“An untold future lies ahead, and for the first time, I face it with a sense of hope. For if a machine, a Terminator, can learn the value of human life; maybe we can too.” — Sarah Connor
I was a kid when I first heard this quote, and It was shocking how we could even think of machines having feelings. Even more, it was interesting the idea in that quote referring that human beings don’t appreciate life.
At that moment I wasn’t a big fan of terminator and to be honest I’m still not the biggest follower, yet, that bit of the end of the movie was nailed into my memory even -especially these days- several years after.
Some years after Terminator, the first movie of The Matrix was released and from the very first time, I was hooked into the whole concept, the world, the characters, the problem though never stopped to think about some of the reasoning behind that movie, just thought, “man, that’s cool!”
There was no literal messaging, just the whole concept to me was exciting and in part was what took me interested in programming and to be honest to try to be “different” because, you know, it felt good at that age to be Neo and I’m not going to lie it still does!
I’ve watched The Matrix so many times, but never really thought to myself what it meant to me or how I would connect it to The Terminator until these days.
It has been more than a year that I’ve been commuting to work. Takes me around 30 to 60 min to get there, during which I do some headbanging at the sound of metal music, read tech books or stare at the traffic jams going on the city. One thing I do from time to time is to watch other people behaviors while listening to music, just because sometimes is a good way to keep your mind away from work, to think of something else for a change. One of those days I started experiencing that the more people jumped into the train, the more evident was a particular behavior: Everyone on the train was holding their phones! I was shocked seeing how everyone would go through whatever they were seeing with just barely blinking. The most concerning part to me is I ignored this before because I was looking down to my phone.
You may think, well it’s 2019, it’s been like that for a couple of years now, so what’s the big deal?
One of my objectives for the previous year for me was to be more in contact with the external world. Doing so took me to really notice how bad it is. What I think it is sad, is that from the moment I forced myself to lay down my phone, was the moment I realized how the world looks like, how all these situations deeply connect with movies that date back at least 20 years behind the current times.
It’s more common now that I find myself watching others during commute just because I want to see how smartphones are influencing normal human behaviors. Every day you can see things like people bumping into each other without apologizing. Parents so into their phones that they forget to watch their kids, couples that won’t cross a single word for a whole 30 more min ride and going to touristic places is a bit of a nightmare especially when everyone wants the same selfie to post it to Instagram.
In 2019 we can say there is a fair amount of technological advances in software development, all of them at our reach thanks to our ever-connected smartphones. Apps and tools, in general, are getting smarter to provide more profound or more personalized experiences to users but none of them is even close to creating something so bright that would or could outreason a human being (At least not yet).
Thanks to smartphones, humankind is being alienated of its true nature, and the best part of that is it didn’t require machines to be self-aware, feel or think but a bunch of brilliant, hard-working developers. We are preferring contact through limited voice messages rather than having a real talk. We are interrupting real conversations to read what someone else texted you. We are caring more about the unknown folk cat rather than the friend in front of us looking for advice. We seek to be more connected to people “we care about” creating connections that are meaningless or superficial. We are caring too much about how others see our “perfect” lives, and all this is more accessible thanks to the apps we love and use on our daily basis.
Human beings are a social species by design, and in my opinion, and it’s natural to try and find connections or to look for a tool that makes us socialization simpler. But the way we are “socializing” is not the best way. If we care more about the digital world than the real one, our reality can be easily replaced by an idea that would not necessarily be the truth just only what we want to see. We are digging our own tombs and allowing controlling mechanisms. We are the ones that are creating these situations, and if we don’t change that, we will be seating on chairs with screens on our faces all day (Wall-E?), or is that happening already?
Movies like The Matrix, Terminator or any other film in that genre is they all refer to the times (in a made-up future) where there is a machine take-over and we humans are enslaved to their will. Even with a slight difference in their main argument, they all seem to concur to the fact that controlling humans is best for the sake of the world.