Super-toys last all summer longHow is artificial love different from the love one human can have for another? And if a robot truly could love a human, what responsibility would that human have towards the robot? Those are just some of the thought-provoking questions Brian Aldiss raises in his short story “Super-toys last all summer long”.
Artificial intelligence of that caliber will not be achieved before many years into the future, but with technology still improving day by day, it is not a future further away than we can imagine, and the ethical questions raised are something we will have to take a stand on sooner or later, whether we like it or not. Brian Aldiss shows us a slightly dystopian future in his Science-Fiction short story “Super-toys last all summer long”. It is a world where three-quarters of the world are starving, and the only way of preventing that is to implement population control. This means you cannot have a baby without winning the weekly parenthood lottery, and hereby takes away one of the most basic human instincts, to pass along our genes. Obesity is also a big problem where Monica and Henry live. Even in our time it is a substantial problem, but in the story it seems like they have almost promoted the problem.
“I guess there is nobody around this table who doesn’t have a Crosswell, working for him in the small intestine, a perfectly safe parasite tape-worm that enables its host to eat up to 50 percent more food and still keep his or her figurine” (pages 1-2, lines 103-104+1-4). While the story does contain some brighter ideas like the Whologram (page 4, line 57), it is clear that the story pictures a dark outlook on the future. It is a future that seems unfriendly and lonesome to many and where robots have made humans somewhat redundant. Since people are not allowed to have real kids, robot kids are used as a substitute. Monica and Henry have a robot child named David, whom Monica stays at home with while Henry works.
While David is programmed to love Monica truly as a real kid would love its mother, Monica is finding it difficult to have real feelings for a machine. “She had tried to love him.” (page 1, line 19) Is seems as if Monica has given up on trying to love David, and has turned out slightly depressed due to this. She feels as if she has failed as a mother, even though David is not a real child. “Why not simply go upstairs and scoop David into her arms and talk to him, as a loving mother should to a loving son” (page 3, lines 16-19) When Henry comes home, Monica immediately runs out to tell him they have gotten permission to conceive their own child. This indicates that she never accepted David as her own son, and therefore never was able to love him. In conclusion the future depicted by Brian Aldiss is dystopian.
Even though the world is overpopulated, it is the perfect place to be lonely. Robots with artificial intelligence have in many ways replaced the need for human interaction. Monica is one of many that suffer from these problems. The feeling of being alone and left over sends her into a depression. It is clearly depicted that Monica is having a hard time returning the love David, an artificial being, shows her, but when she finds out she can have a real child, the thought alone makes her happier than she has been in a long time. It is uncertain what the future might bring, but no matter if it will be dystopian or utopian, there will be no thing greater, than the love a mom can have for her child.