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"In the near future, robots have replaced humans in the boxing ring."
'Steel' is a Twilight Zone classic.
Based on a story published by The Magazine of Fantasy and Science-Fiction in the 1950s, it retells the futuristic yarn where boxing has been outlawed after being deemed too barbaric. The citizens of this new-age world instead get their thrills watching mechanical robots beat each other into submission.
Aired in 1963, the Twilight Zone episode starred a young Lee Marvin playing the role of Steel Kelly, an out-of-work former boxer who turns his hand to managing a B2-class robot called 'Battling Maxo'.
The story develops with Maxo being damaged in transit and forced to withdraw. Marvin's character is inevitably obliged to enter the ring and fight an advanced B7 robot. The crowd cheer and jeer every sickening blow, but remain oblivious to the fact that it is a fellow human getting beaten to a pulp.
'Steel' becomes a memorable tale of guts, determination and sheer lunacy.
"...there's an infinite number of monkeys outside who want to talk to us about this script for Hamlet they've worked out."
What about Forum Sevens? Could there be software available where non-human ghost writers search the world wide web while applying the infinite monkey theory? This random intelligence would eventually grow into the perfect team with an ability to compile exact 750 word league-related articles with predetermined quirky twists at the end, and then program themselves to search the match thread and post at a comfortable 8:30pm AEST every second Wednesday!
Who's to say it's not happening now?
If perchance the program produces a perfect score, who's to say the monkeys won't sue for copyright? We could be opening up the proverbial can of worms.
Jokes aside, crude article writing programs are already in the pipeline. It is quite plausible that in the near future we may be reading novels written by a computer. The trick will be trying to tell the difference between human writings, and that which is jumbled together by a series of signals and circuits.
Once we have nailed the Artificial Intelligence aspect of literature, the next step will be 'Reality Video' and 'Virtual Reality'. We're already seeing the introduction of hi-tech video replays being altered to give the illusion of a different scenario in a sporting event.
After that, the next step seems obvious...
"All men hate the wretched; how then, must I be hated, who am miserable beyond all living things! Yet you, my creator, detest and spurn me, thy creature, to whom thou art bound by ties only dissoluble by the annihilation of one of us."
With trendy sycophants sneering at contact sports and looking for ways to bring down the greatest of all contact sports, we may see rugby league being played by robots in the not-too-distant future. In the brave new world of entrepreneurial pursuits, promoters may respond to demand and cash in on this next generation of robot wars.
Imagine a rugby league club where the salary cap and player transfers are replaced by intellectual property agreements over the design of androids with abilities, attitudes, and media personalities to boot. There'll be player-bot brand names like 'Charging Changa', 'Gouging Gallen' and the evil Mechdroid Willie Mason making headlines off-field without the fear of in-house investigations or bringing the game into disrepute. The list is endless. Once the robot becomes old news, just replace him with another.
Maybe it's just a matter of time, and perhaps we'll all live to see it before old age robs us of the ability to drink soup though a straw.
But there is a moral to the story. What if, just as Steel Kelly found, a human was forced to take the field? A team is a player-bot short and a former league player secretly disguises himself as an android for the good of the club.
The crowd would cheer as limbs were ripped from the competitor's sockets. The message is as powerful as it was in the Twilight Zone where humanity becomes a slave to its own brutality, regardless of how civilised we say we have become or how hard we try to dehumanise events we see before us.
In the end, our flesh and blood hero gets carted off in a box. Gruesome? Well not really, you see in the future where human contact sports have been outlawed for being too brutal, the sports themselves have become more violent than ever.
After all, robots have no rights.
| Exactly 750 words at 8:30pm AEST |
References: Title borrowed from Issac Asimov. Quotes from The Twilght Zone, Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy and Mary Shelley's Frankenstein.