• Hayley
    37
    So... now that we've all had some time to think about Zygote, I'd like to talk about the human & synthetic class hierarchy. We've got a bit of knowledge about that from Barkley's experiences, but then the twist comes and it's revealed she's human after all. I wanted to write something from the POV of a legitimate synthetic, who I have named Adam.

    I was thinking about roles, programming, etc. Usually in AI type movies, the AI tends to rebel against the creator (think Blade Runner or Prometheus, etc). If your AI is essentially a slave class, then why program them with emotions that could lead to rebelliousness? I know that I want Adam to be much more timid than your "typical Ridley Scott" android (even though Ridley Scott's movies are amazing). Plus, having the girl, Barkley, be the braver one does switch expectations a bit (added bonus).

    I guess i'm just looking to collaborate on this idea. If you all want to help me develop my characters and plot and such, that'd be awesome. I've got more ideas, but I want to see who's interested before I share more.
  • AZechariah
    14
    I wanted to write something from the POV of a legitimate syntheticHayley

    That's a great ideas, and although it's not a new one, it hasn't been tackled successfully many times before, there is a huge fertile un-plowed field there, go for it, but make it 100% the POV of the alien.
  • Ironclad Industries
    65
    I like the idea, especially because writing POV is how I write almost exclusively. as @AZechariah said, its been done many times before, so youll have to be careful to avoid the typical cliches that make it feel too generic, but if its done well it would be awesome!
  • Hayley
    37
    Of course I know that this has been done several times, and I know I'm not going to ever be as good as someone like Ridley Scott, who seems to know androids like the back of his hand, but here goes (this is my first venture into screenplays, by the way, so I'll need all the advice I can get -- thanks in advance). Here's my attempt at deconstructing android cliches:

    Cliche #1: Androids appear to be either robotic and mission-focused (Data, Ash) or outwardly rebellious due to a life as a second-class citizen (Roy Batty, David 8). I want my android, Adam, to not have the programming to make him rebellious towards a creator or master, but not docile, either -- just anxious and eager-to-please. (Perhaps later, when running for his life with Barkley, she can reprogram him? Don't know yet, but would love to hear thoughts).

    Cliche #2: Androids are always the "smart ones" when they're the only android in a group of humans. Adam, as a second-class citizen, is probably little more than a janitor, so why would he know anything about the Zygote monster? (Plus, I hate deus ex machinas).

    Cliche #3: Due to their intelligence and/or being looked down on, androids tend to have a lot to prove, and many of them get god complexes of some sort. (Looking at you, David from Prometheus). I want Adam to feel sympathy towards Barkley because of their shared experience, even though she's human after all. This won't be some 'Oh my God the android has emotions!' type thing, it'll be there all along, no need to show it in a big way.

    Do you think that'll work for now? Are there any other cliches I need to look out for? Thanks :)
  • Johann
    28
    I'm not sold on this idea of Androids having emotions, at least not the way people are going about it. Looking at how neural networks are currently being developed by google and Facebook, the focus is largely on emulating the human psyche's rational function. It's a simulation of "thinking about an object of experience" whereas the feeling function is more "a way of being in the world". By simply emulating "thinking about" there can be no "qualia", no true artificial consciousness.

    For a feeling function to emerge one needs at the very least limbic and endocrine system and most importantly a nervous system. I must experience the peculiar qualia that I AM this body, this particular object of experience and identify with it through my nervous system. When that happens then any threat to the body triggers the flight, fight or freeze response and other motivations such as co-operation or desiring love as behaviours can build on top of that. So I think it may be possible to build a sophisticated android that can experience itself as "being in the world" but these systems need to be in place otherwise it's simply emulation.

    Just my own background thoughts on this. Might be useful...
  • Johann
    28
    Just a footnote: here's the real crazy thing about consciousness - going not so much by the medical definition of having a nervous system but rather by the psychoanalytic definition in the sense that not only do I experience myself as a subjective "being in the world" but I'm able to view myself as "object" too. In order for that to happen I need to not only identify with my particular body but paradoxically I also need to experience a dissociation from it. (how else could I be conscious of myself without the capacity to see myself as object?)

