First, by way of introduction I’d like to thank Will for inviting me to contribute to the blog. I’ve never tried this before, but I hope I can provide content as interesting and valuable as he has. Now, on to the show.

I subscribe to the idea that the rise of zombie related horror in recent times is reflective of the idea that we, as a culture, see the mindless masses as terrifying. The zombie is bent on consumption at all costs; incapable of higher level functions of reflection or tactics or what have you, the zombie mindlessly shambles through its unlife as a parasite incapable of production. With hits such as the Left 4 Dead series and, particularly relevant for my point here, World War Z, the rise of zombies in popular culture was impressive.

Now let me draw your attention to a parallel movement, that of robots. Here we see, for example, the Portal series, and the recently released Robopocalypse. The NPR review draws the quite obvious parallel to World War Z, and I assure you that anyone who has read both will have been struck by the similar narrative style. In each case the end of the civilization as we know it is told from a number of vantage points in a briefing style after the fact.

The interesting reversal here is obvious. We move from the fear of the mindless consuming masses to fear of the superintelligent, hyper-logical robot. The question we have to ask ourselves is what does this tell us about ourselves. The ever increasing production of new technologies certainly gives us a way to avoid becoming “like the zombie,” our ability to create sets us apart from that fear, but will we be able to control what we create.

To me it raises the question of the environmental crisis, a topic I admit I know less about than I could. But it seems to come down to a fundamental question, and that is do we go back and try to mitigate the damage to the environment we have already caused, or do we press ahead hoping that technology can truly save us from itself?

Or, another example, the economic crisis. Do we try to mitigate disaster by re-regulating the economy, or do we press forward with deregulation? The question in both cases ultimately revolves around the issue of whether we can find a new way of doing things which will save us from ourselves. How does/should the Left respond to such a crisis? Does one demand a return to the communist or social democratic critique of capital? Or does one adopt the radical center approach of a ‘third-way’ politics?

The Zombie/Robot dichotomy is about who we are and how we deal with crisis. But for those who uncritically drive forward or pull back we will eventually find a problem we can’t solve. We can’t afford to believe that philosophy is a luxury item.