With each passing year, the drone industry grows. Futurist Thomas Frey has predicted over 1 billion drones by 2030, and to many of us, that's less science-fiction and more realism than ever before. But what will it mean for our collective global society and our frameworks of cultural thinking when the skies are filled with artificially intelligent beings that we depend on for data and assistance? Donny the Drone (2017) posits questions like these.
Directed by Mackenzie Sheppard, the sci-fi short film runs a mere 10 minutes but packs quite a punch. It's visually lush and frankly, utterly stunning at points. One could look at this short and be won over by the idea that someday, perhaps in the next year or two, we'll be ready to sit through entire feature films that place an unmanned aerial vehicle as their protagonists. If Pixar can anthropomorphize rovers, and Duncan Jones can construct a relatable, sympathetic robot out of Chappie, why not a curious drone that traverses the globe, looking for truth and beauty? This particular short film certainly makes an argument for that potential.
Donny is voiced by Australian actor Guy Pearce and begins his story from the podium of a "World Time Magazine" ceremony where he's receiving the award for Person of the Year. If Guy Pearce delivering a speech from a TED Talk-esque stage seems familiar to you, don't worry, you're thinking quite clearly. The last time we saw this was in Luke Scott's supplemental marketing material for his father's Alien prequel, Prometheus. It's well worth a watch and freely available here.
Without further ado, here's Mackenzie Sheppard's Donny The Drone. Enjoy.
Donny The Drone makes you reconsider an age-old science-fiction morality riddle: When we do finally produce an artificial being that is virtually indistinguishable from a human being's soul and consciousness, how can we justify treating it like a servant? Wouldn't they be reasonably disturbed at their enslavement, particularly if the primary reason is to keep certain populations in check while serving the business interests of others? How could we stop them from banding together? We've seen a small step for artificial-man happen recently when these two chatbots developed an entirely new language to communicate with one another, in secret.
[Spoiler Alert!] Ultimately, Donny seems to develop a sort of God complex, which seems to indicate that absolute power corrupts absolutely. On the other hand, that might've just been his passion speaking. In any case, Donny gets his brains blown out before humanity got the chance to witness the fruits of his labor. Whether his efforts would've rid the globe of unjust power structures and the strictures of religion and inequality—or simply create a new, aerial fleet of overlords—we'll never know. But one thing is certain: Art can often make you think about real-world issues and moral complexities better than a lecture can, and Donny The Drone has certainly sparked a conversation in my household.