12 October 2010

Day 199: Adaptations

"Supertoys Last All Summer Long" by Brian Aldiss in Adaptations: From Short Story to Big Screen.*
ISBN: 97814000053148.

One of the major reasons I've never really wanted a child is that I can't see myself loving something the way that most people seem to love their children.  It's like they sort of lose all reason when it comes down to this one (or more) person(s) in their life and nothing you can say or do will make them behave rationally.  I just don't see myself loving in that way, and I don't know if I'm more afraid of not being able to or of turning into one of those people.

I'm not at all suggesting that it is a bad thing to love your child so much.  I just don't know that it's for me.  I even like children somewhat, as a concept.  I like what they represent and the way they tend to look at the world with these very plastic and fluid brains that haven't quite figured out the concept of "wrong" or "inconceivable" yet.  They can and do imagine everything, which is why I think they're so amazing, but I would never, ever want to have one, because oh god the terrible things I might do to something so precious.

But what if I could have a make-believe child?  A robot child that I could love and who could love me, and whose brain I could just wipe clean whenever it got too "old" mentally?  Would I actually be able to feel love for an android child?  I don't think I could, and I don't think that anyone else could either.  It has nothing to do with the "not of my body" issue, although I imagine there are foster and adoptive parents who struggle to learn to love their adopted children (and probably love them all the more for those difficulties).

I think it has more to do with the fact that even though we know how children are made (unless you've undergone abstinence only programs), we don't really know how they are made.  There is a degree of randomness in it, the thrill of the unknown and the unpredictable, not only in creating the child, but in raising him or her.  I think this would be nearly impossible to program into an android child, because even with artificial intelligence, it will still act like a robot and there are things that a robot simply cannot do.

A robot does not need to be cared for in the middle of the night because of fevers or chicken pox or bad dreams.  A robot does not need to have scraped knees kissed or small cuts bandaged just to make him or her feel better.  Granted I'm sure they would have their own mechanical problems that equated to illness or bodily damage, and you could probably even program the android child to have bad dream responses.  But why would anyone in their right minds want their children to have nightmares?  Or diseases?  Or broken bones?  Or hurt feelings?  Yet these are the very things that make them our children, not necessarily the things themselves, but in how we tend to them, care for them, and teach our children to endure them and become better people.  With an android it would just feel like I was teaching the program how to beat me in chess, in the sense that I would be teaching it how to be a better human than I am, which completely defeats the purpose of being human.

We are designed to make mistakes.  And somehow I don't think that designing mistakes into an A.I. would solve the problem, the artifice just produces more artifice.  We love our children so insanely because they are so completely unpredictable.  We can "program" them any way we want to, but they still have their own directives and will follow them passionately in the face of all obstacles.  So while I can love (or hate) my car in the way that I can love any object, there is something particularly beautiful and untouchable in the way that people love children.  It is so vastly different from the way that we love other people or our animals.

It's as if that mixture of the bits of yourself and your partner and your respective relatives and all of the lessons you've taught the child still cannot account for the unknown element that the child carries within him- or herself. And I think it's that unknown element that we really love, because it's the one thing we know we can't grasp or influence and we revel in that.  We live in the joy that is that child's own, unique, and absolutely amazing ability to completely rip our hearts to pieces, and somehow make them bigger and better and more full of love than ever.  I would hate to see that kind of love wasted on a 1967 Corvette, no matter how beautiful it is.

*Film adaptation is A.I. Artificial Intelligence

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