Viper Squad Ten

[ Monday, August 30, 2004 ]

Electric Dreams
Starbuck [19:10] Comments: 0 []
After the recent declaration by a proportion of the scientific body that Blade Runner was the best science fiction film of all time, this weekend I decided to reacquaint myself with the Directors Cut again. I'd become fairly obsessed with the original as a kid, and all in all I must have seen both it and the Unicornified version scores and scores of times. And lo it was good. Still.

Another film touching on some similar themes of artificially-created consciousness is I, Robot. Despite mixed reviews I was looking forward to seeing this on the big screen, as I did also this weekend, as quite a few people had recommended it to me, and I'm a big fan of most of the Fresh Prince of Bel-Air's body of work. As I've not read any of Asimov's stories upon which it was loosely based I experienced the movie solely as is. Which was a thoroughly enjoyable and thoroughly modern blockbuster - classily spectacular without being too insulting to the (above) average viewer, despite the cynical product placement and the sub-Carlton Banks one-liners.

And I thought to myself whether Blade Runner would have such an effect as it has if it was first released today. The possibilities brought about by todays CGI technology, whereby anything is possible, encourage a very different style of film-making. Everything is so instant, so rushed. The SFX in Blade Runner are of another time; certainly not inferior - the model work of the hovering craft still looks stunning - its just that graceful movements colour the film far more strongly than frenetic technical wizardry. But also it was the work of a stubbornly-great director, as opposed to a film-by-focus group.

Its difficult to compare such movies, so different and yet so similar, when one film is so seeped in familiarity and nostalgia to oneself, its name still etched unerodoed within the annals of cinema history. So I carried out a foolproof experiment - I surveyed a control individual (lets call her Ms SP), an individual who had never seen either of these films before this weekend, and asked her which was the more enjoyable movie. The answer - I, Robot.

The scientific conclusion (using the word "scientific" in the loosest sense - hey, everybody's doing it - just look at "Doctor" Gillian McKeith) - I, Robot is better than Blade Runner.

But I digress (without digressing as such). As a sci-fi fan, its interesting how all of the ideas thrown into the mainstream movie melting pot come together, different ideas extracted from the works of the better sf authors only to be used and reused in different contexts by others. In a way it creates a basic truth which becomes hard-wired into We, the audience. Which is probably why I proceeded to work I, Robot somewhere into the Matrix universe. But then again, I am not only boring but deeply sad.

And if you yourself are so bored as to still be here, seven paragraphs later, then you may want to hear my musings on consciousness, both self- and un-, as explored in various pieces of sf. Stuff about metaphysics and the mind, neurone ultra- and morphological super-structure, and the functional units of behaviour within a system. The concept of humanity and "artificial" interpretations of it. Are we not, after all, just a bunch of algorithms, integrated in impossibly-complicated manners; defined by our parameters and shaped by variables? You might even want to hear about Durm Chamine, my old VSX band-mate and navigational computer, and the time that his neural network got fried by a Pulsar-Probe tachyon beam. He may have lost a sense of his artificial personality and self-awareness, but at least he was throwing blistering beats out all over the shop (ship).

You might want to hear about this, but my dinner's ready. Time to die(t).

Instead, go and read Stephen Baxter's Phase Space. I'm halfway through this ex-scientist's collection of short stories exploring humanity and consciousness within the vastness of time and space (or something), but each one so far has left me reeling with wonder.

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