Pixar’s Wall-E has painted a terrifying picture of the future of AI | Digital Trends


A stands for Axiom, your home sweet home. B stands for Buy N Large, your best friend. An AI teacher a Wall-E.

On its surface, the space adventure Wall-E is just another pleasant Pixar production that tells a relatively straightforward story about a romance between its titular trash compactor and the high-tech droid he meets on Earth. In case its trash-covered, dystopian version of Earth wasn’t enough of a clue, though, there’s more going on in… Wall-E than you might initially think. Not only does the film find a way to deliver a focused message about the apocalyptic danger of climate change, it also packs a warning about the very real threat of artificial intelligence.

The fact that Wall-E it does it all without ever losing its familiar sheen is a testament to the prowess of its creative team. Having said that, once Wall-E abandons the silent-film-inspired romance of its first act set on Earth, it becomes clear that the animated film is as much a portrait of humanity at large gone dangerously astray as it is a love story between two robots. Indeed, the film, released in theaters 15 years ago, contains messages about artificial intelligence, human autonomy and all-powerful corporations that are even more unnerving now than they were in 2008.

The danger of relying too much on artificial intelligence


When WALL-E decides to follow his love, Eve, into space, he finds himself aboard the Axiom, an intergalactic cruise ship that has essentially kept humanity alive in the years since the film’s dystopian version of Earth became uninhabitable. Once there, Wall-E gives viewers some surprising insights into how the universe’s only surviving humans have spent the last few centuries in space.

For starters, it’s revealed that the humans on the ships have become incapable of walking on their own due to the hanging chairs they’re constantly floating in. Human contact, meanwhile, was all but destroyed because everyone was programmed to spend their days looking at the same virtual screens. If any of them have a conversation with each other, it’s via Zoom-like virtual conference calls from their hanging chairs. At a time when VR devices and headsets are growing in popularity, it’s hard not to look at the humans inside Wall-E so disconnected from their physical lives and from each other and not cringe in both recognition and fear.

The same screens they cut Wall-EAre humans distant from each other? They also happen to be covered in 24/7 ads for products made by Buy n Large, the megacorporation that built the space yacht that took humanity off Earth. Indeed, the ship itself is covered in constant Buy n Large ads, and in one of the most quietly chilling moments of any Pixar film, it is revealed that the ship’s AI teachers use Buy n Large products to teach the alphabet to their children. its child passengers. The future presented in Wall-E it is not, in other words, just one defined by disconnection and lethargy, but by corporate branding and advertising.

Wall-E shows a human society all too willing to let machines take over


In this same sequence, Wall-E it also reaches B. McCrea (Jeff Garlin), the captain of the film’s central starship. McCrea, like all Axioms passengers, is guided daily by his robot assistants and hover chair, as well as his sentient autopilot artificial intelligence companion, AUTO. During Wall-EIn the second and third acts, viewers slowly discover that AUTO is piloting the Axiom on a daily basis and checking the narration provided to its passengers. McCrea and everyone else aboard the ship have already relinquished control of their lives Wall-E finds them. To say they’re sleeping at the wheel is an understatement.

Given the current growth of artificial intelligence in real life, Wall-ES’s plot feels like a timely warning as always about the direction humanity could take if we become too reliant on unnecessary tools. In moderation, technology has the power to help humanity reach new heights, but if we get used to letting robots and artificial intelligence do all the work for us, we risk losing total control of our lives. Even worse, we risk severing the emotional and physical connections that allow humanity to thrive and continue to exist.

In a timely comment, Wall-Ereveals that AUTO was tasked with preventing humanity from returning to Earth by Fred Willards Shelby Forthright, the owner of Buy N Large who was Earth’s President at the time the planet was evacuated. In 2008, the thought of a corporate billionaire becoming humanity’s elected leader might have seemed ludicrous. Nowadays? Not so much. Wall-Eto its credit, it makes it pretty clear exactly what can happen when humans place too much trust in corporate figureheads.

Wall-E succeeds as both a love letter and a warning


Wall-E it’s not as dystopian as all these details suggest. In its third act, the film finds hope not only in the form of Wall-E and Eve’s bond, but also in the surprising resilience of its human characters. In that way, Wall-E it serves as both a warning and a love letter. It’s a film that loves humanity and the planet we call home, and insists that the two cannot exist apart from each other. For this reason, 15 years after its theatrical release, the film’s power has grown exponentially, as has its relevance.

Wall-E is now streaming on Disney+.

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