    In the human psyche this occurs through developmental trauma, essentially as what Freud described somewhat archaically in his time as "psychic castration". So if you really want to make up an interesting android character that potentially has some kind of real consciousness, consider giving him some kind of "developmental trauma". This will likely also endear the audience to him, because it makes the character more "human". My sense is that this is what's lacking in AI. I always have the subtextual sense that it's merely an emulation. There's always an "uncanny valley" there. Unless of course you actually want that feeling in the audience?
  • Hayley
    37

    Interesting commentary as usual -- thanks.

    First of all, I do have to agree with you about androids not having emotions in the way that most people think they do. I assume you're familiar with Blade Runner (which probably is my favorite movie ever). I read a lot of Rutger Hauer (Roy Batty)'s commentary about the film and his character, and he believed that all of Roy's emotions were really just programming -- he still had them, but they weren't human -- but they were pretty close.

    Anyway, as a second-class citizen, androids probably wouldn't be developed all that much: enough to look human, but with only basic programming and the feeling of "being in this world." Honestly, they could just be typical robots that do domestic tasks, but synthetics have already been established in this world, so yeah. Definitely going to play into the uncanny valley, with the hope that as the audience gets to know the character, that feeling diminishes.

    I like this video:
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mbbKMCaOxAQ
  • AZechariah
    14
    and I know I'm not going to ever be as good as someone like Ridley Scott,Hayley

    Yes you can be way better than him, and Ridley didn't write any of his movies anyway.
  • Johann
    28
    Definitely going to play into the uncanny valley, with the hope that as the audience gets to know the character, that feeling diminishesHayley

    That's a difficult task you've set yourself. I've never been convinced of a synthetic's "real consciousness" beyond mere emulation. Maybe it's just due to my background in psychoanalytic theory and philosophy - I've thought a lot about this stuff, so I just assume that an audience has the same "intuition" that I do. There's an inherent mistrust of androids even if they seem to serve humans. (thinking of the Alien series).

    I wasn't all that enthralled by Alien:Covenant to be honest. Even though the really interesting thing about Androids in Alien is that they represent humanities "divine potential" as an echo to the engineer's as creators. (We emulate "god" because we are "made in his image" and so are destined to be creators of life ourselves.) It's a re-hashing of the Frankenstein theme or further back to the Jewish myth of the Golem....be careful of what you create because it will turn on it's master. It's a fantastic theme in itself but I'm just not sold on it in Alien because it feels like "faulty programming" rather than giving me the very real sense that David acquired consciousness and has some kind of existential meaning. But as I said, maybe it's just because I've studied this stuff way too much...

    See if you can read the Jewish legend of the Golem. For me it symbolizes the story of how our creations run amok. What we "psychically create", whether it's a new job, a love affair or whatever it begins to backfire and rule us. There's possibly a great idea there for a follow up on God: Serengeti!
  • Hayley
    37
    What I'm trying to get across is that this character is not going to attempt to be human. If it's being used as a slave, and if they're already expensive enough to manufacture, then why go to the extra effort of giving them "real consciousness," or at least trying to? They're supposed to be subservient, that's all. In Alien, Ash plays a highly important role aboard the Nostromo as science officer. In the Zygote universe, synthetics are second-class and stay out of the action. There can absolutely be a mistrust of them, and I'd like to play this up as much as possible, as people tend to overlook or look with disdain at those they find inferior.

    I don't know how I feel about the whole Frankenstein complex for this specific story, just because I feel like it's been done before with other android stories. This is less about an android revolt and more about an android and a human who thought she was an android running for their lives from a terrifying monster and trying to figure out how to kill it. I will definitely keep it in the back of my head, though.
  • Johann
    28
    then why go to the extra effort of giving them "real consciousness," or at least trying to?Hayley

    Totally makes sense.

    I don't know how I feel about the whole Frankenstein complex for this specific story, just because I feel like it's been done before with other android stories. This is less about an android revolt and more about an android and a human who thought she was an android running for their lives from a terrifying monster and trying to figure out how to kill it.Hayley

    Maybe you just play with the subtext around that? It doesn't become part of the story in any way but rather you play on the audience's expectations based on previous movies and the uncanny valley. A moment of hesitation. A strange quirk where the synthetic isn't quite following orders (but it later turns out that he actually was). It adds a bit of intrigue.
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