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Robo-Star, Terminator 3, The Rise of Machines
Journal of a Futurist - 26 May 2003
Murdering The Matrix, marketing missiles, marrying machines
To escape solo to the front stalls of a blockbuster can be a blessed relief from the troubles of the world, and I had hopes for The Matrix Reloaded. The first version - a Metropolis plus spaceships, kung fu, drugs captured the subliminal shift of awareness at the end of the 21st Century. That the natural world was giving way to the New Global Church of the Silicon Chip. The merging of flesh and technology is gathering pace . The victors of the Gulf War are the killing machines, and the shareholders of the corporations who make them. But back to the movies. At the Broadway multiplex The Matrix encroaches on the senses with the first handful of popcorn, as the ads unroll. Scenes from the blockbuster are intercut with scenes selling Mars Bars, or is it fast cars, or is it both? Long before the opening titles, Matrix the movie is promoting Matrix the lifestyle.
The issue at stake is control of the future will it be man or machine? Both in plot and marketing, the machine is gaining the upper hand. The packed houses at the sequels multiple screenings had less to do with artistry or imagination than with the power of Hollywoods publicity machine. Even the stars of the Coming Soon blockbusters, as far as I could tell from the trailers, seem to be cyborgs, one of them as fleshy and enticing as Eve, a bride of the future. (Kristanna Loken, Terminator 3). The first Matrix had charm, quirkiness, a delicious sensation of fear. The new Matrix has a mighty budget and minuscule emotional impact, despite Keanu Reeves interminable orgasm. Still, the underground dance party is fun. Agent Smith, who turns his colleagues into copies of himself, is the parable of Rupert Murdoch.
Overall, Matrix is an arms sellers bazaar, a Star Wars Expo, in which humans are pitted against The Terror. This terror is never-ending, just like the movie itself, which is to be continued, just like the doctrine of pre-emptive strike.
Was it just me, or did anyone else notice that the vilest character in the movie is French? Worse, a Francophile weasel; arrogant, lecherous, pointless; the spitting image of Dominique de Villepin, the French foreign minister who won applause from the Security Council when he warned that an occupation of Iraq would be messy. Hollywood knows who butters its bread.
Nothing Special About Being Human
While The Matrix Reloaded misfired for me, its central thesis is right on target, as the boffins take charge of evolution. The Nobel Prize winners of science maintain that humans are merely a bundle of molecules interacting in accordance with the laws of physics and chemistry, plus a dash of chance. There is no God, no soul, no spirit, no consciousness. Our mind is a product of biology
.nothing else. All living systems on earth, ourselves included, are an outcome of molecular interactions.
This view is not even questioned, says Rodney Brooks, Professor of Computer Science at MIT & the director of its AI lab, just as there is no question that man and potatoes have evolved from a common ancestor. (Strangely, potatoes have more genes). Professor Brooks states that humans are the product of trillions upon trillions of mindless molecular interactions and nothing more. From his perspective, the only difference between an Idaho potato and a couch potato is the couch.
At the beginning of the 21st Century, writes Peter Atkins, an Oxford professor, chemists are in complete command of matter. Atkins expects that by mid century all the bits and pieces of fully synthetic life will be in position, and that the exciting dream of creating an entirely new kind of life will come true. Lets hope its the kind of life thats fun to have around.
Like it or not, the merging of flesh and machines is unstoppable. Its as if Dr Frankenstein is about to marry his own monster only its not a monster after all, apparently, but a kind of saviour, a way for us to enlarge our capacities - repair our organs, extend our age, cure the blind, raise IQs, eliminate disease. Scientists are the marriage brokers, and the rest of us are mail order Russian brides
bound for the Matrix. While this wedlock is supposed to make me immortal, such a prospect is sure to terrify my children.
The Big Picture, the Loitering Assassin
Early last century, we had no concept of anything beyond the Milky Way. In recent years, space probes and giant telescopes have revealed scores of other galaxies, some of them so distant that their light has taken 10 billion years to reach us. Think about it. God only took seven days to create the universe, and were still discovering new bits 10 billion years later.
Almost every day, the Book of Revelations is being upstaged by the revelations of scientists. Trouble is, all the smart ones have links to the defence industries. The best brains of our time are designing tomorrows killing machines how dumb is that? Late in March a missile made by Raytheon in its Texas plant landed in the Shuale suburb of Baghdad, killing over 60 civilians and disfiguring many others. (Robert Fisk reported appalling scenes of pain and suffering in the local hospital, where toddlers swathed in bandages lay on mattresses soaked with blood). A week later, Daniel P Burnham, the CEO of Raytheon Customer Success is our Mission - delivered a speech to the National Press Club in Canberra. During questions, none in the audience, as far as know, mentioned the missile strike on Shuale. According to the speech notes on Raytheons website, Mr Burnham chose this occasion to remind the audience that his firms level of accuracy would have been considered pure fantasy just a few years ago. Then he unveiled some Matrix-like prototypes. One of these is the Non-Line-of-Sight Launch System, also known as NetFires, a product with an all too human capability, the Loitering Attack Missile (LAM). It sounds like the aerial version of a back alley mugger, hanging about in the clouds with death on its mind. God Bless America. Wait a minute, there is no God. Oh well, theres the Fullerton Chamber of Commerce, which has just handed Raytheon its Business of the Year award. Why? For its contribution to education. Of great comfort, no doubt, to the burnt children in the hospitals of Baghdad.
Meanwhile, Back at the Shopping Centre
The research being undertaken by todays retail sector isnt all that far behind the weapons builders. Ninety-five per cent or more of all cognition, all thinking, including emotion, occurs below levels of awareness, so the question some retailers are asking is this: How do you get to know what's going on in the unconscious? Right now, in a hospital in Atlanta, people are being paid to lie inside MRI machines and look at pictures of products while the machine snaps images of their brains. The goal? To learn their real feelings about brands. Known as neuro-marketing & partly funded by Coca Cola & General Motors , it's being hailed as a giant leap in the science of selling. See, our marriage to the Matrix brings us better brand awareness. As I write this, Maxim magazine lands in my letter box, courtesy of its publisher, former Oz co-editor Felix Dennis. It features a Maxim star on its cover, unzipped. Inside, Keanus Matrix shades from Paul Smith, the Digital Matrix Camera Mobile from Samsung, with 40 polyphoninc ringtones
In July, San Francisco will be hosting the annual conference of the World Future Society, of which Im a member. The program outlines a session on asexual evolution entitled, Beyond Cloning Human Printing. This is described as a fast growing field of the bio-engineering industry: The development of a novel, computer aided, jet based printer and thermo reversible gel will allow us to print three dimensional living human organs. The feasibility of this process, according to the program, opens the opportunity for the eventual printing of humans. When Rupert Murdoch gets his hands on this, as he will, it will be time for him to take a Robo-wife and for us to hurl our spanners at the machine.
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