America 2.0: Rise of the Machines

There was a time when I consumed a lot of science fiction, which was composed of equal parts of books, comics, and movies.  I spent untold hours plowing through the material, and as a result, I developed a great appreciation for the genre.  Science fiction has a rich history, even though it is largely a product of mankind’s fears as a result of industrialization and later, the advent of the atomic age.  Truly, a great deal of science fiction is born out of man’s apprehensions about the inventions that he has wrought upon this earth.  However, the most amazing thing about the genre is how right many of these works have proven to be in modern America.

I suppose that the easiest place to start is with Orwell.  His vision of the future in 1984 doesn’t seem so fantastic in light of the Edward Snowden revelations.  When Snowden leaked information about the NSA spying on American citizens and collecting colossal amounts of data, there were a lot of “tinfoil hat” types who felt supremely vindicated.  After all, you aren’t really paranoid if the government is actually listening to everything that you are saying, are you?  If one stops to consider the government intrusion alongside the fact that almost all electronic devices are now sold with a camera which faces the consumer, an omni-directional microphone, and an ability to connect with internet and share everything that has been recorded; Orwell easily comes out looking more like a prophet than an artist.

This brings me to my main point.  I think that if we look at the Terminator series, along with the Matrix series, that we will see some cautionary tales that we would do well to embrace.  Although I don’t feel like we will be running from robots disguised in human flesh or finding ourselves plugged into a giant human electrical farm any time in the near future, I do feel like I am seeing elements of both franchises come true on a daily basis.

In the Terminator series, mankind was almost driven to extinction at the hand of the machines.  Thankfully, that doesn’t seem to be happening, but we are seeing technology emerging that makes the idea of unmanned machinery oppressing humankind sound a little less crazy.  When we first saw the unmanned Hunter-Killer Drones in Terminator, we thought that it was the technology of the future.  Now, we are seeing unmanned drones being used by the military to conduct operations and eliminate targets around the globe.  With that in mind, it isn’t too much of a stretch to point out that with the right combination of GPS, satellite imagery, and artificial intelligence,  a computer in Utah could easily have the ability to wipe out human beings at any location on the planet.  Scary.

Next, we have the Matrix series, with mankind being subjugated and pacified by machines that use them as a power source.  While mankind is certainly still the primary power consumer on this planet and most would argue that the machines are serving us, I would ask this twofold question:  Are the machines really serving us or have we abdicated our lives to them?

Think about how we’ve structured our lives.  How many of us have a television running every morning while we are getting ready and during meals with our families?  How many of us are slaves to our phones; unable to even have a meal in a restaurant without slavishly staring at the screen of our devices?  Are we really free or are we slaves to the machines that we have built?

Look around.  Are you reading this while looking at your phone instead of your spouse?  When is that last time that you ate with your family without a screened device present?  When is that last time that you went a whole day without watching your television?  When is the last time that you went a whole day without your phone?  When was the last time that you took the time to call and actually speak with someone instead of shooting the a text message?

Let’s face it.  The machines have risen.