What we create vs. what we imitate

One might think it strange to link Steven Spielberg’s movie A.I. (Artificial Intelligence) together with education in Kazakhstan but by the end of this writing I hope my dear readers will see what I’m driving at. Writing about the quandary I’m in helps to isolate what I’m feeling intuitively about being an administrator in a westernized institution in the heartland of Kazakhstan.

A.I. is a movie one must watch at least twice to really understand what Spielberg tries to convey in his overall message. Is it like Tom Hank’s insipid “Polar Express” where there is definitely a political agenda to promulgate where it leaves you at the end thinking, “huh?” Either a movie can make you scratch your head with perplexity or it can get you thinking about deeper, philosophical questions. I can’t tell which it is for me yet, maybe the latter. I might have to watch A.I. again to make sure. However, the following are my observations and how I put it together with what I’m trying to uncover about the Kazakh culture while working in Kazakhstan as a western educator.

I picked up and read an article in the latest flight magazine of Air Astana about a Kazakh director of the film “Kelin,” his name is Yermek Tursunov. He has people from his own country scratching their head as well because he brings to light some troubling issues they all are forced to deal with in the Twenty-first century. Spielberg writes a fantasy story which really is about “be careful what you create.” Tursunov apparently has produced a movie the Oscars Academy nominated for a prize with his general theme as “be careful what you imitate.”

I haven’t seen “Kelin” yet and if I did, apparently I don’t need to know or understand Kazakh or Russian because it is without speech. However, it is dealing with some deep, cultural issues that have apparently put the Kazakh people at odds with themselves. Old generation with young, northerners with southerners. According to the article, “Domestic ultranationalists threatened the movie accusing Tursunov of amorality and belittling Kazakhs.” In defending himself against these accusations he is quoted as saying in the article, “Whatever it is, the most important thing is to avoid imitating others experiences, ideas, emotions, misfortunes or achievements. Everyone must search for his or her own way. Failure to find it at least deserves extra credit for trying. I want my films to wake people up; make them think and cause discomfort in their life. I want to produce a piece of work that contrasts with what producers are mass producing in the world…”

Speilberg showed a man named Professor Hobby at the beginning of the film as creator of robots that he planned to mass produce. The philosophical question was, “can humans make robots into something that can respond to pain, feel and touch as a human can?” But even more profound, “Can these robots be loved by humans and love humans in return?” The problem was that humans are mortal but according to Speilberg’s script, robots could live forever.

What happens when a human parent adopts a robot boy but he outlives the parent and yet is programmed to be dependent and love that which is lost? Another issue Speilberg painfully brought out in this futuristic film was that humans had become the minority and that robots were the downtrodden, downcast and victims. If robots had no feelings, what was I supposed to think? However, it showed the seamy side of humans who are vicious and violent yet also capable of deep, abiding mother love. Spoiler #1: Note the human mother’s love for David, she did NOT want to have him destroyed even when it meant it would risk losing her own biological son or husband.

The A.I. movie is amazingly performed by the talented Haley Joel Osment as the young boy named David who is an unblinking robot boy adopted into a needy but wealthy family who had lost their one and only son. Sorry Spoiler #2, in the end the young David does show human emotion, but there are a lot of permutations the plot goes through to get you to that finish. Then again, one is not entirely sure if this is the correct ending or not, so fanciful is it. Maybe my problem is that I prefer historical drama and comedy.

(to be continued in tomorrow’s blog)

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