Tagged: Sci fi

Grandfather’s Bollocks Drive the Bus

T’other day, as we colloquially state here in the North of England, I was cut up, another idiom, by an old lady riding on one of those mobility scooters. Let me describe the scene to you. I was stood at a set of pedestrian crossings waiting for the lights to change, and just as they did a figure sped past me and cut across where I was walking so they could go at a right angle to my direction. It was an old lady, I would hazard at least an octogenarian, on an electric scooter.

There is a growing usage of this type of device as the cost is driven down by availability and numbers. For those who genuinely need them, because of limited mobility or health, they are a godsend. There is though a growing usage of them by the terminally lazy or indolent as well, with a particular problem with obese people, where does one draw the line, should they preserve their health by being carried everywhere resisting stressing their organs, or is this causing further health issues as they have a lack of exercise?

I also cast my mind to the thoughts of science fiction and science fact.

There are many films showing the usage of electronic devices to control and support us, from the chairs in Wall.E to the support unit that does everything in Roujin Z sic-fi authors have predicted the reliance on, and shown us an issue with, our fascination with technology as an aid to our lives.

Recently science has shown that we can start to map language using electrodes attached to the skull, as predicted in the Clint Eastwood vehicle Firefox. Charlie Brooker predicted that this form of technology would lead to the end of the world within six months. His basic premise is true, the randomness of thoughts that go through the head could imply that you’ll be sat next to your child watching kids TV and then suddenly an Internet search will reveal something similar Teletubby Porn just as an ageing relative walks in, then within six months our basic nature will lead to the end of everything.

However, I am not convinced that the researchers will not encounter this issue themselves and have to build in specified content filters. You can see the scene, the first time they hook this up to a young male researcher and tell him to think randomly or relax and let his mind wander you are going to be presented with a variety of images including such possible delights as a giant paedo bear urinating over the felating corpse of a zombie Queen Mother. So there will be restrictions and filters, there will be controls to help prevent this event from occurring.

So we will go into the future with machines increasingly being controlled by impulses from our bodies and replacing bodily functions. To be honest once we have the basic biological form we can start to replicate out the need for certain elements. We can replace lower limbs with wheels for motor location, we can take away most of the torso in fact, the only thing we really need are the brain, the spinal cord and the reproductive and sexual organs. We can feed the organs that remain using a suspension liquid with nutrients inside it, there can be electrodes that provide external stimulus such as sight, sound, touch, taste, smell, heat etc., directly to the brain. We can recreate direct visual worlds similar to proposed in the Matrix right into the brain.

There is, by the way, a good reason to save the reproductive organs as this allows us to have a good mix of DNA for the continuation of the species, but we need only keep them until they reach maturity and then the necessary parts can be harvested at regular intervals in the male and removed entirely for offsite storage if wanted by the female. We must save the sexual organs as this way we can feel actual stimulus of a pleasurable or painful nature. Although I am sure we can simulate the sensation to the brain of an orgasm it will be far better to continue to feel it. Sexual interaction forms a strong part of what defines us as a species and as individuals so losing this would be facile, especially when it can be utilised.

I don’t see the need for their to be a conscious decisions in this future made by people. ┬áSo we are developing cars that can park themselves, that can measure distances and adjust their speed, that have emergency braking systems and collision alerts. Cars and vehicles will soon drive themselves, but we as humans will worry that humans have been taken too far from the mix. We should have some form of an override, and this cannot be just a thought as you may randomly think don’t brake, or wish in a moment of anger on a phone call to a distressed lover that you would rather the car crash itself and at which point you are suddenly driving at one hundred miles an hour into the nearest concrete pillar.

The safest situation would be to wire the response to danger mechanism to the humans central nervous system. It would also be faster. If all that is needed is an affirmation, then why not have the pain or pleasure response mechanism affirm it. If it is a recognisable danger the human is alerted via the means of an electrical impulse and if it responds the action to negate the situation is taken. That way we can have no need for a conscious decision, there is in fact no need for a brain at all. We just need an acceptable organ to be in control, something that will give a response to stimulus.

The sexual organs being the part of humanity we have saved after the birth and cyborg process would be an ideal component to wire into this. Driving well, doing one’s job well, in fact any interaction that requires a human decision as a failsafe or affirmation would be a sexual sensation.

Therefore one day grandfather’s bollocks may indeed drive the bus.

