Construction, also known as "technology giving rise to civilization," has served as a barometer to gauge the viability and development of society. Then, where is Hyundai E&C’s core capabilities and technologies headed towards?
The Future Imagined in Movies
Movies have always preceded reality. Perhaps, movies have been studying and depicting future technologies faster than the speed of scientific progress. The 1999 film <Bicentennial Man> directed by Chris Columbus, familiar to us with <Home Alone> and <Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone>, features robots helping with housework such as cooking, cleaning, and gardening. Although the film is set in the U.S. of 2005, the grownups make calls or have business meetings in the living room using 3D video holograms, and next to them, children wearing helmets connect to virtual reality to play games in their favorite characters.
[<Ready Player One>, a movie that is said to best embody the metaverse world, features a scene where the character wears smart glasses and accesses virtual reality called Oasis]
Artificial Intelligence(AI) Getting Close to Humans
The first goal of AI, which has been developed dreaming of an oasis, was to make humans enjoy a convenient and safe life. It is more than 100 years ago that robots with shapes appeared in works of art. In Karel Capek's 1920 play <Rossum's Universal Robot (R.U.R)>, which is known to have initiated the concept of robots, the robot was not a mechanical doll, but an artificial creature made of chemical substances. One day, Karel thought of a robot while watching the expressionless passengers in a crowded train and wrote a play with the hope that one day robots would free humans from hard labor. In fact, the Czech word 'robota', etymology of the word robot, means a serf who works and pays taxes or land tax. It can be said that robots started from the fantasy of an incomplete human desire to address ‘what if something happens to someone somewhere.’
[Hyundai E&C has deployed an AI robot called ‘Spot’ to construction sites and is using it to manage the quality and safety of blind spots that are difficult for humans to access]
Since the 1980s, when artificial intelligence with emotions appears in earnest as technology evolves, movies began to deal with other topics. In Ridley Scott's <Blade Runner> (1982), where ontological problems arise between humans and robots, the slogan of Tyrell, a company that makes Android, is “More human than human!” In James Cameron's <Terminator 2> (1991), the slogan “More human than human!” is still read in the image of T-800 (Arnold Schwarzenegger) which ultimately sacrifices itself by going into the furnace.
[In the movie <Her>, the protagonist Theodore (Joaquin Phoenix) begins to recover from his pain and regain happiness as the AI operating system Samantha (Scarlett Johansson) listens to him attentively and gives him advice]
Perhaps one of the works that poses a serious question to our society by introducing artificial intelligence with more human emotions than humans is Steven Spielberg's <A.I.> (2001), as the film’s title suggests. The most upgraded robot of the time, David (Haley Joel Osment), which was not put up for ‘sale’ but ‘adoption’, is taken into a couple’s home to replace their biological son. In Spike Jonze's <Her> (2013) appears an artificial intelligence - that does not have a form like David but exists as a voice, perhaps already implemented to a certain level. With the attentive listening and advice of Samantha (voiced by Scarlett Johansson), an AI operating system that thinks and feels for itself, Theodore (Joaquin Phoenix) gradually recovers from his sufferings and begins to regain happiness. Although in different forms as seen through <A.I.> and <Her>, humanity will soon face an era in which we must live together with AIs, and it seems like excellence of technology in itself will move the minds of human beings. Meanwhile, these films also show that AI has gone beyond the realm of merely providing simple labor and technology to enter the realm of ‘emotions’ interacting with the inner minds of human beings.
Beyond Empathy with Humans, into Space and City
Sci-fi movies in the 2000s move beyond human and artificial intelligence problems to systems and structures across cities. If in the past, the existence of a robots played by a human actor was at the center of the narrative in which AI appeared, more practically, questions about ‘coexistence’ with technology have begun to arise. Perhaps it is because the landscape of future cities centered on AI is gradually becoming a reality in our daily lives.
[ A scene from <Avatar: They Way of Water>. James Cameron, who has been very interested in oceans to produce and feature himself in a documentary, tells a story unfolding in the world of sea (Photo Credit=Walt Disney Company Korea)]
In the first sequel in 13 years, <Avatar: The Way of Water> (2022), which is the most talked about film of the year, James Cameron goes to the sea of the Pandora planet. The Sci-fi master who had been very interested in the sea that he produced and even featured himself in several ocean documentaries, shows the ecstatic deep sea in 4K quality never experienced in theaters before. The underwater world unfolds, which is of key interest to Hyundai E&C, as our company has introduced various projects including ‘modular underwater structure’ and ‘off-shore wind power’, an outpost of green energy as a first step towards implementing future underwater cities. If the previous film <Avatar> showed a deep consideration and care for those alienated from technological development along with warnings of environmental destruction, <Avatar: The Way of Water> shows that technological progress must eventually involve coexistence with Mother Nature. For James Cameron, sea and land, and development (technology) and coexistence were concepts that had no boundaries from the beginning. Perhaps, the subtitle ‘The Way of Water’ should be changed to ‘The Way of Technology’ or ‘The Way of Coexistence’. Because that is the essence of the future cities that we all dream of.
Written by Joo Sung-chul
Film critic. Worked as editor-in-chief of <Cine21> after working for <Kino> and <Film 2.0>. Joo has authored books such as <Leslie Cheung Whom We Truly Loved>, <Film Master of Our Times> <The Moment of Debut>, <The Separated Meet Again in Hong Kong> and <I Like the Movie from Behind> and currently appears in OCN movie program <O Cine> and YouTube <Moviegunjo> after featuring in SBS < Connect! Movie World > and JTBC <Movie Room>.
◆ This column is based on the author’s subjective view and may differ from the editorial direction of Hyundai E&C.