// you’re reading...


Andrew The Android And What It Means To Be Human

(2 Corinthians 5:17) by Kim Thoday

Isaac Asimov was one of the most prolific science fiction writers of the twentieth century. His inspiring fiction tantalised an audience of millions for fifty years. Many of his predictions about technological gadgetry have come to pass. He wrote with a childlike awe of life and a deep understanding of the human condition. Asimov died on April 6th, 1992. Before he died he wrote a very moving piece that was to be read at his funeral service. It seems hard to fathom that Asimov could write with such profound insight into life and handle his own immanent demise with such dignity and meaning and yet hold to an atheistic position right until the last. Yet his gentle acceptance of his own mortality, his humility, his simplicity, his love of his family, friends and humanity and his gratitude for life are ironically challenges to much religiosity posing as Christianity. One can only wonder if Jesus may have considered Asimov to be closer to the Kingdom of God than many that are so certain they are in.

In 1976, Asimov published a story called Bicentennial Man. It is a story that deals with the question of mortality and human being in a remarkable futuristic world of robotics. It is a wonderfully playful yet deeply insightful story. It has recently been made into a successful movie (of the same name) starring Robin Williams. The multi-talented Williams plays a thoroughly convincing role as Andrew, Asimov’s literary creation: Bicentennial Man – an android, a humanlike robot. The movie has some delightful twists and turns, but it begins with a family that purchases the android to function as a private housekeeper. Andrew the android is made to follow orders exactly and individual purchasers of these machines can programme them to suit particular requirements. However, these androids have one overriding law – the First Law of Robotics – that is hard wired into their circuitry. That law is that they can never do anything to harm human beings.

However, a twist in the story comes when the android breaks one of the children’s toys and on his own initiative he manufactures a replica of the toy as a replacement. Andrew begins to show more creativity and the next twist is that he also starts to show emotions. The corporation who makes the androids becomes very perplexed by this phenomenon. All the androids are made the same. How can it be that one android is learning to do things no other has ever done? He is learning to be human.

The story could be used to illustrate many things about life and the Gospel. I found remarkable parallels between the android’s quest for humanity and our own quest in becoming human. Just as we need the experiences of pain, suffering, love, guidance, opportunity, freedom to explore, accepting limitations, so too did the android. Furthermore, our lives are a series of stages and if these stages are successively navigated we move continually on toward a deeper maturity and greater fulfilment in life. For Bicentennial Man to become a human being he too must move through a series of stages. It takes risk to become a self. It takes imagination and experimentation. It means learning from mistakes. It is not such a “natural” process as it is a series of decisions of the will. For the android, becoming a self is learning to leave behind the safety of being a robot and learning to be a new creation. So too is the process of us becoming mature human beings, individual, unique persons who participate and contribute to the wider social construction of human being. A self is a new creation.

Jesus Christ, God’s only Son, came into this world in order to reveal to us how to be fully human; how to be the self He intends us to be. It is not so much a “natural” process. Being fully human is not only a series of life stages. Being fully human, becoming the new creation, requires the intervention of God in our lives through developing a living relationship with Jesus Christ. When we make the decision to follow Jesus, we learn to live his lifestyle and the Gospels show us that his lifestyle was unique. People of Jesus’ day asked about him: how can it be that this human being can do things no other has done? God was learning to be human. In Jesus we find the new creation. In him we can be new creations.

2 Corinthians 5:17 Therefore, if any one is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has passed away, behold, the new has come. (RSV).




Comments are disallowed for this post.

Comments are closed.