Pacific Rim: The Problem of the Wall

If you haven’t seen the incredible greatness that is Guillermo del Toro’s PACIFIC RIM, this article may make no sense to you. It also contains spoilers.


I loved PACIFIC RIM. I cared about the characters, and they weren’t all white and male, which is always nice to see. Also I cared about the INCREDIBLE ROBOT BATTLES WITH GIANT ROBOTS which I am quite enthusiastic about. In discussing it with my pal, something came up in regards to the global shutdown of the jaeger program:

was it ever revealed why the politicians wanted to shut down the program? they heavily hinted that it wasn't a principled decision, but they never revealed the reason.


My purely speculative answer is that, like the US Space Program, Jaegers had become commonplace and there was no political capital left there to justify the (presumably) massive budget. As shooting things into space is the closest thing we’ve got to giant robots, I thought the parallel worked. I also caught an implication that there was political pressure to throw weight behind a job-creating wall–an economically less-risky thing than making giant robots to do epic battle. Plus, a giant public works project in the midst of a worldwide depression is absolutely a massive economy booster, especially compared to Military-Industrial complex rockstar robot jockeys.

The giant wall is certainly a dubious solution for an ongoing threat, but the Jaeger program was so routine that, except for that math scientist who noticed the escalating pattern, people just thought the kaiju would show up randomly and get handled. This was all so lightly touched upon in the film, but I really think the connection to the slow shutdown of the US space program is the clear implication here.

Wall-e: Foreign Contamination

Wall-e Ponders

I recently watched Wall-e again, this time with my wife and our 6-month-old daughter. (She was captivated by some of the movie, but then she was captivated by the straw in our drink until she fell asleep. All in all a good first time at the movies.)

While watching, my nerd-self noticed an issue that I had yet to see addressed: robot communications and operating systems. In our modern world, things rarely “just work” when it comes to computers. Especially when dealing with connecting new systems with old. Or systems that aren’t built to interact. In Wall-e, he and Eve have very little difficulty communicating (despite some initial roughness that I’ll touch on in a bit). They easily interpret facial expressions, gestures and auditory cues from the other robot. It’s because of this that I think that

All Robots in Wall-e are Built on a Common Operating System

Wall-e and MO

Call it WinRE (Robot Edition) or MacOS R or Robolinux, but they all are able to communicate effectively with each other. It could just be a standard communications protocol (requiring a protocol droid..?) but I think, with the inherent laziness demonstrated by Buy-n-Large, it’s more likely that all the robots run the same OS. Imagine: rather than having to write different operating code for each type of robot created, they just install the standard WinRE (or whatever) and click the checkbox for Wall-e (or EVE, or MO, or Burn-e, or Wall-R or…)

This also brings us to a second thought about the robotics programming of Wall-e:

Wall-e has a virus.

It seems that most if the robots in Wall-e are not self-aware. They simply go about their tasks mindlessly, following their initial programming. I think the only exception (a robot programmed to be aware) is the auto-pilot.

Most of the robots lack self-awareness until Wall-e comes along. Wall-e has accessed deeper functions of self-awareness and seems to have also developed a Genuine People Personality (GPP). This is likely from a programming bug; he constantly replaces his hardware, so it can’t be that. His version of WinRE, though on wall-e settings, has somehow gained access to functions reserved for other robots. Wall-e’s bug and subsequent GPP is so profound that it seems to effect (and infect) many of the robots he comes across. From MO to the typing bot who learns to wave, Wall-e’s influence causes most robots to discover themselves.

I think EVE has some version of this bug too, which is what makes them such good soul(-bot)-mates. But this post is getting a little longer than I feel like making it right now. So, I guess I’ll come back to that.

Wall-e and EVE