Every so often a movie with a preposterous plot ends up being prophetic. Since the world's top minds are engineering us into a future where the only occupation left will be "designer of robots that can design other robots," RoboCop has somehow become one of those movies. If the ultra-violent 1980s classic taught us anything, it's that the ruthless efficiency of a robotic police force will be first tested on the crumbling, crime-riddled streets of Dubai.
Dubai is very much not Detroit. Yet what Dubai wants to do is more RoboCop-y than anything fictional Detroit ever had. They want an actual robot that hasn't been fused with a street cop who'd been filled with so much lead he was practically a pencil. And they can pull it off. Dubai is the land of the obscenely rich. Their idea of modest living is someone with only three tigers. They erected the world's tallest building just in case you didn't get they were ostentatious douche-rockets when you saw their current police force riding around in Bugattis and McLarens.
The Asahi Shimbun/Getty
If you think they're stopping at one RoboCop, they have a bridge they'd like to sell you, and when it's done in early 2018 it's going to look like a giant sea god will one day repurpose it as a scimitar when he rises from the briny deep to punish Dubai for its opulence.
Dubai is going to have their first literal RoboCop by May 2017. But they're not stopping there. They want a police station run entirely by robots and want robots to make up around 25 percent of their police force by 2030. That means a rookie cop in Dubai today will get stuck with a by-the-book robot partner with a dark past in about 13 years. Will they stop bickering long enough to bring down a deranged oil sheikh before he destroys The World ... which is a chain of 300 artificial archipelagos in Dubai filled with mansions that collectively form the shape of the earth's continents?
Dubai is the last place any of us would have expected to find RoboCops, even if we should have seen this coming. Of course the rich would be the first to have RoboCops. Detroit would be lucky if they had a Paul Blart: Mall Cop.
Since I've woken up to this now-obvious logic, I realize the different setting fundamentally changes what RoboCop would even be. You don't even need to imagine it. Dubai's already got a functioning prototype. Let's compare. Here's RoboCop:
And here's Dubai's RoboCop:
It's a punching dummy with an iPad in its chest. Someone put that hat on it sarcastically. It was just invented and the plastic on it has already yellowed like an aged Super Nintendo. That is the reality of our RoboCop future. Not a giant metal man with a machine gun who fights an autonomous mech that's a metaphorical stand-in for corporatization and militarization of American police, but rather a '70s Doctor Who villain from an episode that was thrown into a fire after its initial airing to destroy the evidence.
Our RoboCop future is right around the corner and it's going to be so fucking stupid.
At least, at first. Eventually, there will be the arm cannons and missile launchers they'll use to kill you in front of your kids. But for the foreseeable future, all we get is a machine less menacing than an ATM.
The real-world RoboCop won't be shooting bad guys in the dick between a woman's legs. It's going to hand parking tickets to the entitled sons of Arab telecom magnates who think they own every grain of sand in the desert. This thing will put a ticket on a windshield and tell the car to have a nice day. It will lecture litter. You'll be able to pay a fine by swiping a credit card across its tits.
Oh, shit. Wait. That last one's actually true.
The RoboCop in the movies was created specifically for his environment -- a violent urban Hellscape run by sadistic gangs. The United Arab Emirates has one of the lowest homicide rates in the world and violent crime rates are exceptionally low. Who'da thought that a city of people so rich they could fund their own private missions to Mars aren't compelled to rip each other to shreds for survival?
Dubai has gifted unto us a boring White Collar RoboCop. But maybe its lack of edge might turn out to be good? Just as RoboCop is tailor-made for Detroit, this thing is perfect for boring rich neighborhoods all over the world. If rich people want to have to plug their cops into an outlet, let them. More human cops for the poor neighborhoods.
Oh, shit. Wait. That would turn all poor neighborhoods into militarized zones. The logic here is all kinds of fucked.
Never mind. These boring things will be fine.
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