Doraemon is not the benevolent support robot we all know. No, he is a latent menace to the future utopia we have seen. He might be the ticking time-bomb that could change the future from a utopia to a dystopia.
So I’ve been perusing through my dusty Doraemon comics since I have nothing better to do. The last time I read those comics was around 10 years ago. At that time, I thought of Doraemon as child’s wish fulfilment. I mean, who wouldn’t want a robot that could give you awesome gadgets anytime you wanted? If you had tough homework, you could easily use the Computer Pencil and get it done in a jiffy. Of course, 10 years have passed and now, I see things differently. And by “different”, I mean in a pessimistic view. Thank you, Hobbes and Orwell. You really fucked my mind good.
Anyway, I have came to realize that in a society where Doraemon, or more specifically his gadgets, exists, would not be a good society.
What is Doraemon?
Those who have watched the movie(s), the anime series, and read the comics, should be familiar with what Doraemon is. He (or it? I’ll explain later) is a robot created in the image of a feline that has the ability to generate a variety of nifty gizmos to help Nobita in his various 4th grader problems. Basically, he is a technologically advanced Baymax.
Not only is Doraemon a generator of all the nifty gadgets that stem from the imagination of a ten-year old kid, Doraemon is also an example of a perfect AI. Heck, you can say that Doraemon has surpassed what we would assume as a mere “robot”. Doraemon is portrayed perfectly as a human; he exhibits emotions, such as joy when he eats dorayaki; wrath and vengeance when confronted with a mouse; sadness when he runs out of dorayaki; but most importantly, Doraemon can actually love, a trait that robots are supposed to be bereft of. In the comics, Doraemon is sometimes shown being love-struck by female felines. He abandons all rationality, just like humans when in love,
Based on that, is it appropriate to still say that Doraemon is a robot? Does he not satisfy the parameters of being “human”? Well, if you define a human strictly in biological terms, then no, Doraemon is still a robot. Perhaps the more appropriate term is “person”, as the word implies emotional and existential parameters. Should Doraemon be classified as a person? You can safely assume that Doraemon’s AI has reached the level of “near-person”, or you could just assume Doraemon is, by all means, a person.
Of course, our technology has yet to create a robot that can perfectly emulate all human emotions (read this, this and this). The most challenging aspect of “humanizing” robots is that humans think and act in a non-linear way, while robots process actions based on predetermined algorithms. Baymax, while being a robot with an advanced AI, still pales in comparison to Doraemon.
The Hyperdimensional Pocket and the Gadgets
Moving on from the fact that Doraemon is an advanced AI, let’s talk about Doraemon’s main feature: the hyperdimensional pocket and all of the nifty gizmos inside it. The gadgets are perhaps the most interesting and mysterious features of the Doraemon universe.
Supposedly, Doraemon has a gadget for any situation. Some gadgets have godlike powers, such as the Time Machine, with the power to travel through time; the Anywhere Door, with the power to go anywhere anytime; the Moonbeam Torch, capable of changing your DNA into a wolf’s; the Sentient Fertilizer, capable of making a tree become sentient (see vol 33 of the comics: Sayonara Kibo, or the movie); and etc. (for a list of Doraemon’s gadgets, click here).
Where do these gadgets actually come from? The comics provide very little explanation on that matter. To understand where the gadgets come from, we would have to delve into Doraemon’s backstory. The movie 2112: The Birth of Doraemon does the job nicely.
Doraemon was manufactured by a company called Matsushiba Robot Factory. The movie explains why Doraemon is blue, has a coarse voice, and fears mice. Doraemon was then picked by Sewashi, Nobita’s great-grandson, and then brought home. They became great friends. It was Sewashi, Nobita’s great-grandson who bought Doraemon for Nobita and sent him back in time to improve Nobita’s life.
In the comics, Doraemon often returns back to the 22nd century to purchase some gadgets that he lacks. He also occasionally receives packages from the 22nd-century department store. This would imply that Doraemon’s gadgets are mass-produced and available to the masses.
And this is where it gets interesting. Let’s put Doraemon aside now and focus on the gadgets.
Power in the Hands of Many: Chaos Waiting to Happen
When you think about it deeply, Doraemon’s gadgets have immense power yet Nobita can’t do shit with them because he’s a moron. But what if the gadgets were used by someone other than Nobita? Perhaps a more intelligent person. Thus, we would have two scenarios: the gadgets are used by either a benevolent or malevolent person.
If a benevolent person uses the gadgets, then they would use them for the sake of good and what is morally just. In the comics, Nobita often uses the gadgets in such a manner to help others, such as the Time Remote Control, which he uses to save someone from losing a precious vase. But most of the time, Nobita uses the gadgets in a selfish manner, only in the end to be thwarted by his own stupidity.
Let’s take the Telephone Box, for example. The Telephone Box is a recurring gadget in the comics with the power to change reality according to the user. In “The World Without Sound” chapter, Nobita uses the Telephone Box to create a world in which sound did not exist to evade the prospect of listening to Giant’s shitty voice. In another chapter, Nobita uses the gadget to reduce inflation, allowing him to purchase a house and be a billionaire with only a few yen. Since Doraemon is supposedly a series for children, we are never presented with any hardcore scenarios tied with the Telephone Box. Being the malevolent asshole I am, I could have just easily wished for Armageddon through the Telephone Box. Perhaps there are a set of unwritten rules that govern the workings of the machine; we still don’t know for sure. But for now, let’s just assume that there none, considering that there is still no evidence that supports the existence of such rules.
