Season 2 opens with Automated Customer Service... or at least it did for me, but it also shows as the first episode of season two according to Wikipedia. I had high hopes for this when I’d seen the title. I’ve long suspected that automated phone services will lead to the end of the world and I was hoping for something funny along the lines of last season’s Three Robots. It introduces us to an elderly community that is very high tech and one particular resident, Jeanette according to IMDb, who is about to have some issues with her home technology…
The animation is weird! The faces are strangely drawn but the town and the general aesthetic is incredible. I can’t say whether I liked the animation around the people, but I can say it is really unusual. The dog is adorable though, and the fluid nature of everyone’s movements is beautiful.
There is a mix of comedy and tension throughout. The absurdity of the situation is comical but the dangers posed by automation is really depicted well. I’m into automation; it’s part of my job. We try to reduce effort by automation. But this episode does what good science fiction should do: it makes us think. It takes where we are today and extrapolates out what the next steps are. That’s good writing!
Also, the elderly woman we are following through the story may be animated only and not a real person, but the episode shows a very capable woman. She’s into yoga and staying fit and it pays off. She actually does a better job against her foe than the shotgun wielding neighbor who attempts to rescue her. Across the board, the episode does a lot right.
This is a homegrown version of Hal 9000; our very own death trap right here on earth. It seems in over 50 years, we still haven’t learned… don’t create Hal 9000!
“High levels of profanity” are detected by the automated assistant Jeanette but like many episodes, I flag it here only as a caution to the viewer. Jeanette’s response to the stress she is under is suitable. Equally, her dog is attacked by one of the robots in her house and, though relatively unharmed, it might disturb people seeing the poor little thing get an unintended haircut. Actually, for that matter, seeing what Jeanette goes through is also not lightweight. It’s not horror movie level stuff, but it is disturbing.
Technology is a good thing; it’s there to help us and improve our lives, but do we sometimes move too fast in that area? Do we give ourselves time to adapt to the new technology that comes out? Are we so interested in making our lives easier that we give away safety when an easy solution becomes available? Jeanette notices the first signs of trouble when she moves a picture that her robotic cleaner wants to move a few inches to the left. Maybe had Jeanette been more willing to do some of that on her own, she wouldn’t have the issue she faces.
Conversely, even as I’m aging, I’m noticing some things are not as easy as they once were. It sure would be nice having a robot to do some of the work. In the episode, we see a dog walker scooping up waste without needing a bag. Sure sounds like a nice perk to me! I have one of those robot vacuums and it’s a good thing… although there’s a story about it destroying one of my desktops, but that’s another issue altogether.
There’s got to be a middle ground where we can have the bonus of an easier life without having to resort to giving away our safety and security. We’re not there yet, as businesses across the world have to report cyberattacks. We want the ease of saving our data at our fingertips, but that data is easily compromised. Who knows if there will ever be a true middle ground. Maybe that’s just the price of advancement?
I didn’t realize it when the episode started, but the first icon gave us a first look at the menace we are about to encounter. The face might not be death but it’s a close call for Jeanette. The cactus is where she and her would-be rescuer head off to in order to escape more menacing machines.
I love SF that makes us think and I can absolutely see us getting here at some point. We don’t have the desire to slow down, let alone the know-how. As soon as one technology becomes available to the masses, there’s already a new one coming. Will it end when Hal helps wipe us all out? “I’m sorry, Mike, I can’t answer that…” ML
The ones that love the kind of SF that truly make us think are probably the ones who would be wise enough to never create HAL 9000. At least not the kind that goes down that dangerous path in 2001: A Space Odyssey. With the serious AI issues that our world is already facing, and short SF films like Rebranded to suggest how positive our coexistence with AI can be depending on better outlooks on life, then there just may be enough optimism that the true spirit of humanity will prevail. Although SF with classic AI villains like HAL, the Westworld gunslinger and M3GAN may still be entertaining in this generation. Thank you, ML, for your review. And especially for your most valid point about not moving too fast with our technological progress despite its making-life-easy benefits.
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