Monday, September 28, 2009

Surrogates, a case for missing the point

One corporation to rule them all…

Sure. Only Apple makes the iPhone, but they don’t make every cellular phone in existence and never would be able to. Wouldn’t there be the i-surrogate and every other surrogate made by other companies? Somehow all surrogates are made by one corporation and one alone in an extremely unlikely coup d’etat.

Ignoring anti-trust and anti-monopoly laws, the existence of this technology, the networks that must run it, the technology, software, and components to them a great deal of how the capitalist world works would have to be swept away for it to function in this manner in the first place.

Where are the accessories and software upgrades written by other companies anyway?

And in one network bind them!

While the networks that drove the surrogates seem to have some sort of wireless technology, apparently it’s all together on exactly one interpolated system. Even in modern day with technologies like cellular this is not just difficult, it’s near impossible. Multiple carriers would be vying with each other for customers, they’d be paying each other to run time on each other’s lines. But this isn’t the worst part about the scenario.


Why exactly would a single computer in a remote city ever be permitted the ability to subject its will outside of its own bounds, and what sort of software would be required to allow it to do that in a physical sense anyway? This refers to the ability for one computer, in a remote city, to affect every surrogate everywhere without even hand waving to explain why.

Why wouldn’t other networks require some sort of negotiation? Other cities, other states, other countries. The information traveling over those wires could be considered subject to different laws, espionage would become a huge issue, Passports and Visas would mean something else altogether. (Or, as the movie suggested, this only occurs in the United States?)

Everyone runs the same Operating System?

Even with the presence of antiquated surrogates, lorries, loaders, pleasure models, soldier models, from mark one to mark fifteen (or whatever) every surrogate runs exactly the same way, on the same software, and connects to the network in the same way. No popular modern technology works in this way and never has.

Where are the DIY hackers? The people who get their kit out of the box and hack it to their own specifications. Sure, there might be laws that make modifying their surrogates a felony—but why would this stop the most staunch technologists? Apparently they didn’t exist in this society for no given reason. I’d be one of the first people to turn automatic updates off on my surrogate. See: experience with Windows OS. A world without Linux geeks to say the least.

Being without a surrogate makes you a bad person.

People on the street treated people out of their surrogates as if they’re making a political statement. They have a derogatory nickname for them: Meatbags.

This ignores the possibility that a person is out on the street without a surrogate because of some other reason. Maybe their surrogate is in the shop and they don’t feel like running an antiquated, stuffy model that they’re not used to. Perhaps they’re going to court and cannot be in a surrogate at the time (see below.) What if they have a disability based on brain physiology that makes it impossible for them to use surrogate technology.

What about the judicial process?

Keying into the fact that people as themselves on the street are “meatbags” and treated as if they’re making some sort of political statement: what about judicial proceedings? Why would anyone except perhaps bailiffs and officers who protect the court (but aren’t part of the proceeding) be permitted to wear a surrogate? Certainly the judge, lawyers, defendant, plaintiff, and witnesses must be physically present as people.

What exactly happens to habeas corpus in a surrogate society? How can a witness work if it’s not the actual person on the stand? Sure, it’s a felony to run in a surrogate that’s not registered to you; it’s also a felony to perjure yourself on the stand—but in the case of perjury in our society there’s no weird concern about identity. We have you, in body, on the stand making comments. What complex, weird, and otherwise highly fallible mechanisms would be introduced to have surrogates go to court and reliably make certain that corrupt non-persons attended instead?

People going to and from court would be walking on the street out of their surrogates.

Violent crime almost totally eliminated… Really?

What precisely caused people to suddenly ignore the fact that while running a surrogate a human is essentially a helpless lump of flesh, laying on a couch, in an easily entered room somewhere. Sure, it’s harder to kill someone in a passion when people look at the other form in front of them—another surrogate—and fights don’t end in death. But how many cold-blooded murders, or otherwise passion-to-cold-blood over a jilted lover would go away?

Steal someone’s wife and they show up in your room with a gun, not aiming the lethal bullet at your surrogate—but at your fleshy brain. It happened in the movie, after all.


I just couldn’t be impressed by how far the movie Surrogates made it down the rabbit-hole of identity with this antiseptic premise. It got one foot in, and then got stuck. That screaming is the sound of it spraining its ankle. Surrogates could have gone a lot further, done a lot better, and told a much better story if it had let the world be a bit more messy than it presented. The premise is too clean, ignores too many parts of the human condition, and promotes a foolish outcome.


My final observation: At the end, Bruce Willis’s character decides that while the surrogate operators are now safe the surrogates could be then destroyed to create a human revolution back to the norm society before their introduction. A radio message while every person on the street fell down “deactivated” their surrogates destroyed, claimed there were no reports of casualties. Sure, it would not mean the deaths of millions—probably just tens of thousands.

What happens to people currently in surgery under the care of surrogates? How about all the roads now clogged with crashed and deactivated cars: emergency vehicles certainly cannot reach them—that’s assuming that the hospitals have been brought back online already because everyone in them also fell over “dead.” How about the surrogates currently doing extremely dangerous work on buildings with fleshy people in them? Or, surrogates piloting vehicles in the air (planes crash!) and driving trucks filled with dangerous chemicals colliding in the middle of cities, or near population centers as their drivers are suddenly taken offline.

No. This decision may have been less horrible than killing everyone with a surrogate but it’s equally reckless endangerment and mass murder through reckless disregard for human life.


Antonio Estevez said...

Although you pointed out tons of flaws in the movie, sadly enough there are probably volumes more to say about how poorly this movie presented what could have been a fresh, intriguing premise. Damnit Bruce! I was unwillfully talked into seeing this last saturday. At least the previews before the movie started were good.

Kyt Dotson said...

The part that I liked the best out of this movie is how beautiful Bruce Willis is. The juxtaposition between Bruce the surrogate vs. Bruce the actual person helped me understand a little of how I perceive human beauty.

Surrogate Bruce reminded me (eerily) of how I've been watching Moonlighting -- particularly because one of my friends grew up on it and I didn't know what it was. But really, I found actual Bruce to be far more handsome than surrogate Bruce (in spite of the nostalgia) and it's because beauty is rough and gritty and unrefined. Whereas the surrogate beauty was uncanny, machined, and perceived of strange symmetry.

Of course, most of my objections to the movie are narrative and literary problems. I am a writer not a film student. I suppose I did come to this movie hoping for something a lot more dimensional than I got.