A viral New York Times headline published last week asked, “Are You Ready for Sentient Disney Robots?”
Based on Twitter, the answer so far seems to be “Absolutely not.”
The Walt Disney Co. is in the process of developing hyper-realistic, free-roaming robot versions of beloved characters to populate the grounds of its parks. Labeling them “sentient” may be jumping the gun a little bit, as the idea of robot sentience is, to put it mildly, complicated. But the creations are slated to have “cameras and sensors” that let them “make on-the-fly choices about what to do and say,” the Times reported.
The Times also described an existing 3-foot-tall robotic Groot that can respond to a person’s actions and demeanor.
But while Disney executives see the bots as a way to intrigue younger generations and “stay relevant,” some people were more apt to see them as abjectly terrifying.
On Twitter, a lot of jokes were made about “Westworld,” the HBO series (based on the 1973 Michael Crichton movie) about a “Wild West” theme park filled with androids that are impossible to distinguish from human beings (without delving into too many spoilers, it turns out that park wasn’t a great idea). Some also referenced “The Simpsons” episode “Itchy and Scratchy Land,” which involves a robot uprising at a theme park (the episode was also partially based on Crichton’s “Westworld”).