Now that’s just the gadget used by a single person. Since the gadgets are mass produced and available to many, what kind of chaos would happen if everyone used the Telephone Box simultaneously? Wouldn’t reality be skewed and bent so drastically that it might have a possibility to actually break down?
For another example, let’s take the staple Anywhere Door. Now, when Nobita uses it, it’s because he has to go somewhere (duh). Often times, he uses it to go to school. On other occasions, he uses it to barge into Shizuka’s bathroom. But what if the Door was used for malicious purposes? In a chapter in the comics (that chapter when Suneo suddenly becomes a detective after reading a single book), the Anywhere Door was used to infiltrate a wealthy household. Of course, Nobita’s intention was to safeguard the household from an impending burglary. They traveled back in time to catch a burglar. But in the end, he and Doraemon end up being the real criminals. So, a combination of the Anywhere Door and the Time Machine are tools for a perfect crime. Add the Pass Loop and you have the three essentials to become a futuristic Lupin. And apparently in the future, just about anyone with the money can purchase these items.
Another important example is the Time Machine. Given that almost everyone has a Time Machine, imagine how messed up the time-space continuum would be with hundreds of people messing up historic events. The results would be catastrophic.
Let’s take Doraemon’s weapons. Doraemon’s weapons are mostly non-lethal, such as the Air Cannon and Air Gun (which shoot pressurized air at people); the Shock Gun (basically a potent taser); and the Super Gloves (which instill Herculean strength on its wearer). While intended for defense, they can be used for offense as well, as demonstrated in the climax of Doraemon’s Adventures Vol 10: Nobita and the Animal Planet. Now imagine everyone armed with Air Cannons walking the streets, claiming they’re carrying them for self-defense. Sounds like America, doesn’t it?
Futuristic Constant War
The future world in Doraemon is often described as a perfect world, where people and robots live happily together and people’s lives are easier due to technology. Of course, that’s because Doraemon only wants us to see that bright side. For every yang, there is a yin. There has to be a darker side to the future. And I’m guessing that it is in its early stages.
Remember that the gadgets and all the advanced technology are widely available to the population.
This would mean that even criminals can access these gadgets quite easily. They just need to walk into a nearby department store and leave with a sack full of Pass Loops, Anywhere Doors, and possibly Air Cannons.
Heck, advanced AI robots like Doraemon are available for sale. Despite their AIs reaching levels of a person, they are still AIs, meaning that their algorithms can be tweaked. All you need is a genius hacker/engineer and you can turn Doraemon into a ruthless Terminator. In Big Hero 6, Baymax was also turned into a killing machine with a simple AI chip swap. Who is to say that Doraemon does not have an AI chip slot? It’s probably located in his necklace.
This means that future law enforcement is locked in a constant arms race against criminals. Criminals use gadgets to cause harm in innovative ways; the police have to stay ahead to prevent such crimes. In the comics, the Time Police, the authority that governs time travel, occasionally appears. This implies that there are indeed misfits that abuse technology in the future.
Have and Have-nots
But it is not petty criminal acts that I’m concerned about. I’m surprised as to why the people in the future aren’t rebelling and killing one another in a bourgeois vs proletarian war.
The utopian assumption is that inequality has been erased due to Doraemon’s gadgets. The people of the future can produce food from the basic elements, people are no longer homeless thanks to the Paper House, and people can be clothed easily using the Cosplay Camera. The three basic needs have been fulfilled, maybe inequality has been erased? I’m guessing not.
Coming back to the point that these gadgets are sold in stores, this would imply that only those with wealth can purchase these items and actually make their lives better. Given the selfish nature of people, I doubt that all will be good enough to give a fuck about the have-nots in society. I do like the idea that in the future, perhaps inequality has worsened to the point where people are classified into two types: those who can afford gadgets and those who can’t. Getting all Marx here, eventually, those without gadgets will realize that they are being oppressed by the “haves” and will rebel, causing the future world to deteriorate. To counteract this, the government would need to be a strict Leviathan government that enforces strict laws, bordering on draconian, to limit the use of the gadgets. But then again, a despotic government would only provide more incentives for rebels to overthrow the government, making it a really confusing world were ideas and people would be in constant clash.
A Doraemon future would suck.
Would a Doraemon future be a future we would want to live in? If we only see it through the “good” perspective, it is what we all dream of. But the “evil” side says otherwise. A world where Doraemon’s gadgets exist would be a world that has more advanced criminals and potential dissidents. Normal people given gadgets with godlike powers would tend to corrupt and use the gadgets for their selfish (often malicious purposes). Of course, this would mean that the future government would need to be a strict Leviathan government that borders on despotism to control these evil forces of humanity. Instead of an idealistic utopia, perhaps the future world is a dystopia, a world where the government is cruel, and the people depressed; not the utopian world that Doraemon actually shows us. Mass production and availability of gadgets might help a few, but for the rest, for those who cannot afford the gadgets, well, tough luck, enjoy your inequality.
But yeah, that’s just a theory… AN ANIME THEORY! Thanks for reading!