Monsters (versus Aliens)[1]

**CAUTION: THIS POST CONTAINS SPOILERS ABOUT District 9, Monsters

On the flight from Manchester to Orlando recently I managed to catch up on a few films I had missed at the cinema in the past few months, amazing what a new baby does to your social life, one of these movies was Monsters. Monsters drew parallels by some critics and audiences to the previous years District 9 as they are both by first time Writer/Directors, both scifi movies and both have extraterrestrials in them. But this comparison was unfounded and unfair to both movies.

District 9 is an odd movie, it starts almost as a social parable reflecting on Alien integration in South Africa and their confinement in camps or ghettos, there is a reflection of South Africa’s turbulent past pitched into the nature of the film making it immediately thoughtful and blessing it with the commentary on the regions past and present. The aliens are misunderstood both socially and culturally and forced to move into deeper draconian control and our sympathies are directed towards them.

Once the movie has established this premise it turns into an invasion flick with an infected host[2] and then into an action movie that Arnie would be proud to be in. The movie therefore sat uneasily as its tone wasn’t balanced. Was it commentary or eye-candy, thought-provoking or mind-numbing, you could take your pick. It certainly spanned across genres and it was *very* entertaining. The direction was superb as were the performances and the sleight of hand in both film making and story telling well done with the plot events harder to determine than first imagined.

Monsters on the other hand is a drama. The sci-fi elements in this movie are used simply to highlight the director/writers motifs and allegories. He could have easily have used a zombie plague or a viral infection to achieve some of the same effect[3] in the surface notion of a world split by the need to control an aggressive enemy.

The “monsters” of the title are seemingly unthinking creatures who devastate lives and communities almost without meaning. The director uses them to portray different attitudes that can be given to the same impetus. The Mexican/South American people have learned to live with the encroachment, seasonal disturbances and death whereas the American (USA) attempt to force control or wall in the threat. The US attempts to control using force are debated upon as they are seen to aggravate the creatures, the effectiveness is called into question throughout the movie and is even seen to cause needless disruption and eventual failure of this type of approach in later scenes. The monsters are seen a forces of nature by some of the main protagonists, they are simply responding to and living with their environment, though as the movie develops the creatures and give some hint as to an unknown intellect with them analysing television performance and communicating with each other in some manner.

Into this mix we have the central drama facing the characters, a woman dislocated from a family she seems emotionally detached from and a man forced to have no attachment to a family he so clearly craves. The developing bond between the two leads and the cleverly constructed performances (though I have to say the male lead was the finer performance in my opinion) draw the audiences sympathies. It is a credit to the director that he almost unobtrusively allows these two to develop themselves as opposed to pushing onto us there evolving nature. Their approach to the creatures and the situation they witness, the male lead is a photographer whose initial stance as a journalist merely there to document is gradually eroded by the circumstances in the film as he is embroiled in the conflict.

Monsters, therefore, is a more rounded drama, the film knows where it is going and its tone stays consistent throughout. It does suffer somewhat from a lack of dramatic tension during the middle third of the film, and at times the female leads is called on to be a little too detached from her surroundings, though this does balance well with her being drawn into the real world around her and experiencing it rather than ignoring or running away.

This is by no way a judegement on either film, I would happily watch both again and would probably give them similar scores if asked to grade them as they both have a multitude of different advantages to perk my interest.

I think District9 has more immediate re-watchability as its pace is snappy and it is easy to stay focused as you are not called upon to use *too much* brain power. Monsters requires a lot more engagement from the audience as its central themes are questioned and challenged in the layered narrative[4] which left me feeling questioned and reflective.

I wish we could stop the poor comparisons that are made between films[5] and attempt to analyse them for their own worth. I have always maintained that comparative analysis is derogatory[6].

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[1] By Aliens I am referring to District 9 as it had an identifiable intelligent Alien species whereas the alien species in Monsters was not so clearly defined.

[2] Overtones of 50s Red under the Bed socialist-sci-fi-parables mixed in with 80s re-reading of such movies.

[3] Though the use of zombies or a virus would mute the impact, it also would be at odds with some of the themes that are expressed and without as much implication and toying with our sympathies as it is easy for us to instantly be against Zombies/Virusses as they are immediately bad.

[4] I felt that in Monsters there was a slight overuse of dramatic pause that perhaps added to the feeling of a slow middle section.

[5] I guess they are encouraged by studios and marketing departments as linking your production to another that was successful rewards you with bottoms on seats, the issue for me is that degrades both films, especially films like these which are so different that the only element that links them is EBEs.

[6] Comparisons are often used as they make it easier for us to relate to things, I know they are necessary I just wish people were more aware that they are degrading the item, and themselves if the comparison is flimsy.