Saturday, 13 July 2013

Pacific Rim and The Singularity

by Christopher Barr

“Technology is a state of culture... state of mind... the deification of technology, which means that the culture seeks its authorization in technology... its satisfactions... its orders...”
-Neil Postman

Technological mind-melding, man and man, man and machine, these are some of the concepts explored in the blockbuster Pacific Rim.  In the near future, alien monsters from the deepest crevasses of the ocean, specifically the Pacific, make their way through a portal from their world to ours to kill everything in sight and harvest the land for colonization.  These creatures are inducted into the symbolic order with the signifier “Kaiju” assigned to them.  After killing off a massive amount of people and destroying a lot of property, the technologically advanced portions of this planet design and build gigantic robots, after all the current forms of weaponry fail.  These “Jaegers”, are controlled by two to three pilots whose minds are melded to prevent the neurological strain that would befall on only one pilot.  Their goal is simple, kill any Kaiju, whom themselves are genetically-bred weapons, that exit the portal and make way to heavy populated cities.

Their goal also is to meld seamlessly to their technology, edging even closer to a technological singularity.  Where technology surpasses human intelligence, a time in our future it’s believed, that mind and machine will become one before it advances beyond the point of our ability to even understand it.  Exponential speed increases in computers, nanotechnology, robotics and artificial intelligence will ensure this inevitable growth.   The advancement of the Internet is but a shadow of computation potentiality that awaits mankind as it continues to develop and further technologically. 

Pacific Rim wants their story to be a human one but it isn’t.  It’s human and machine unification, and this unification is celebrated as it was technology that saved the planet from alien occupation, not the human beings “Drifting” inside the robots.  The technology wasn’t available in the 1920’s for instance to build mega-robots to fight mountainous monsters.  It wasn’t spirit and will power that saved humanity.  It was human technology that did. 

Such is the same with Tony Stark and his Iron Man Mark Suits, a machine built by a weapons inventor and all the technological advancements available to a billionaire with unlimited means and a genius brain to work with.

As well as the Bruce Willis, not so good, sometimes creepy, sci-fi movie Surrogates (2009) is similar in the way humans are controlling machines to better them and protect them in some way, in a place where these human beings live in complete isolation and interact through surrogate robots.   Unlike Pacific Rim, they control their robots virtually from home via headsets.

Johnny Depp is set to star in the (2014) film, Transcendence, where he plays a scientist working toward technological singularity, where computers will be able to transcend the human brain.  This sounds like madness in many ways but in some advocating circles, this form of transcendence is looked at as being divine, a way closer to god.

It’s believed by some, and not in the fictional, sci-fi sense, that we will transcend our minds and brains, possibly unloading into a computer and living forever as other machines built self-assembling nanotech that will run this entire world.  Thus providing all the power that is needed in a place where all future machines will be human machines.

This may sound like I’m a stainless steel romantic but I’m not.  I like all that’s organic and subject to Darwinian Evolution.  Like the separation of state and religion, I support using technology to help advance the species but not become one with it. 

First we created God, and then we gave that credit to him, now we have created technology and now we want that very thing to over-take us.  Human beings seem to be obsessed with creating things that can control them.  But yet we are fooled into thinking the opposite is true. 

These are delicate times for humanity, times where we have the intelligence to create a technology that will birth a new age of machines that may not require our assistance to be assembled.  This is already on the contemporary stage in many cases, machines building better machines, human beings participating in technology that will one day make us obsolete.  We are creating a world where we will be no longer necessary.    If we are not careful, it might be the human race being warehoused while a new electronically artificial species takes our place on the top of the food chain.

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