Elena Stidham is a journalism and telecommunications major and writes “Loud and Clear” for The Daily News. Her views do not necessarily agree with those of the newspaper. Write to Elena at email@example.com.
The most hauntingly human words I have ever heard came from a being that never contained a heartbeat.
“My battery is low and it’s getting dark.”
The Opportunity rover relayed this message in June 2018 without a hint of emotion. Very simply, she was relaying data, but for whatever reason this status update had carried the loneliest weight and an indescribable burden of sorrow. It’s as if she knew she was going to die.
I wasn’t the only one that mourned the loss of Opportunity on February 13. . The fact we even declare robots dead is a wonder in itself.
When I saw the overwhelming love pour from humanity, I couldn’t help but wonder: why do we love these things? Why do we mourn and cry over things that are incapable of doing the same? Why do we feel attached to our Roombas, and why did NASA sing “Happy Birthday” to Curiosity when a machine is never actually born?
The more I thought on this the more I was convinced of two different options, but when I thought on it even furthur, I realised they were both fragments of one complete idea.
It is human nature to love, to want to love, to be loved – but loneliness is an inherently human trait as well.
I was always the kind of person that would select the kind dialogue options in video games because I didn’t want to hurt the character’s feelings. A fictional, programmed character with set dialogue for any option, a character in which I could do and say anything to without any repercussions, but I would always still choose to be nice. Why do I do this?
I believe it is because as humans we love to love. We’re social creatures; we’re always looking for love in different ways, whether it be as friendship or through a date.
But we’re also alone. As far as we know, we humans only have each other and whatever creatures here are left. We are so desperate to love and to be loved that we have started to cling onto the first things that share any spark or resemblance to human beings.
We believed in , a space shuttle orbiting the earth and flying every kind of mission it could before its retirement. We believed in , a Mars rover climbing mountains on the red planet and finding more potential for life sustainability. We believed in , the twin to Opportunity, covering the other side of the planet and finding evidence that there was once water there. And of course, there was Opportunity. NASA eloquently named these little rovers after everything we hold so precious and dear to us.
While these things may not be human, every intention behind them is human in every way. We wanted to reach out to the stars and love, and so we built these robots to send this love in every direction.
We are so lonely, so incredibly lonely that after so long of wondering, we didn’t want to believe we were alone in this universe anymore. We were tired of looking up at the stars with a hollowness in our chest and we decided to reach for them. We wanted to meet new species. We wanted to make new friends that we could talk to and learn from.
Most important of all, we wanted to love.
We live in a world that’s surrounded by the consistent feeling of being lonely. It would be easy to assume that due to us living in an era of mass communication, we wouldn’t feel alone. But a at the University of Pennsylvania found a correlation between social media use and increased loneliness. In a time where communication matters most and it feels so easy to share love through the blankness of a screen, we are isolated; we are more alone than ever before.
There are more than 7.5 billion people on this earth to love, the highest the population has ever been, but we are the most alone we have ever been before.
reported that loneliness in the United States is an epidemic, with 46 percent of Americans saying they always feel alone. It also mentioned that adults now between the ages 18-22 are currently the loneliest generation compared to what came before.
One statistic that shocked me, however, was that only 53 percent of Americans have meaningful, in-person conversations every day.
It makes me think about how, from a very young age, we’re told not to care. We’re afraid to show our emotions and be vulnerable to who we are because we’re afraid to be hurt. We isolate ourselves, from ourselves, preventing us from loving and being loved – which in turn, feeds the never-ending cycle of loneliness we carry.
But then there’s movies like “Wall-E,” that united audiences all around the world to cry over the cutest little love story between two robots in space. There’s video games like Pokemon Go!, where the first week it came out the world came together in this wonderful silence of collecting pocket monsters.
We’re all looking for ways to love, but there’s always been ways from the start.
This is where, I believe, Opportunity opened my eyes. She showed us how desperate we are to love something, and most importantly: how wonderfully unified we really are. If we can all come together to love something else, why can’t we love each other in the same way? I know it’s a childlike thought with childlike intentions, but it’s also a thought that’s never talked about or addressed. Which is why loneliness still remains.
If we can cry over this tiny robot in space, we can cry for ourselves. If we can pour out our hearts and love this lonely rover on a space rock surrounded by stars, we can pour out our hearts for ourselves. We can love each other the same way.
Our world is a lonely world, but Opportunity showed us that there is more than us. She also showed us more than just a little red planet. She showed us who we are, in our rawest, deepest, most complex form: curious, lonely and unconditionally full of love.