Surrogates   3 comments

I saw the sneak preview of Surrogates last night.  It was fun.  A bit of a small crowd.  Certainly the movie was more enjoyable than GAMER although it had a similar theme.  Gamer was about people being run as robots–Surrogates was about Robots being run as people.

I’m not going to review the plot.  There is murder.  There are cops.  There’s a conspiracy.  The fate of the world is at stake.  It is all rather predictable really.

But the cinematography is good.  It is fun to watch.  Check your brain at the door, sit back and enjoy a movie that’s half Terminator and half Bullitt.  We have met the Terminator and He is Us.

One thing the movie did real well was raise questions in the viewers’ minds.  At least it made me think of lots of questions.  The movie stars Bruce Willis.  I kind of wish Bruce would retire–I don’t want to see movies about middle-aged and geriatric heroes.  As usual with Bruce Willis movies, he takes a licking and keeps on kicking.  He gets beat up pretty good, more than once.  His surrogate gets blown to pieces and crucified.  Question 1: WHY does Bruce Willis always get beaten up in his movies? Is he a masochist? Does he only take parts where he can get beaten up?  It’s all done with stunt doubles, make-up, and cgi.  Is he a pseudo-masochist who likes to look like he’s been beaten up, but doesn’t really want to experience it?  Or is it us?  Do we go to Bruce Willis movies to see him get beaten up?  Do we expect it?  Is that why we put up with his ugliness and mediocre acting talents–because we know we’ll get to see the shit kicked out of him?  Hmmm?

Question 2:  If you didn’t have to be human, would you be? If you could be a good-looking robot with full sensory experience of the world, would you be?  Should such surrogates be reserved for the disabled? Would the government even let us have surrogates? Wouldn’t they keep that technology for cops and soldiers and the obscenely rich?  Would you need a surrogate’s license in order to operate one?  If living through a surrogate was so great, would you ever be willing to go back to being human?  Or would you resent  your mortal flesh?

Question 3: Who takes care of all the flabby, unhealthy people lying in their VR couches vicariously living in the real world?  Why don’t most of them simply die off in a few months? Are they all wearing diapers? Are they lying there all day in their own urine and feces?  Why don’t they all get sick and die?  Do they have iv’s dripping nutrients and saline solution into their veins? Do they disconnect and feed themselves 3 times a day, or 30 times a day?  Do they forget to eat and just die of starvation and dehydration?

Question 4:  Is perception reality?  If you think you’re making love to a hot blonde, does it matter that it’s really a fat slob somewhere in a VR couch faking it?

Question 5:  If everyone is a surrogate, what really happens to morality and society?  Is the person responsible for the surrogate’s actions?  If one surrogate assaults another,  has a crime been committed?  What do you do with convicted criminals?  Do you send their surrogates to prison?  Are people in prison allowed to use surrogates?  The movie said that crime would go down, but would it really?  If one could do anything one wanted without fear of injury or death, what would keep one from committing any crime one wanted to?

Question 6:  Surrogate quality?  The robots came in different price ranges with different capabilities.  We saw some that were little better than department store mannequins, and others that were godlike cyborg fighting machines.  It’s still a world of haves and have-nots.  Wouldn’t there be resentment from the have-nots?  Wouldn’t they go out of their way to break, disable, and destroy the surrogates of the richer classes? Would that lead to robotic class warfare?

Question 7:  Is there life insurance or medical insurance for surrogates? Property insurance? Has to be, right?  These machines would cost more than $100,000 apiece to create and maintain, but they were getting destroyed on a pretty regular basis. 

Question 8:  What about identity theft?  What’s to keep criminals from breaking into people’s houses, strongarming the operators and taking over their robots, then using them for crime? The devices were set up so that all one had to do was put on the eyepads and be in the chair?  For that matter, the surrogates were all controlled by radio, what’s to keep people from monitoring them and jamming them?  Want to cause havoc?  Jam somebody’s frequency so he loses surrogate controll.

Question 9:  Feedback.  In order for people to truly experience what their surrogates are doing, there has to be feedback to the human brain.  The brain would have to get signals that it interprets as real in order to operate the bodies by thought as we operate in the real world.  That would mean the brain that could feel pleasure could also feel pain.  Wouldn’t that be a deal-breaker for the whole idea?

Question 10: What would happen to the world’s population?  With people mostly opting for surrogate sex instead of real sex, there would be a major drop in the production of children?  People would still be dying, but not many would be created.  My guess is that in 20 to 40 years of surrogate existence, the world population would be reduced by 99%.  With that kind of reduction, our high-tech civilization would come to an end–unable to support itself for sheer lack of workers.  Either truly intelligent robots would be developed, in which case Earth becomes a machine civilization before the year 2200, or tech levels fall back to the Middle Ages before the Age of Industrialization.

And that’s just ten questions?  There are lots and lots of issues in the movie, either expressed or implied, that I haven’t gotten to.  One of the questions raised was privacy and control.  Surrogates, operating via radio, could be monitored and controlled, just like cell phones are today?  And they could be shut down with a simple radio command–it shows that in the movie.  How would you feel if you knew that your actions could be watched and shut down at any time by someone watching through your own eyes?

In a world of superhuman robotic surrogates, the only people with any freedom are the ones who opt not to use the metallic alteregos.

Well, just for fun, please pick a question and leave your answer in the comments below.


Posted September 25, 2009 by atroll in Uncategorized

3 responses to “Surrogates

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  1. I’ll take question 2.
    As evidenced by the engineer at VSI Labs who was paused for a moment before answering to his name. People took bathroom breaks, most probably paused at their desks or while standing in an out of the way spot. But the engineer said he was in the bathroom.
    As far as taking care of themselves they had to recharge regularly apparently as evidenced by the number of FBI agents standing around in charging booths.

  2. I’ll take the Bruce Willis commentary.

    I like watching actors mature and the movies they make. Bruce Willis is very much like Michael Caine or Richard Widmark, starting out at very humble beginnings (commercials and TV comedy) and getting mega-star status BUT not getting into only movies made for them. As opposed to say, eh Will Smith or Tom Cruise.

  3. Hey, go easy on Bruce, with all those people beating him up, he deserves to a break.

    I like Bruce, there’s a reassuring familiarity about him. You know he always plays the same part, delivers a good performance and gets beaten up. Plus, while Bruce is busy not retiring, there’s one less role for an early 20s hollywood clone to take.

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