Wednesday, June 02, 2004

Humans Vs. Machines

Humans Vs. Machines

The story of man vs. machines comes from the fear of the unknown. The interesting stories are the ones that can almost be believable and writers have made a career out of scaring society with the idea of machines rising up and getting the better of us. What do most people
know about machines? They're designed purpose is to do a job that we no longer have to do and as long as it's working and serves our needs, why is it important to question how? The problem is that given enough time, no one will remember how the machine works and this is when people's fears can take over, they start imagining a race of machines enslaving us because of its abilities and we won't know how it's going to happen. It's a very understandable response.
You might say to me that you don't understand how a car runs but is there any horror fiction about cars killing people? Actually yes (Christine) but that's different although it does exploit the fear of the unknown and in this case the unknown of the spiritual world and not a mechanical evolution. People have had the experience of dealing with combustion engines in automobiles for over 100 years. If the cars haven't risen up against us by now, it's not likely they're going to. Besides what can they do? Run us over? "Whoa, whoa. You better watch what you say about my car.
She's real sensitive." People are scared of the evolution of machines, the potential they have given their abilities and not so much the current state that they are in serving us.

And what an evolution machines are having! The computer - a marvel performing calculations with lightning speed, not unlike the human brain. So not only do you have the fear of the unknown here, but a computer personified does a better job than us, smarter than us. How can we fight a superior enemy? Witnessing the rapid advancement of the machine coupled with not having the knowledge to completely understand how it works and you've got a formula for a good ol' fashioned scare fest. This is definitely a human trait. Fear is so interesting.

So computers do these amazing things, as the technology gets better and as its function improves increasing its responsibilities therefore our dependence, less will be understood about computers but who cares, it gives me information, communicates with my family, automatically orders supplies I need and lets me move my finances around without entering a bank. Computers are harmless... for now. But they're evolving and very quickly. Evolving into what? What could it become one day? Our imagination is limitless in this area. Enter the Man vs. Machine story that we can almost believe, have to believe because we don't know any better.

The unknown isn't fully to blame for fear. Extinction is the base of all fears, death to oneself or family. Wars perpetuate this feeling of danger, so do disease but that's not so rampant now adays. The baby boomer generation group was in the midst of the Cold War, Freedom vs. control, democracy vs communism, U.S. vs. U.S.S.R. There's always been something there to remind us of our mortality and although we may not consciously think of it on a daily basis, the thought that we could be wiped out in moments (using technology by the way) is always in the back of our mind therefore fear is always present. We are conditioned to fear as long as war is rampant. This isn't a political statement that war is bad, maybe it's good we always fear something, I'm just exploring the emotion here.

Image 1: The T-1000 in Terminator 2: Judgment Day
Image 2: Morpheus and Agent Smith in The Matrix
Image 3: Master Control Program (MCP) in Tron