Sunday, January 09, 2011

Not my review of Tron: Legacy

So, I am not reviewing Tron: Legacy here except to say that I really enjoyed it quite a bit. Sure, there are some flaws in there, but overall it was a very worthy successor to the classic original, and a phenomenal viewing experience. There's something else in this movie I want to talk about though, and I think it's a huge and profound idea; one which will not be evident to many for years.

See, the original Tron, for all its neon and primitive graphics was pretty well rejected at the time. It was something of a financial flop, and a lot of people really did not get what they were saying. The movie however inspired some fresh young minds, and in their way they have fulfilled the prophecies of that film. Wired Magazine in this article makes the case far better than I can, but in short, Tron predicted the concept of life inside a digital environment. Anyone who has wasted too much time on Facebook, or spent hours interacting with others in a Massive Multiplayer Online Role Playing Game (MMORPG) have run their programs on the grid, little avatars making life decisions of a user in the real world. That's why this flopped cult film, some 28 years later, resonates. The generation who grew up on the internet get it. The film was prescient.

I am here to tell you, Tron: Legacy does the same thing, but with a different subject. I have not seen any reviews talking about this particular subject, which is why I think it may be a sublime prediction which will only be widely recognized when it starts to happen in the real world...if it isn't already. Minor spoilers ahead if you have not seen the film, but nothing integral to the fate of the characters.

In the film, the artificial "digital frontier" Kevin Flynn creates, the Grid, is intended to be a perfect environment. Soon after its creation however, the "ISOs" begin to appear: Isometric Algorithms. Digital lifeforms, self-aware equations. I think this is where the latest Tron chapter becomes predictive.

You all know I believe in God, and though sometimes I waiver on what I think that means, I do believe the universe exists out of intent. Further, I think part of that intent is that life exist. I think life is far more resilient than we believe it to be. Now, one doesn't have to tap into theology or philosophy to find this idea. Recently, we the human race had to completely redefine our idea of what life even is, though many are arguing in this case it is more a possibility than a new type of life. Yet from the tops of mountains to the bottom of the sea, we have found life on Earth is more prevalent than not, and little clues indicate Earth may not be the only stage for life. Regardless of how harsh the environment, it would seem, as Jeff Goldblum says in Jurassic Park, "life, uh... finds a way."

We have created a new type of environment in the form of our various computer driven networks. As information flows to and fro, programs and viruses take on independent traits in simulations of intelligence or sentience. They reproduce themselves to ensure survival and distribution. How long until simulation becomes de facto sentience? How complex must a simulation be until it is no longer a simulation? There is an environment in our networks, and as harsh as it may be, what if life, uh... finds a way?

This is going to happen. One day we are going to gaze into the looking glass of the world wide web, and something will look back and say, "Mama?" The universe wants life to exist, and like bacteria which thrive on poisons, or how some simple proteins started working together and began to eventually ask itself "why," some program, some equation, some isomorphic algorithm will one day wake up in the soup that is the internet. I don't say this with a sense of doom in a Skynet sense; I say it with a sense of wonder at God's great Universe. And when it does, we will look back and say, "wow, that Tron movie was right!"

Now hopefully they will all look like Olivia Wilde.

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