Proposed Trope: Robots are Our F-R-I-E-N-D-S

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"But... He's a friend." -Hogarth Hughes from The Iron Giant, 1999

This trope represents the intersection of Machine Labor, Human Labor, and Work.

The ultimate purpose of mechanization and robot production is to facilitate our labor. The implementation and gradual advancement of technology has evidently shown that machines can perform as much work as humans, but more efficiently. The desirable future for humans and machinery is, therefore, the peaceful coexistence of the two. Thus, this trope illustrates the positive aspects of machine labor, developing partnership between the machines and humans.


Appearance in Class Reading

Spring 2010

  • The Machine Stops[1]: Although the idea of implementing advanced technologies to improve our labor efficiency is mentioned here, the primary intent of the author is introducing its flaws. He believes that overproduction of machinery will eventually lead us to dependence on machines, and thus to our corruption. He states, however, that "We created the Machine, to do our will".

Spring 2011

  • Selections from Sherry Turkle : One of the points that Sherry Turkle points out is the danger of befriending and forming a bond with machinery. Turkle believes that the replacement of these bonds with those of other humans will damage the emotional health of those involved. The argument is that machines that try to establish a bond are "implicitly promising an emotional connection they can never deliver."[2] Her reasoning is therefore a counterargument to this proposed trope and is against the acceptance of machinery beyond the use of labor.
  • He, She and It : The cyborg present in this novel, Yod, is an example of an attempt to accept technology equal to a human. Throughout the novel, there is a struggle to release Yod from the control of Avram and have him accept Yod as a being with free will. Other efforts are seen when the village of Tikva held meetings to decide Yod's humanity and how they would accept him into society. However, in the end, they still could not come to a general consensus for what to label Yod as. The story details a relatively positive outlook between technology and humans, arguing that a genuine emotional bond is possible between the two.
  • Flesh Made Word: In the short story Flesh Made Word, the main character Wescott has an A.I. of his wife that acts as some sort of a computer/operatinging system in his house. His wife died, and Wescott feels like he is the one to blame. He was so close to this A.I that it eventually ruins his marriage. He was emotionally close to his A.I, and has an emotional attachment to it. They are like friends-- which his wife is not happy about.

Appearance in Other Media

  • The Iron Giant[3]: This 1999 film depicts a giant alien robot from outside the earth. Though feared and alienated by most people, the creature develops friendship with a boy named Hogarth Hughes, suggesting the collaboration of human race and machines as a possibility.
  • Star Wars[4]: In this well known fantasy franchise, we see a number of scenes where humans and robots collaborate in achieving goals. Some of the most notable examples of such robots are R2-D2 and C-3PO.
  • Transformers[5]: This newly introduced pop culture depicts the giant robots named Transformers, which take the roll in assisting humans using their mobility and power. Although the film also shows the evil Transformers, it nevertheless establishes the theme of human-robots collaboration.
  • Blade Runner[6]: This 1982 film depicts the mechanical aids in a different manner. Rather than showing robots directly assisting humans, it presents "replicants", who are biologically engineered humanoid beings. In the film, they are seemingly better than normal humans in physical and intellectual respect, performing tasks efficiently while maintaining the human elements, such as emotion and nonverbal contacts.

Trope Justification

The discussion topic of the class is a history of our labor. Historically, we do work as a way to make the living. At one point, however, some of us have realized that not everyone needs to sweat and tear over work. The wealthy individuals were successful in manipulating their positions and persuading the lower class, Bourgeoisie, to do the physical labors for them. This led to the establishment of our current labor system, where the amount of work and quality of life are given unfairly to every individual. Ultimately, this is how society runs today.

As the time passed, however, we have encountered the rise of technologies. Although we had been utilizing the scientific discoveries in the form of tools for our labor in history, the invention of machines brought the idea of labor to a next level. Just by providing them with a power, they performed work much easier, faster, and cheaper. This slowly eliminated the need of physical human labor and began replacing Bourgeoisies with robot workforce.

As the technologies advanced even more, the efficiency of automated production has gotten better. Despite this apparent success, there were collective criticisms on technological assistance in the background. It was concerned that we would soon be dependent on machines, and all the positions would be dominated by robots.

One could argue that aforementioned 'overtaking' is already in effect. But my suggestion in this trope is that we should not entirely leave the blame on automation. There definitely are certain things that were made possible due to technologies. Consider the modern apparel production, for instance. How long would it take to produce sufficient amount of clothes for all the individuals by human labors alone, not using any machines? The point here is that we are better off living together with some technologies rather than simply getting rid of them solely because they're limiting humans' labor opportunities.

Ultimately, this trope talks on the positive influences of machine labor, and explores the cooperative relationship between humans and machines (that aid human individuals). This does not deny the apparent humans' dependence on machines. While acknowledging the fact that machines are making human labors significantly (some say excessively) easy, this trope prompts an interesting discussion to balance the automation in our labor.

As a justification, this trope provides a number of examples and references from which we can see how machines and humans are working together.

Comparisons to other Intersections and Tropes

This trope counters with some of the other tropes discussing the downside of machine labors (Oh No! The AI is Takin' all our Jobs!), as well as those with primary idea of humans' addiction to the convenience provided by machines (Proposed Trope: Growing Human Dependence on Technology). What this trope suggests is the good balance of human labor and mechanical assistance.


  1. The Machine Stops. (22 January 2010) Trope: The Machine Stops Retrieved January 22, 2010 from
  3. The Iron Giant. (22 January 2010) In Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia. Retrieved January 22, 2010 from
  4. Star Wars. (22 January 2010) In Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia. Retrieved January 22, 2010 from
  5. Transformers. (22 January 2010) In Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia. Retrieved January 22, 2010 from
  6. Transformers. (26 February 2010) In Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia. Retrieved February 27, 2010 from
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