Friday, August 19, 2011

iPhone Diaries #401 and Movie Review: "Surrogates"

Borrowed this movie from the library for an evening of mindless pseudo-entertainment but I was disappointed. True, Bruce Willis sleepwalks through the movie, being typecast as the Bruce Willis in the Die Hard series: a police officer who is shocked into doing the right thing when the powers that be harm his family. This film could almost be a straight-to-DVD movie.
The movie's premise is simple: in the not-too-distant future, people live their lives through perfect surrogates (robots): forever young, always healthy, perfectly coiffed, and in a word: perfect. The surrogates are manufactured, maintained, and powered by a single, monolithic, corporation.
The original intent of the surrogate technology was to enable the disabled and the handicapped, as well as anybody with a perceived (or imagined) weakness, to function as well as everyone else. In actuality, everyone has a surrogate for the same reason people take drugs or have cosmetic surgery done. It's  gratification without the effort: it's instant. It's also addictive.

Thinking along these lines, human nature being what it is, i.e., taking the path of least resistance, taking the cheapest, laziest route, less obvious parallels emerge. Here's a few:
- buying that $19.95 espresso machine from Ikea. The manufacture of this item ( in China, most likely) involves exporting pollution and the disposal of this item (guaranteed to break down in a few months) adds clutter to our environment. Question is, does one really need this machine? Does one really need to fly somewhere for a "holiday", with the attendant aircraft-air pollution, just because one can afford it?
- patronizing the popular coffee franchise with its cheap (and tasteless) product instead of spending a few more cents for fair-trade coffee, just because the franchise coffee is cheap?
- using pharmaceuticals to deal with symptoms instead of recognizing and treating the underlying physical and mental issues, just because popping a pill takes seconds as opposed to the alternative of working towards a solution?
- putting processed food in the microwave instead of cooking from scratch, day in and day out, just because it's convenient?
- depending on, and misplacing our  faith in governments and religious institutions to do what's right... taxes and tithes aren't always spent properly, just because we're too lazy and too "busy" to monitor it
- depending on a handful of cereals for the world's supply of food, forgetting the lessons learned from the Irish potato famine... just because the rice variety we have now is cheap to grow.
- depending on  networks of computers, on cloud computing, on overseas servers for information management, just because its convenient and "efficient". The art of the long division is being lost to the dollar-store calculator.
- maintaining one's silence when the world is full of inequalities. Silence is tantamount to guilt, just because silence is easy.

So back to the movie. 
Forgetting for a moment the error in the concept of surrogacy, the problem with this  surrogate network was it's monolithic, centralized structure, unaccountable to the elected government and prone to being hijacked for other purposes. Which is exactly what happens.
It's a Hollywood movie so Bruce Willis regains his family (at least his wife). But real life is adifferent matter.
An hour or so of mindless, stupid  entertainment ends up  a sobering exercise in blogging a rant!

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