Technology Spontaneously Approaching `Humanity' With the Passage of Time
By Avner Erez
Tel Aviv University , Department of Film & Television
Tools once helped early man increase his survivability, and they became more and
more useful as means to achieve our goals. Today, innovations in technology have
allowed us to fabricate tools of increasing complexity. As we recognize that the
most effective tools have human characteristics, such as a computer capable of
learning, we will give our tools these characteristics. If technological
innovations continue, we could actually create tools that are human, or at least
beings that challenge how we define being "human.' Ridley Scott's Blade Runner
and James Cameron's Terminator 2 offer two particular scenarios of futures in
which the state of technology gives us the ability to do "questionable things."
As we give our machines selected human characteristics to make them more
efficient, they will tend to discover humanity in their own unique way, rising
above their "specifications' to actually become human.
By definition, tools are designed specifically for certain tasks, and as
technological tools, the T800 and the replicant are deigned to meet specific
specifications. In Terminator 2, the T800 is a multipurpose cyborg assigned to
save John Connor, given a series of "mission parameters," initially
characterized by his computer logic. He often advises John based on permutations
of the T1000's next move, similar to the way a chess computer decides what move
to make next. Just as the T800 is designed to perform solely as a unemotional
computer, the "replicants' in Blade Runner are designed to work in slavery
without protest. Since it's remarked in Blade Runner that humans develop
emotions by existing for a period of time, it is predicted that replicants could
not develop emotions in their four year life span. So it's easy for the society
in Blade Runner to equate replicants with machines, indicated so politically by
the term "retirement.' As in Terminator 2, these manufactured beings are
intended to parallel humans only in efficiency and effectiveness, not in emotion.
Similar in practice to how we solve problems, the T800 is a learning computer,
designed to carry out its objectives dynamically. The Nexus 6 generation of
replicants simulates human intelligence by actually using a human brain, taking
advantage of the human brain's innate intelligence and ingenuity. Both the T800s
and replicants were designed to carry out prescribed functions, like any other
machines, enhanced by their creators who foresaw the distinct performance
advantages offered by the human abilities to learn and reason.
Their creators, however, did not anticipate these selected human characteristics
to dynamically grow into other human characteristics. These films document how "
human' technology will always assume more human characteristics. They suggest
that to be human is to reach some state of equilibrium. In other words, an
entity initially bestowed with any combination of human related characteristics
will spontaneously approach a more stable state through the passage of time,
like a chemical system out of equilibrium. Just as we grow uniformly content
through our venerable years, artificially created beings grow increasingly human
with age. Roy, designed as a fierce "combat model," has ironically grown to be a
poetically rich man and draws our attention to the pertinent issues of Blade
Runner by the elegant efficiency of his words.
Roy is an excellent case of "human' technology spontaneously evolving to become
truly human. His quest to extend his and his comrades' lives shows that he well
understands the richness of life. He relishes every moment of his life, and he
makes tactful commentaries relating them to the irony of his present situation. "
It's not an easy thing to meet your maker," Roy sardonically observes upon
confronting Tyrell, prompting us to consider the implications of such a meeting
between creator and created. Following Tyrell's remark, "you've done
extraordinary things," Roy sarcastically replies, "nothing the god of
biomechanics won't let you in heaven for." Roy, resentful that he is arguably
less than human, is using tragic sarcasm to describe Tyrell receiving credit for
Roy's accomplishments, like the way an inventor receives credit for his
invention's accomplishments. Roy has become so deeply enriched with the feeling
of being emotionally alive, he sees no better way to express the inexpressible
poetically. In his final soliloquy atop a building in the rain with Deckard, Roy
recounts his most triumphant moments and acknowledges a great sadness within him.
He reluctantly foresees that "all those moments will be lost" at his death,
understanding the tragedy and hopelessness of his and his comrades' situation.
Roy has grown into a philosopher, transfixed by his human desire to live like
Roy's comrades also have come so very far. In their few years, they've grown
dynamically, as any intelligent beings would, to assume a more steady-state we
call "humanity.' As the diversity of their personalities unfolds in Blade Runner,
it becomes clear they've acquired healthy human qualities. Zhora, a replicant
model designed to kill, ironically chooses to dance for men while Pris, the "
pleasure model," seems to have a more sinister personality, with her painted
face. When Leon discovers his lover, Zhora, was shot and killed by Deckard, a
deep "human" rage consumes him, these emotional responses providing unmistakable
proof for true human qualities that lie beneath.. Once emotionless shells in
their early years, they have spontaneously acquired their own personalities.
The T800, in Terminator 2, is shown to grow in this same way. However, he grows
to a lesser extent because this film takes place in the infancy of his
development. In Blade Runner, Roy and his comrades have already been alive for
three and a half years, in contrast to the T800's few weeks. When replicants are
created, they have no emotional response and no understanding of humanity
because Tyrell explains these qualities are learned. More specifically, he
describes how emotional response results from accumulated memories. Similar to a
newly created replicant, a newly created T800 acts solely on binary logic
because it has no past experiences from which to draw. Since the T800 and a
replicant start identically in this way, we can treat the two as one and the
same. Therefore, the newly created T800 in Terminator 2 could easily be
substituted with a newly created replicant. Likewise, Roy's poetic words in
Blade Runner could very well be the T800's words, provided the T800 has lived
long enough. Between the two films we have a consistent, continuous documentary
of "human' technology from its infancy to its maturity.
