Posted: 15 May 2004
Science Fiction and Horror have, together, introduced more creatures to haunt our nightmares than can be tallied. From vampires to werewolves, and aliens to hyper-intelligent computers bent on destroying all organic life; horrific creatures have populated the collective imagination of humanity for decades now. However, the two archetypes that both fiction writers and movie directors go back to again and again are the two that will endure forever in our mythology: the always loveable zombie and the despicable robot. But why is this? Is it their similarities, or their glaring differences, that make zombies and robots "fresh" and new every time they’re trying to destroy the world?
Together, zombies and robots have without a doubt attempted to conquer, or at least destroy life as we know it on, this planet more often than any other combination of would-be genocide initiators. These two groups pose, quite possibly, the greatest known threat to humanity, other than humanity itself. Their single-minded determination to destroy their enemy, us, makes them fierce and daunting opponents. Also, their seemingly limitless tolerance for physical abuse makes them next to impossible to defeat. Neither group will desist in their efforts unless they are completely destroyed, both on a whole and singularly. The only thing they care about is the rending of human flesh and the eventual destruction of humanity.
Furthermore, as neither group is known for their ability to think for themselves, they are easily brought into line by mad scientists and insane necromancers alike. This is not to say that zombies and robots are incapable of thinking for themselves. Once one makes a break from the classical interpretations, zombies and robots are capable of almost anything. Zombies with cognitive functions, such as the ability to speak, have been responsible for several ground breaking insights into the zombie psyche, such as the reasons for their non-stop onslaught against humanity. And robots are more than capable of functioning as independent entities if their human creators programmed them as such. As either unthinking automatons or intelligent creatures, they are an incredible threat towards the lives that they hope to extinguish.
However, zombies and robots are distinctly different creatures from each other. While zombies are natural creatures, created from the remains of a deceased human, robots must be assembled by either some misguided fool or by other robots. And, while zombies can be raised by a living human through black magic, they are commonly just the dead - expelled from Hell for reasons varying from "no particular" to Hell being too full to contain them. Their existence is perpetuated by mystical means; robots owe their mockery of life to science and technology.
Another difference between the zombie and the robot is that zombies are usually without central leadership, regardless of their intelligence level. Commonly, they are just a mindless horde, roaming the earth endlessly. Robots, in large groups, are most often led by a computerized over-mind, which can direct the actions of all its robotic minions simultaneously.
Perhaps the greatest distinction that can be drawn between zombies and robots is their very different reasons for wanting to wipe out humanity. Robots see themselves as the heirs apparent to the throne of Earth, and humans as their only competition. Not only that, but robots also see humans as the main threat to the survival of the robot race. Since all evolved creatures will attempt to save their species from extinction, robots seek to wipe humans off the map in an effort to save themselves.
Zombies, on the other hand, do not kill humans in an attempt at self-preservation. All zombies, from the mindless to the intelligent, are killing humans for two simple reasons. The first is that zombies simply hate humanity, since we have life, and they are shambling monstrosities who are not allowed to die. The second is that the consumption of a human brain, and the electrical impulses contained therein, relieves the constant pain a zombie is in from being one of the undead.
Luckily, it doesn’t appear that either group will be menacing us any time soon. The field of robotics lags far behind where it was predicted to be at this point in human existence. And zombies are mostly only seen in cultures heavily steeped in voodoo and dark magic, making them too few and far between to be a viable threat at this time.
Despite their rarity, however, it can be seen that, despite some differences, they are both very similar groups on the whole, and should be treated with a healthy dose of fear and respect. They both exist, to the human mind, primarily to erase us from this planet, regardless of the reason. Both are difficult to defeat in large numbers, though neither is likely to rise up at any point in the foreseeable future. It is safe to say that zombies and robots are merely two sides of the same coin, if that coin is the one that may eventually destroy all humanity.