Two of my recent favorites in the robo-relationships genre have been Robot & Frank (2012) and Ex Machina (2015 - still in theaters!). In this post, I'll get to Robot & Frank. I'll discuss Ex Machina in Part Two.
Robot & Frank (2012)
Like Her, this one feels like an indie art house film more than a blockbusting, big budget sci-fi movie. And that works just fine to make a lovable little movie. Frank is a retired jewel thief in the near future. His age is catching up with him, so his son buys him a robot to help around the house. Frank at first doesn't like Robot (poor Robot never gets a name!), but Robot's lovable charm wins him over (he's not quite as lovable as Chappie, though).
Eventually Frank starts using Robot to plan more heists. Hijinks ensue!
One of the more philosophical points comes when we realize just how bad Frank's memory loss has gotten (due to Alzheimer's or some other cause). Robot, too, is facing the loss of his memory, since erasing his memory will ensure that he can't be used as evidence against Frank. Robot says that the loss of his memory will not harm him, because he's not a person. But wait, is Robot a person? Given a theory of personal identity using Lockean memory criteria, you just might say that Robot really is a person.
The real issue comes up when we consider that Frank is losing his memory, too. So... is Frank the same person he used to be? Given his frequent lapses in memory, is Frank's personhood being slowly eroded?
I'm not sure what to think, although my Buddhist sensibilities on this issue make me sympathetic to the idea that personhood is a conventionally flexible and ultimately unreal category. In any case, Robot & Frank is a great film in that it uses the relationship between Frank and Robot to raise issues of personal identity in such a fun and emotionally poignant way.
For a different take on robo-relationships, see Part Two on Ex Machina!