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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

any other.

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 know—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.'

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