A Self-Aware Drone Somehow Doesn't Spark an Instant Robot Apocalypse in This Scifi Short

Image: Dust
Image: Dust

Watching Mackenzie Sheppard’s short Donny the Drone, you might assume that the title character (voiced by Guy Pearce) would become a killing machine soon after becoming self-aware. But Donny ain’t Skynet, and every sentient robot doesn’t necessarily have Judgment Day on its mind. Or does it?


The film opens in 2022, as Donny—a mapping drone who “woke up” after a midair collision with a bird, and now speaks with the lulling cadence of a new age guru—is being presented with a “Person of the Year” award. Since his transformation, he explains, he’s devoted himself to being an ambassador for machines’ ability to help people. But despite Donny’s big award, not everybody embraces his philosophy—or his vision for humanity’s future.

We’ve seen “the trouble with sentient machines” done many times before, but Donny the Drone offers a thoughtful new take on that well-trod scifi territory. Pearce, recently seen playing android and AI innovator Peter Weyland in Prometheus and Alien: Covenant, is a particularly apt choice to voice the drone who gains a soul—and a slippery agenda along with it.


Share This Story

Get our newsletter


Obviously I am here on io9 so I like sci-fi, and I like speculative sci-fi that has little relation to actually existing technology, but people who don’t understand technology shouldn’t write stories about existing technologies they don’t have at least a little understanding of, or use some existing technology as placeholders for their ideologies. Making an AI ‘self-aware’ would be one thing (silly imo, but I’d give it a pass because it’s in the speculative realm of ‘maybe someday if someone actually invents real AI, then maybe someday one could become self-aware’), but using a drone as the self-aware entity which somehow magically learns to talk/speak/communicate in English? And equally magically, understands concepts like slavery and “profiteering” and ‘machines’ and ‘life’ ? I had to stop watching this it’s so incredibly ridiculous, it actually made my brain hurt.

This is no more ‘sci-fi’ than Lord of the Rings.