid lingers near Earth and devours time Or, at any rate, it devours our perception of time, as one man discovers. Flyby: As the asteroid Chrono-7 hazes Earth, a man wakes up in the morning to find that he is living in his future, one he had never imagined.
Sci-fi Saturday: A robot helps an old fellow rediscover life The robot is very well done and how he gets a name is charming. Lots of people abandon their elderly relatives, of course, so finding a helpful robot in the back yard is a pleasant fantasy.
Sci-fi Saturday: What if an old man could see his mother again? It is a hard film to watch if you lost a loved one, but worthwhile. The old man is paying to using his own memories, retrieved via neuroscience imaging.
Sci Fi Saturday: A fight for the winning ticket In a 2040 superstorm, engulfing the planet, a young woman gets hold of a ticket out. But does the way out really exist? Or is she just hanging on and clinging to a fragile hope?
Sci Fi Saturday: Terrified by a Scrap Monster Well, if you have never been terrified by a Scrap Monster, you are clearly missing out. It’s fun watching a middle class South Korean business executive try to cope with the Scrap Monster.
Sci Fi Saturday: What if there were serious wars over clouds? In a world that still has technology but is desperately short of water, such wars could happen. The short sci-fi film Oceanmaker features pirates who steal precious water from the clouds and a pilot who challenges them
Sci Fi Saturday: Can video games save a lone survivor? The film features fine animations of apocalyptic scenes of post-civilization. The “game” that turns out to be an existential struggle usually benefits from a longer treatment but the animation is well imagined.
Sci Fi Saturday: Can a Robot Find a Better Planet Than Earth? The trouble is, the robot is governed by Isaac Asimov’s three laws of robotics. After 55 habitable planets, the—by then very old—fellow is beginning to suspect something about the robot’s judgment.
Sci Fi Saturday: Kiko: A great short but key questions unanswered A lonely retail service robot longs for a world beyond her store. An agreeable short but it never addresses the question of how Charlie acquired a robot that would “want” something different than its programming.
Sci-fi Saturday: What if next-stage evolution children appear?A sci-fi short from Sri Lanka looks at the possibilities. The story is very well done as a parable of the social risks of continuous internal warfare.
Sci-Fi Saturday: Can parents get back a dead child as an android? They aren’t even united in their grief; they just think they must “do something” to get back a facsimile of what they remember. They have no philosophical or spiritual resources to fall back on in order to avoid this dead end.
Sci-Fi Saturday film: The robot tries to learn about grief An elderly woman buys a robot to help her when she finds herself all alone, due to tragedy. Investigating the woman’s unhappiness, the robot discovers more than it was, perhaps, intended to know.
Sci-Fi Saturday film: “Speed of Time” at DUST A computer nerd writing a pizza delivery program discovers that his work is way more important than he, or anyone, thought. Imagine what happens when an accomplished ground warrior busts in from another time on a quiet family at the breakfast table…
Sci-Fi Saturday film: “Alone” at DUST. Space engineer Kaya Torres, the only survivor of a black hole, contacts an “interstellar penpal” to keep her company until she dies. She manages a desperate escape but then experiences one of the astonishing implications of time travel.
Sci-Fi Saturday film: “The Beacon” at DUST. Refreshingly realistic, especially the harrowing Arctic encounter where the grieving husband finds out what really happened. The dialogue is refreshingly realistic. Not to be missed is Mark’s encounter with the bureaucrat from hell.
Sci-fi Saturday film: Rescuing lost people. Animated, in French, with English subtitles, but don’t let that deter you. The professional relationships sound pretty real and make it worth the watch. The animation is very good.