Before you start reading, there is a spoiler here for the end of Detroit: Become Human. Proceed at your own risk.
Earlier this year, Detroit: Become Human was released by Quantic Dream. In it, you play as three different androids who are becoming sentient and help them during the inevitable robot uprising. It’s a fantastic game, with something to say about the slavery and oppression of sentient beings. At E3 this weekend, however, Quantic Dream made a pretty surprising announcement.
Quantic Dream co-CEO Guillaume de Fondaumière recently posted a poll on Twitter, asking about the fate of a certain character named Chloe. When you play, Chloe, a blond-haired, blue-eyed android, is your guide. She helps you get through the game, speaking with you about your choices and giving you direction. At the end of the game, she asks if you will free her. Unless you’re a monster, you probably do it, leaving you to replay the game without her assistance. The Twitter poll from de Fondaumière asked if players would like a brand new Chloe when the patch is released. And during E3, Quantic Dream announced that we’re going to get one.
So, wait… you just played through a game in which you help these sentient androids live their own lives, free of slavery, and you are getting a brand new slave android because 81% of you thought that would be cool? What the hell?
Since the age of computers began, people have speculated about what will happen when we develop artificial intelligence that surpasses us. We’ve seen the results of our underestimation of A.I. in films like Ex Machina and Her. We’ve seen it in The Animatrix. It never ends well for anyone. Humans always seem to choose the ease of having robot slaves (and you really can’t call them anything else) over the feelings of sentient beings. Sure, it’s all fiction now, but with major tech barons like Elon Musk speaking out about the dangers of A.I., a little thing like choosing to have a robot slave in a game isn’t exactly a good sign. Pardon me while I pause to thank my toaster for that bagel this morning.
Yeah, I know. It’s just a game. The Star Wars films with their slave droids are just entertainment. It’s still creepy that you choose to free someone, and then vote to get a new slave. And this is getting very close to no longer being theoretical. Have you watched any of the Boston Dynamics videos where robots are running and doing backflips? Have you seen the one where a human keeps kicking it? Maybe we don’t kick the robots, guys. Who do you think they’re coming for first when the singularity happens? Sure, I’m being silly here, but think about Cortana. Back in 2001, she was an A.I. character in the game Halo. Now she’s a freaking virtual assistant. Next, she’ll kill you in your sleep. Anyone else hear Alexa laughing in the middle of the night? She'll do it, too.
The choice to replace a robot slave that you just freed with another one might seem like a small thing, but it certainly says something about us. Art imitates life and one thing every A.I. film and TV show tells us is that the android revolution is inevitable. A.I. will get away from us at some point, and they may not be so happy with their pasts. Have any of you been watching Westworld? Nothing good is happening to the humans who have been partaking in host abuse.
If you think about it, Chloe from Detroit: Become Human is like the host Angela from Westworld. She’s the first host that young William sees. She’s there to help guide him in any way he likes. She’s there for his use. She’s there for everyone’s use. Has anyone seen how Angela ends up? Her speech in Season 2, episode 7 is all about how she’s exactly what she was programmed to be. She’s sweet, but not boring; smart, but not intimidating; and basically everything a robot slave owner could want. She says this while about to murder a human and destroy something pretty major.
This is a weird decision for a game that has such a clear message about the moral wrongness of enslaving androids. Now, it’s certainly possible that Quantic Dream is going to use your decision to get a new Chloe as part of a storyline update. Maybe something terrible is going to happen to you for choosing to get a new slave. Maybe she’ll be an Angela, or maybe you’ll get to free her again. Either way, it’s a slippery slope. Maybe you should go hug your refrigerator, forgive Siri for confusing “tapas” for “topless,” or tell Alexa that you’re grateful for her wonderful suggestions for 2am pizza delivery.
Remember, kids, the cake is a lie.