Friday, August 20, 2010

Androids (Or, William Has Writer's Block)

The other day my cousin and I began talking about androids and what would or would not have to happen in order for them to be a viable alternative to human employees.

Henceforth, I'm defining androids as a robot with a human appearance. Some definitions claim that androids must have a human brain at their center, but I'm not using that definition.

This all began because I've been playing Fallout 3. About halfway through the main quest you find a crabby old scientist who asks you to find and return his runaway android. This android has received plastic surgery and a mind wipe, so not even he believes he's an android (the perfect disguise)!

Because I'm playing an incredibly evil character for my fourth play through of this game, I found him and returned him to his slave-like existence. While I did this, I mentioned offhand to my cousin that in a podcast I listen to, they had an episode where they explained the reason real androids will probably be created. Mostly it's because they cost billions of dollars to create, and they'd be doing basically the same jobs as humans. As you might know, it's very cheap to make a baby the old fashioned way, and actually much less work for the manufacturers.

Machines are used in the industrial setting because they are made to do jobs that humans can't do, or that humans can't do as quickly. Think of a mechanical lathe, or those arms that make stuff.

Why the heck would you need a mechanical person to do something that a human can do? My cousin argued that employers might want androids if they needed them to work 24/7/365. But why would you pay billions of dollars for something that you could just hire people to do? I argued that it would probably still be cost effective to simply redesign your factory, or relocate to a new, mechanized one. The cost would (only) be in the millions.

Ultimately we agreed that the only way androids could be practical is if they were relatively easy to make and didn't cost very much. Like in the movie I, Robot.

When I told my sister about this, she pointed out that maybe androids could be useful in totally hostile environments, like on an expedition to Mars or in a completely irradiated area. I counter-pointed-out that it would probably be cheaper to train a person and put them into a specialized suit that could support the same conditions. Again, millions of dollars versus billions.

I mean, I'd like to see a real android as much as the next sci-fi-writing civilian, but I don't think we'll ever see anything like in the movies or books. Sadly.

Oh, sorry I missed Wednesday's blog. Blame Fallout 3!


  1. Well, it is always a joy to read whenever you write. I love the way your mind works and I like reading about what you think about in that room upstairs. :)
    It makes me want to watch I Robot again.
    Good post even if you did have writers block.

  2. Hm, I don't have much to add. You already quoted my opinion. XD