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Futurama – Bender and the philosophy of free will

'Futurama' takes on existential philosophy in a hit or miss episode. But we also get to see the incompetent robot elders silence each other and Zoidberg talk about blood and urine.

- Season 7, Episode 9 - "Free Will Hunting"

Futurama is the type of show that can delve into the concepts of determinism through classic science fiction tropes. So when Bender tries to deal with the theory that robots have no free will, it pulls the concept off better than most other shows would. The problem is that throughout all the Futurama seasons there hasn’t been much proof that robots are without free will. While I guess some of their actions are programming, Bender seems to have just as much free will as any human (which is something Amy points out). So to have free will-less robots be a mute point doesn’t feel true to the show.

Am I thinking too much about this? Maybe, but these are the sort of thoughts I have after watching this show. The intelligence in the plot is cool, but this episode does feel like a hot mess. The first five minutes were especially awkward because they didn’t really prove Bender was without free will … if anything it showed that we can’t know one way or another if we have free will.

On the other side of the coin are some nice callbacks to the first season, specifically the robot homeworld with the incompetent robot elders (SILENCE!). I still would have loved for Bender to not know if his free will chip is on or not. It would have made for a much more poignant ending. Overthinking the episode? Look, they’re the ones who brought up existential conundrums. It’s not my fault it could have been done better.

All the best quotes:
“Warning: Do not show to horses.” — Title Card

“Five bucks?! You know I spent all my money on gambling lessons!” — Bender

“I learned something. Life is about decisions. Make the wrong ones and you’ll wind up face down in a pool of your own blood and urine.” — Bender
“Still, to have your own pool!” — Zoidberg

“How does a robot join this monk outfit?” — Bender
“Just put on this monk outfit.” — Robot Monk

Photo Credit: Comedy Central

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