"If Droids Could Think …":
Droids as Slaves and
Years ago, I watched A New Hope with a blind person named Mary. She asked if I could describe to her what was going on throughout the movie. After the Twentieth Century Fox fanfare ended and the wonderful John Williams soundtrack began, I read the opening paragraphs to her. What happened after the next few scenes was fascinating. She listened to C-3PO's opening dialogue where he says somewhat frantically, "Did you hear that? They shut down the main reactor. Well be destroyed for sure! This is madness! We're doomed …" However, before I could describe the scene to her, Mary asked me, "What does that man look like?" I told her it was not a man, but a droid—a goldplated robot who looks like a man. She paused a moment and continued, "Oh … It sounded just like a man," Being naturally inquisitive, I asked Mary what made her think that C-3PO was a man. Her response was that C-3PO used language, and had expressed the emotions of fear and concern.
My exchange with Mary was fascinating for two reasons. First, if I were blind, and a robot approached me on the street and started talking to me the way C-3PO does—with all of his over-dramatizing of events, expressions of reluctance, and name-calling—most likely I would think a human being was talking to me. Second, my exchange with Mary made me rethink Threepio's role as a protocol droid built to serve other human beings in a slavish capacity. If C-3PO looks and acts like a person—if he uses language, has certain advanced cognitive skills, is aware of his surroundings, and can feel emotions and