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Bicentennial Man is based on an Issac Asimov novella of the same name, originally penned in 1976. For the most part it stays faithful to the book, fairing better than most screen conversions.

In addition to this film, a second adaptation was made. The novel 'The Positronic Man' also by Issac Asimov (and Robert Silverberg) was written in 1993. Both share the same root as their primary material.

The story itself is a very deep tale, that is becoming more and more relevant as time goes on. It is the story of a robot, Andrew, an NDR-114 household servant android. Created to make life easier for those who own them, the NDR-114s were programmed to learn, to adapt, study the world around them, and evolve mentally as he experiences more of life.

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Andrew went a bit further than perhaps his programmers had envisaged. Little quirks of behaviour made themselves known to his adopting family over time, and these were encouraged. Because of this, Andrew grew into an individual, fully self-aware, and in every respect, an equal being.

The film is iconic in that it plots the saga of Andrew's life. He is every bit the equal of a human and then some, but he is not human, he is a machine. Not only is he bound by Asimov's three laws of robotics, but he is also bound by law. He is not human so has no rights, no civil protections, nothing. The struggle for equality; to be legally and interpersonally recognised as an equal, is deeply moving and deeply relevant on so many levels.

Whilst this is a Robin Williams film, and does contain many moments of humour, it is at its heart, a serious film. It questions on the nature of humanity, equality, and pokes at the very nature of sentience itself.

Asimov's Three Laws:

1. A robot may not injure a human being or, through inaction, allow a human being to come to harm.

2. A robot must obey orders given to it by human beings, except where such orders would conflict with the First Law.

3. A robot must protect its own existence as long as such protection does not conflict with the First or Second Law.

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Further Bicentennial Man Related Resources

Bicentennial Man: Index of Stills

Bicentennial Man: A Plot Overview

Similar-Themed Resources

There have been many productions both in film and on paper in the years both before and since Bicentennial Man, which touch on many of the same issues. There have been noticably more in the years since, as such a scenario is becoming increasingly likely to occur. Below, are a selection of such, we have taken note of.

Galatea and Modern Robotics: The Allusion

Book Quotes: Rights of Synthespians

VWN Dictionary: Substrate Chauvinism

Review: We Can Build You

EVE no Jikan

This collection of six Japanese anime shorts - 15 minutes each, tries in each episode, to showcase a slightly different perspective on the issues of chauvenism against Andrew-level androids in a not too distant society.

EVE no Jikan (The Time of Eve)

EVE no Jikan (The Time of Eve) Act 2 - Sammy

EVE no Jikan (The Time of Eve) Act 3 - Koji & Rina

EVE no Jikan (The Time of Eve) Act 4 - Nameless

EVE no Jikan (The Time of Eve) Act 5 - Chie & Shimei

EVE no Jikan (The Time of Eve) Act 6 - Masaki

Animatrix: The Second Renaissance: Part 1

Animatrix: The Second Renaissance: Part 2

Robot Rights

Actual, non-fiction issues with robot rights are not quite here yet, but preparations to deal with them, are already being hammered out.

The Legal Rights of Robots (1985)

UK report says robots will have rights (2006)

Do humanoid robots deserve to have rights? (2009)


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