There’s something almost unbearably sad for me about the video embedded below (especially when listening with the sound off). Of course it’s funny too, but really sad-funny, I think. Somehow it reminds me just a little of a scene in Clive Barker’s original Hellraiser, which I saw ages ago and remember poorly. But there is a moment in it when some hideous creature or other is crawling on the floor struggling for its very life, and despite the horror we feel and the danger that this being poses for others in the film, still the pathos arises: this is universal, this is the yearning to be alive and to stay alive, and it’s achingly painful to watch.
My reaction to this video snippet here isn’t quite the same, as the robot playing the starring role is obviously not sentient or self-aware. The union of funny and tenderly sad here arises for me more out of a contemplation of our magnificently unquenchable desire for ever greater knowledge — and also from a reminder of our hubris. I imagine educators of another civilization somewhere playing this to their students, who merely find it silly. But the prof has something to say about it:
“The dear earthlings, so clever, and so proud of their intellects, became enamored of a concept they called ‘transhumanism’ or ‘post-humanism.’ Somehow the challenges of self-cultivation in all their fascinating profundity and brilliance weren’t interesting enough for them. They seem to have found them, in the end, not very dramatic or exciting, maybe too difficult. So, more and more, they spent their energies inventing increasingly powerful machines. They never stopped doing so, never felt the need to justify any invention whatsoever, never pulled back to ask the larger questions about life and value, sanity and balance. ‘In the scheme of things, what will this bring about? Where will it take us? Why do we want it? Do we even know?'”
“Eventually their machines destroyed their world. As we will see over the course of this semester, this is the most common pattern…”