Machines – Our Fearsome Friends

Video

Humans seem to have a very ambivalent relationship with their machines. At once they are both fascinating and helpful, but also sometimes menacing and intimidating. In the late 20th Century this was most graphically portrayed with the SkyNet revolution in the Terminator film franchise.

In the late 19th and early 20th centuries the machine held a part in popular consciousness as well – Fritz Lang’s Metropolis comes to mind almost in an instant. The people in the mid 20th century had their own fears. Numerous sci-fi films were made featuring rebellious robots and machines. This was not lost to the executives at The Bell System.

For the 1963 Bell Systems Communications Seminar, organizer Ted Mills hired Jim Henson to create a short film illustrating the ‘nascent, but growing relationship between man and machine: a relationship not without tension and resentment.’ Below is a video of the film, Robot – it perfectly illustrates how a fun little robot can be a bit scary at the same time. Paradoxically, Henson vindicates this angry robot’s complaints of human hubris by giving it a drastic fate as it declares, ‘we don’t need man.’

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