“Your Move, Creep.” Detroit Should Embrace Its Inner RoboCop

2/18/11Follow @xconomy

When I first saw RoboCop in 1987, I nearly puked. In other words, the movie was AWESOME.

Such logic should be expected from a nine-year-old boy witnessing his first R-rated movie, an ultra-violent spectacle that spewed blood and bodies across the crime ridden streets of Detroit. (My older sister, who accompanied me, was just plain horrified.)

Now 23 years later, in a testament to the movie’s enduring appeal, a group of Detroit citizens has raised more than enough money to build a seven foot statute of the cyborg in the city’s downtown area.

The plan has stirred a bit of controversy. Some believe the statute only reinforces Detroit’s reputation as a poor, decaying mess of a metropolis, not exactly the business-friendly image the city wants to project. The New York Times wondered out loud if Detroit’s money and attention would be better spent on more pressing problems.

I, however, enthusiastically endorse the project. Let’s start with the most obvious reason: RoboCop is just plain cool.

The armored half man/half machine boasted a big gun that popped out from his leg, a targeting computer that enabled him to shoot criminals with pinpoint accuracy, thermal energy vision, and a full repertoire of pithy lines, including “Dead or alive, you’re coming with me,” “Your move, creep,” and “Come quietly or there will be… trouble.”

Let’s see Watson do that.

But more importantly, everyone needs someone or something to rally around. In Detroit, which has struggled to build a high tech industry beyond automobiles, what better way to promote innovation than a crime fighting cyborg?

RoboCop proved prophetic in one aspect: the physical integration of human and machine. Today, computer-controlled medical devices can regulate heart beats, distribute insulin, and boost hearing levels.

And that’s just the beginning. Perhaps it’s no accident that Robogate should get national attention the same week the American Association for the Advancement of Science hosted its conference Thursday in Washington, D.C.

There, scientists presented research into technology that allows humans to manipulate virtual reality avatars with their minds and brain-powered wheelchairs and neuro-prosthetic limbs that can learn the mental intentions of the user.

In his book “World Wide Mind,” published this week, science writer Michael Chorost envisions implantable computer chips that allows humans to communicate feelings. I’m guessing the chips are probably for men.

So lighten up, cynics. We should all embrace our inner RoboCops, that spark of high tech innovation behind such a kick-ass invention.

At the very least, our statute will be a lot cooler than the Mary Tyler Moore thing in downtown Minneapolis.

Wimps.

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