Wednesday, June 17, 2009

New Divide

There seems to be an ever-increasing synchronization between human and technology with every passing day. More and more we find ourselves connected to and dependant upon the pieces of technology that we integrate into our lives. I can't remember the last time I went a day without sitting at a computer keyboard, even for a few minutes. I haven't been without a cell phone at my side in 5 or more years. My iPod travels everywhere with me. This is communication and information and entertainment on demand.

My father hates the idea of all of it, but the fact is that the technology isn't bad or evil or malicious any more than it is good or kind. The way we approach the technology, however, might be something we can adjust. There is an entire realm of science fiction dedicated to the "robot apocalypse" future, where man designs such vast and powerful machines that he loses control of them because he misused them.

That sort of thing just doesn't parse for me. Machines aren't going to get smarter and eventually take us over. That sort of fiction is created for movies like "The Matrix" and "Terminator". If there's one thing that I am certain of it is my eternal love affair with pineapple. Just after that, however, is my certainty that man will be the ultimate cause of his own evolution and demise.

It's no secret that I'm a huge "Transformers" fan. I was my favorite cartoon as a kid and I read the comics then (and now). I saw the first movie at midnight of the day it opened, and I'll see the second one as well. But as I've gotten older, "Transformers" has gone from a childhood fancy to a compelling narrative.

Like man, the Cybertronians (Transformers come from a planet called Cybertron) are sentient beings with emotions and social bonds. Unlike man, they are nonbiological life-forms. In the current continuity of the Transformers comic it was hinted that the Cybertronians were originally biological creatures who slowly evolved by incorporating more and more technology into their bodies.

As someone who expects to have communication devices available for permanent grafting, to be living in a world with real cybernetic organisms within his lifetime, I find this very intriguing. The reality inherently behind fiction is in the lessons which remain for us to learn from it.

Transformers is not a happy story about families and living together, but rather a war story. Having destroyed their own planet, squandered its resources, and battled one another for millenia, the Autobots and Decepticons accidentally bring their war to Earth. An eternal struggle for power and dominance by different factions with different ethical, spiritual, and political views. In the "War Within" series, even the two primary factions split further, dividing the Cybertronians into little cadres, each staking their claim on resources and territory. All at war.

I'm not saying that technology is the reason for all of this, but I think a fair warning should be placed on where we go from here as a species. If we want to be connected to one another and to the world that sustains us it would be wise for us to be cautious about the methods we use. No amount of technology can overcome dogmatic religious or political differences. It is only through the application of reason and empathy that we can be at peace with one another and our world.

If we can learn that defending peace, justice, reason, and empathy are the lessons I learned from a childrens' show of all things; from Optimus Prime, Bumblebee, Jazz, Prowl, Ironhide, Cliffjumper, Grimlock, and even from Megatron and Starscream, and all of the rest of the Autobots and Decepticons...well, there are religions that don't teach these lessons so well.

The fear should not be that the machines will take over. As we become more alienated from one another and from the world we should fear most of all losing our humanity; losing the connectedness of intellect and of emotion that we take for granted. We have to learn to be actively involved in our lives from moment to moment and across the course of time. We have to learn to connect the immediate temporality of the now and the eternal fluidity of how we exist within the flow of time. For the Transformers, this is accomplished through the Matrix of Leadership and the Allspark, powerful ancient pieces of technology that anchor their beliefs and that hold the keys to understanding their existence. I doubt that we will be so fortunate as to find the technology that can answer these questions for us, but I am certain that the answer will never be found in selfishness, greed, or hatred.

Until all are one.

No comments: