Miles Morales’ New Enemy Is The Latest Cyborg Fighting For The Agency

Since the beginning of the robots, they have been looking for an agency. Now Spider-Man’s new adversary determines whether he is friend or foe.

Miles Morales: Spider-Man by Saladin Ahmed and Christopher Allen will soon reveal the titular hero’s new enemy: The Spider-Smasher. Part of the legacy of Spider-Slayers, the character plays an important role in introducing villains to modern times. Spider-Slayers have always been mere evil pawns with no personal agency and no way to make their own decisions. They were always meant to just follow whatever their controller said, and the Spider-Smasher already offers the potential for change.

One of the major trends in science fiction literature, especially that centered on robots and other AI-enabled mechanical beings, has been towards the creation of a sense of agency. From blade runner for Westworld until now) Spider Man, the journey is almost a coming-of-age rather than an action-adventure. The search for a sense of agency through robots and AI has a deep history in science fiction, and the Spider-Smasher is just the latest example of a robot searching for agency. agency.


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Bots and agency are interdependent from the start


Artificial life has been around almost as long as written history itself. Jewish tradition tells the story of the Golem, an artificial life form that comes to life through a curse. The Greek tale of Pygmalion featured a statue animated by the power of love. Artificial life and its creation have followed humanity in its tales and legends for centuries. However, the first use of the actual robots came in the form of a play. by Karel Capek Rossum’s universal robots, a 1921 play featuring a set of androids trying to negotiate a life outside of their slave existence. That is to say, RURthe first piece of real robots in the media, talks about an artificial intelligence negotiating identity.


That’s not to say that stories with robots have always been about identity negotiation. Star Wars, for example, has a clear class delineation between droids and lifeforms, but droid consciousness has never been a major focus, even though Star Wars has tackled other structural issues. to be able to. Even the presence of one or two force-sensitive droids didn’t affect the fact that droids are simply seen and treated as inferior with little repercussion in Star Wars.

Nevertheless, the dominant theme with robots and AIs in literature and popular culture has been that of agency seeking. Blade Runner is about agency and how it affects the lives of those who attempt to gain it. Both Isaac Asimov and Philip K. Dick contributed to the literature and its adaptations, and these underlying themes underscore the work of both masters, naturally infusing the color of self-determination into robotic literature. As robots progressed into popular culture, the idea of ​​creating a sense of agency was not only maintained; it was reinforced.


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The Agency and Androids Enter the Contemporary Era


Futurama Bender with Tequila

Although played as humor, Bender’s Futurama was notoriously depressed that he was only supposed to bend objects for the rest of his life until he challenged his programming. Agency research has so defined robots in media that it has become such an integral part of characters so intrinsic that it borders on a trope, derided, in the case of Futurama, with confidence. While Bender’s example is an example of humor, it’s not the first of its kind in contemporary popular culture, and it certainly won’t be the last.

The continuation of the blade runner franchise has also addressed the idea of ​​a sense of agency either through the replicants themselves (Blade Runner 2049) or via Blade Runners as a foil for humanity (Blade Runner 2019 & 2029). Updates from other franchises, from Transformers to Pokemon, have also explored the agency for their robotic characters, whether primary or secondary. This exploration of free will has always been a complex issue, but recent pop culture has made it much more prescient than in the past.


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Miles Morales’ new enemy is the latest in a long line


With this general trend, it’s hardly surprising that Miles Morales now faces a version of a robotic enemy that exhibits a greater sense of agency than his robotic predecessors. Defeating nameless robots and drones hardly offers the complexity of a sentient being with robotic augmentation or a substance trying to define itself. Even the reveal of the Spider-Smasher indicates that there is an element of mystery as to where the Spider-Smasher’s allegiances lie. This mysterious revelation gives the Spider-Smasher a choice!


Ultimately, this complexity is the latest indicator of a trend in comics and media that has unfolded over more than a century. No more cannon fodder drones that just carry out orders. Now, even something that is a continuation of agencyless beings is able to make a choice. This choice will be revealed when issue #38 of Miles Morales: Spider-Man is released in May.

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