Thursday, March 17, 2011

The Mortal

Occasionally there’s a science fiction plot which involves an artificial intelligence, or sentient robot that goes around questioning its purpose, its reason for existence. I think as an audience we respond to this fictional existentialism with a form of pity. In these instances, the robots, androids or what have you, usually express a subtle envy or jealousy of our humanity.

In the original Tron, I found inspiration in a line from the movie. If you’re unfamiliar, the premise of Tron is that there is another world inside or a computer system or network and the programs perform their functions, much as we go to work or school. All the while they believe in the existence of “users”, mythical creators and benefactors that employ them to do their will and care about their well-being. At one point in the film, the main character, a human, sucked into the digital world or grid, confesses that he is in fact, a user. The titular program then says, “If you are a user, then everything you've done has been according to a plan.”

Ha, you wish.

In both these instances god-like attributes are given to us mere mortals and we feel better about ourselves, responsible for being an example to these wayward entities and desire to live up to our reputation. The alternative, and usually the rest of the plot, revolves around the revelation that we’re no more perfect or self-aware than our artificial counter-parts. Then the remarkable part happens, it doesn’t matter. As with most things revered, it is nearly impossible to fall from the pedestal.

Now if you haven’t figured it out, in these stories we are somehow superior to these, less than human, characters and yet we aren’t made of metal and plastic or have super strength or intelligence, we’re just human. Again, this doesn’t matter, simply because we are human. Is it lonely at the top? In our arrogance do we have to contrive stories that, although cast a spotlight on our weaknesses and faults, still portray us as some sort of god? Maybe it’s not arrogance; maybe it’s self-consciousness that inspires stories like these.

After all, if one day a god-like entity is revealed to us as less than perfect and our own existence is discovered to be a happy accident, where would we fit into the story? How would this make us question our own existence any more than we already do? And so it is, that just like the characters in these stories we walk this Earth in constant search of purpose, a reason to rationalize and justify our existence.

I can say this. Some of the most interesting people in our lives have no idea what their purpose is. It is the pursuit to find that answer that inspires the rest of us. We are entertained, amused, distracted from our lives by the fruits of their labor and the beauty of their lives. In the seeming lack of purpose and the insatiable desire to find a solution to life’s questions, their purpose becomes them. Personally, even though I am unemployed I am not without purpose. I believe that somewhere out there just might be a creator that is not only proud of me, but encourages my own musings and loves me all the more for it and at the risk of sounding pretentious, perhaps I can be an inspiration to others.

End of program. . .

I can be an inspiration to others

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