One of the most fascinating things to me about industrialization is Henry Ford’s creation of the assembly line in 1913 . It’s applications in modern technology are two-faced. On one hand, the efficiency is integral for a large-scale economy. On the other hand, mass production of identical products is wiping culture clean of uniqueness. The response many artists have had to this is to take a critical look at a foreseen future of mechanization.
I remember seeing Bicentennial Man when I was around 10 (see trailer below) . While it may not be the most critical and intellectual critique of robotics, it still comments on issues like conformity, individualism, and human emotions in a highly technological society. I see their attempt to humanize their robot protagonist with compassionate emotions as their way of perpetuating compassionate feelings in humanity, even amongst growing industrialization.
I also came across Dave Hanson this week, who has worked to develop robots with realistic human emotions and reactions . His live demonstration of his Einstein robot is like watching a science fiction movie come to life. It is this optimism and excitement about robotics that I grew up with and that shapes how I perceive modern technology now.
However, I can understand a more cynical approach, especially when assembly line efficiency was associated with Hitler and the fascism regime by philosopher Walter Benjamin at the time of World War II . What came to mind when I read his analysis was a recent technological disaster in Microsoft’s artificial intelligence project, which had to be shut down after becoming a “Hitler-loving sex robot” within 24 hours of being live on Twitter . It’s a bit of an unnerving coincidence that the kind of robotic technology Hitler sought to integrate into his country would later become his biggest fan.
The reality is that industrial technology is not perfect and the future of its uses relies on humans to do the right thing with it. Art involving robotics can either suggest a positive direction to take with the technology, or – in the case of Ken Feingold’s artwork – serve as a warning.
 "Ford’s Assembly Line Starts Rolling." History.com. A&E Television Networks, 01 Dec. 2015. Web. 03 July 2016. <http://www.history.com/this-day-in-history/fords-assembly-line-starts-rolling>
 Bicentennial Man. Prod. Chris. Columbus. Dir. Chris. Columbus. 1999. Web. <https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=O3K1a4aSBdk>
 "Robots That "show Emotion"" David Hanson:. TED, Feb. 2009. Web. 03 July 2016. <http://www.ted.com/talks/david_hanson_robots_that_relate_to_you>
 Davis, Douglas. "The Work of Art in the Age of Digital Reproduction (An Evolving Thesis: 1991-1995)." Leonardo 28.5 (1995): 381. Web.
Molloy, Mark. "Microsoft 'deeply Sorry' after AI Becomes 'Hitler-loving Sex Robot'" The Telegraph. Telegraph Media Group, 26 Mar. 2016. Web. 03 July 2016. <http://www.telegraph.co.uk/technology/2016/03/26/microsoft-deeply-sorry-after-ai-becomes-hitler-loving-sex-robot/>
 Feingold, Ken. Ken Feingold: Artworks and Documentation. Web. 03 July 2016.