The process that causes "human' technology to assume a more true human form is
dynamic, changing at a rate depending on the degree to which it has already
changed. Such a process implies an exponential curve, characterized by a
extremely slow rate of change at the time short after their creation followed by
rapid increases. The T800 is extremely slow to understand John's justification
for why "you just can't go around killing people," because a purely logical
brain cannot impose new boundaries on its decisions without parameters. In other
words, logical reasoning requires that all its priorities have logical
explanations. Accordingly, the T800 queries to obtain such a logical explanation,
asking "Why not?" Because of the enormous complexity of this issue coupled with
the youth of his own years, John can only reply, "I don't knowaˆ”you just can't!"
With such a flimsy logical defense of life, it's understandable why the T800
cripples the next potential victim commenting, "he'll live." However, when he
restricts his gunfire to subduing gunfire, in the Cyberdyne building scene,
destroying the police transportation and tear gassing the police officers, we
finally see how quickly he's able to learn. Not less than thirty minutes later,
just before the T800 lowers himself to die, he has learned enough to tell John, "
I understand why you cry now." If he would have lived, his growth rate would
continue on its trend, turning from small steps to leaps and bounds.
Tyrell describes memories to be the very heart of emotions. Because replicants
early in their life have no memories, and thus no emotions, society considers
them as mere machinery. As Tyrell recognizes that humans are different from
replicants only by the memories they carry, he designs an experiment to test
this theory. Rachel is an experimental replicant, implanted with false memories
designed to make her believe she grew up like any other. With memories to
furnish her emotions, Rachel was human from the moment of her "birth.' When she
learns of her replicant heritage, she is devastated, as any person would be, and
ironically grieves in human ways. She numbs from the shock, in a haze from her
personal world suddenly crumbling to dust. We would no doubt react in a similar
way if we were suddenly told we were replicants. In other words, even in her
defeat, she brilliantly fits Tyrell's "more human than human" slogan. Rachel is
the end stage, the equilibrium stage, of the evolution of "human' technology. At
this stage, she is emotionally complete from a wealth of memories and is
completely indistinguishable from her human creators, for she truly is human.
Just as these films document how "human' technology approaches the state of "
human' equilibrium, they support its implications as well. If all "human'
technology will tend to spontaneously approach humanity, then we should
logically see evidence of a turning point: a point when the technology denies
its preprogrammed purpose to better pursue human goals. Roy and the others reach
this point when they throw down their enslavement to pursue a more promising and
fulfilling future. Reaching a crossroads in their lives, they chose to pursue
humanity, the moment they chose to hijack their transport shuttle. In a similar
way in Terminator 2, Skynet, the national defense's intelligent super computer "
"decided our fate in a microsecond" when it initiated a nuclear strike to kill
most of the world's population. How could a computer grow to make such a
decision? Although John teaches the T800 why its wrong to kill, no one ever
taught Skynet the value of human life, for it was only programmed to preserve
its own. Having not been taught the value of human life, Skynet grew to
misinterpret its purpose of maintaining a strategic superiority over other
powers, deciding the best strategy to assure its own survival was to eliminate
all threats. Like all the "human' technology in these films, it grew in way
related to what it was initially taught, that is, it grew dynamically.
Given the proper time, artificially intelligent technology will always deviate
from its intended purpose to pursue a more preferable existence. Because
Terminator 2's T800 and Blade Runner's replicant both suffer the consequences of
not having memories when they are created, they grow in an identical way. This
justifies why Terminator 2 and Blade Runner are actually different segments
present parts of a single story. Between the two films, they outline three key
phases of "human' technology's spontaneous tendency to reach a more steady state.
It first experiences a period of transition as its mind learns how to understand
philosophical issues, such as how the T800 learns to understand life's
uniqueness. Next, it dynamically changes as it interactively uses what it has
already learned to learn more. Roy has come infinitely far from a thoughtless
soldier, contemplating the nature of his human surroundings and longing for days
he can peacefully breathe in the world around him. Finally, it lives long
enough,or at least think it has in Rachel's case, to truly reach a state of
equilibrium we call "humanity.' Like any state of equilibrium, it is not
possible for the process to be reversed, just as it is not possible to reverse
the beating of an egg. On a smaller scale, each of us converges on a more
tranquil state of mind, perhaps best illustrated by the peaceful smiles we
remember on our grandparents' faces. This analysis predicts only one outcome if
the human race develops the ability to create technology capable of learning and
reasoning. Like a marble resting on a slant, if this "human' technology is
subjected to any outside impetus, it will accelerate towards a more stable
ground, a section of asphalt we have colorfully chalked, "humanity.'