I've been watching a replay of AXN-Beyond's Masters of Science of Fiction. This particular episode is entitled "Jerry Was A Man". "Jerry" is an anthropoid (human DNA + robotic parts) that was programmed to work for the military as a mine detector. When it was discharged from service and returned to the institute that built it, "Jerry" was scheduled for "liquidation". It and many others like it, called JOEs, were to be dismantled, grinded and their fleshy parts made into dogfood. A wealthy woman discovers "Jerry", acquires it and to make a long story short, decides to save Jerry from liquidation by proving in a court of law that it was a man. There were three proofs shown in the court that conclusively proved "Jerry" was a man, or as the lawyer put it, a "small spark of the divine" that should not be made into dogfood. Which are these proofs?
- Jerry likes Christmas songs (Jingle Bells)
- Jerry would lie for a cigarette (Jerry was told to say "six" though he only saw "five", and all this for a cigarette. With some hesitation, he did say "six".)
- Jerry allowed another JOE to "die" so that he could get a candy (a video demonstration in court that was used originally to prove Jerry was a robot and therefore non-human, was used also to demonstrate that Jerry survived a mine detection mission when he pushed another JOE to the direction of a land mine he had already detected so that he can get a candy and a smoke.)
At the end of the episode, a voice over that sounds like Jerry says in effect that a time will come when men will be proved to be men not for the virtues they have but for their vices.
I thought that the episode was comedic, but the final idea that comes across -- of one's humanity proved by one's vices, not virtues -- is sobering. For it does reverse how we currently define "humanity".
If you would recall the movie "Bicentennial Man" it does precisely the opposite of what the writer of "Jerry was a Man" did. In "Bicentennial Man", Andrew the Android decides to be a human being by first becoming independent, then by transforming himself so that he could experience the world and others like a human being (this involved getting a central nervous system), and finally, by deciding to die. Throughout all these, he was able to do something beneficial for humanity through the experiments he himself funded, apart from showing how much he loved his adoptive family and remaining loyal and faithful to them. In other words, in "Bicentennial Man" the interest was to show three qualities that makes up a human being:
- the capacity to experience pain as well as pleasure
- love, fidelity and compassion
- heroism in the face of death
Both the above presentations show what a human being is, in contrast with something robotic. There is some truth in the presentations of both. While the presentation in the "Bicentennial Man" the presentation of what is a human being is positive, one cannot also discount the definition of a human being in "Jerry was a Man". So what do you think? How should "humanity" be defined?
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