Saturday, September 12, 2009

Fresh breaking waves of the digital sea...

Last weekend I went out to see the movie Gamer. I was really intrigued by the little bits and pieces I'd seen in the trailers for the film and wanted to see how the ideas would play out. I have to say that I don't want to spoil the movie for anyone, but I may give away some details so if you really want to see it without any bias then you might want to hold off on reading this until later. That being said I thought the movie was fairly good overall, although I felt they overkilled the gratuitous sexual content and could've spent some more time digging into the questions and themes they were trying to develop.

I'll break it down for you as simply as I can without giving too much away...Imagine a time not too far into the future where technology has made large strides in the arena of "virtual" reality. The first big step came with the introduction of a single chip cell that could be implanted into a human brain that would then replicate itself and come with the ability to receive signals from an outside electronic source; in effect making the newly chipped individual able to be controlled by someone else. This new technology is first introduced to consumers to be used in the format of a new program like The Sims or Second Life, but instead of creating a new virtual avatar, someone signs up to get paid to be another person's character and has to do and say whatever the person controlling them makes them. this becomes wildly successful and the technology is expanded to create a type of war game filled with prison inmates being controlled by others, and if they can survive 30 matches they win their freedom.

Anymore would simply be giving the whole movie; but what really got me thinking, and what I wish the filmmakers had spent more time on instead of hedonism and nudity, is the questions the very idea of technologically altering our physical make up brings. Are we really willing to sacrifice our humanity for a possible technological fountain of youth? Are there really people out there willing to allow themselves to be altered in a way that would allow someone else to control their every word and move for a preset period of time in exchange for a paycheck; even if it meant that they could be made to dress or act or speak in ways that they wouldn't dream of on their own? And what would drive someone else to actually pay for the rights to control one of the others; to act in ways through them that they couldn't on their own?

The biggest question encompasses all of the others: What does it mean to be human if we can make ourselves into something beyond it, good or bad? I mean the potential is there in what is being developed today to have impacts in the arena of health and medicine that would be beneficial to the entire world and is certainly a good thing, but those same things also might have a potential to be used badly. There are a lot of people today that play The Sims and visit Second Life and I wouldn't say that either of these are bad things, but there is the potential in both for it to be turned into a reality that the individual confuses with or even prefers to their real lives. If you could join a program where you had the ability to physically control another human being in a life or death situation, and your actions would determine whether they lived or died...would you? Would you want someone controlling you in the same situation and not have the ability to control the outcome?

I'm really just thinking out loud here...I don't necessarily have the answers to these questions...and maybe that's part of it...dialogue and conversation about the direction our society is moving at a rapid pace...

What does it mean to be human?

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