It’s Elon Musk’s recurring nightmare that artificial intelligence becomes self-aware and destroys mankind. Blade Runner 2049 is the visual representation of that nightmare’s roots taking hold.
Blade Runner 2049 is a fantastic film worth seeing in theaters despite the underwhelming box office revenue in the United States thus far. The suspenseful science-fiction film that spawned this sequel didn’t do well at the box office either, so expecting this one would is a mistake of the producers. But the movie is no mistake. In fact, it was born because it was “wanted” -- or rather, needed.
I could tell you how the set design alone is an accomplishment never realized in the history of cinema, or that Ryan Gosling gives a performance reminiscent of Drive. I could tell you that computer-generated imagery has never been so vivid and felt so real. But Blade Runner 2049’s subject matter is more relevant than ever before, with bio-engineered human beings quickly becoming a reality, as evidenced in the latest edition of Mother Jones.
Replicants are bio-engineered to be exactly like humans in every way, except they’re stronger (and smarter) and allegedly unable to reproduce (that’s what they said in Jurassic Park, too), making them ideal slaves for building infrastructure on other worlds awaiting human colonization. That is until they run, as slaves are apt to do, despite an attempt by humanity to control the slaves through vivid, fabricated memories. This is all closer to science-fact than science-fiction given the vast advancement of research in genetics and artificial intelligence.
According to Rowan Jacobsen’s article for Mother Jones, “Scientists have already identified a handful of rare gene variants that seem to be upgrades of the standard version most of us possess.” For instance, “A variant of the LRP5 gene results in ultradense, nearly unbreakable bones” -- a sort of super strength that’s on display during a fight in the opening minutes of the movie.
Choosing your child’s genes is one thing, but the real fear comes with the ability to mass produce slaves, upon which, in some form, privileged humanity has and will rely for survival. That day is fast approaching and could very well be realized by 2049.
“Last year, a team of scientists in Japan took the skin cells of mice, transformed those cells into eggs, fertilized them, and implanted the resulting embryos, which resulted in the birth of 26 healthy pups...It shouldn’t be much more difficult to do the same thing with humans.” Male skin cells could be used to create embryos just as easily as female skin cells, so same-sex couples could have children that share both parents’ genes, with the parents picking the genes of their preference.
The Matrix touches on this idea that humans can be “grown,” and in vitro fertilization was already 22 years old at that time. Within the next few decades, human reproduction could not only be achieved without sex, but without both sexes. Stanford biochemist Henry Greely calles it Easy PGD (preimplantation genetic diagnosis) in his book The End of Sex.
Jacobsen reveals that “Easy PGD will be far cheaper than IVF is today,” and “prices of gene printing have already plummeted. The cost of printing a base pair of genes has plunged from $600 in 1980 to a fraction of a cent and is continuing to drop...the cost of synthesizing genes had dropped to 4 cents per pair of DNA letters and was continuing to halve every two years.” When the benefit outweighs the cost, you can be sure someone will attempt to profit.
Artificial intelligence might be a bit further behind genetic reproduction research, but creating a human-like mind that can learn and replicate feelings isn’t inconceivable. Despite Musk’s fears of AI, the Autopilot feature in his Tesla vehicles is already turning machines into taxi drivers -- giving machines the keys to the most dangerous tool on the planet. One AI unit even predicted the result of the 2016 U.S. Presidential Election. Another, designed by Google, learned and beat Go -- a game more complex than chess.
So we have a means for slave-making already in the works. Surely the first avenue investigated will be the creation of sex slaves, a la Ex Machina. Regardless of the avenue investigated, the result will be the same. Replicants will question the definition of humanity because of the inhumane actions of humans creating self-aware, stronger, smarter beings to act as slaves. Replicants will begin to see themselves as an upgrade -- an evolved race -- and when the first replicant is born rather than built, their beliefs will be substantiated.
Famous indie movie Executive Producer Harvey Weinstein has been fired from The Weinstein Company. Last week the NY Times broke a colossal story alleging decades of harassment and abuse by movie mogul Harvey Weinstein. Over the weekend, the New Yorker followed up with From Aggressive Overtures to Sexual Assault: Harvey Weinstein’s Accusers Tell Their Stories - detailing two decades of Harvey’s sexual harassment, sexual assault (up to and including rape) and his threats of ruining careers to cover it all up.
Harvey Weinstein, the man behind some of the biggest indie hits of forever. All of Tarantino's films, Kevin Smith's movies, Oscar Winner's - The King's Speech, Silver Linings Playbook, Shakespeare in Love -- to name a few.
Actress Rose McGowan came out almost a decade ago and told her story of being sexually assaulted by a studio head. People took her seriously but didn’t take her that seriously, because, at the time, she refused to name names. Citing the fact she still wanted to work in Hollywood and knew if she named the specific person, he would probably destroy her career. But this week, as several other women have come forward, Rose finally confirmed her assault was at the hands of Weinstein.
Angelina Jolie, Gwyneth Paltrow and several other actresses going back two decades have come forward with stories of sexual harassment or worse, at the hands of Harvey Weinstein.
This weekend, Paltrow went on record that, when she was 22 years old, Mr. Weinstein summoned her to his hotel suite for a meeting about her upcoming film, “Emma,” which Weinstein was Executive Producing (i.e. - putting up the money for) and had just cast to play the title role. Paltrow says that it wasn't "a meeting" at all. Harvey sat her down and began massaging her (without her consent) and then suggested they head to the bedroom.
She said about the incident, “I was a kid. I was signed up (for Mr. Weinstein’s movie), I was petrified" and later, “I thought I was going to get fired.” She turned him down and fled the room as fast as possible, confiding in her then boyfriend Brad Pitt. Pitt immediately confronted Weinstein and told him to leave Paltrow alone and never bother her again. Weinstein responded by warning her not to tell anyone else about his come-on or he would ruin her career.
Brad Pitt’s people have confirmed both facts that Paltrow told him about the incident and that he (Pitt) confronted Weinstein.
Brad Pitt. One of the biggest movie stars in the world. Pitt knew in 1996 that Weinstein was a creeper. Which means, I suspect, that lots of other people have known over the years too.
And nothing ever really came of it.
The Paltrow incident was twenty one years ago. And it’s just now coming out that he allegedly harassed, assaulted and raped women for two decades.
I hate to say this but -- a powerful man in Hollywood abusing his position and targeting vulnerable young women for assault -- doesn't exactly shock me.
I’m not even shocked that it took so long to come out. The Onion’s aptly titled ‘How Could Harvey Weinstein Get Away With This?’ Asks Man Currently Ignoring Sexual Misconduct Of 17 Separate Coworkers, Friends, Acquaintances sums this position up nicely.
There are probably a lot of people complacent in Mr. Weinstein's abuse but one thing is certain, the man commanded immense power. Do a quick Google search for “Harvey Weinstein” and “careers he’s ruined” and you’ll see what I’m talking about. He bred fear. And so he was able to get away with it.
The assault allegations have rolled in and due to them, Harvey Weinstein’s wife has left him and he’s been fired from his job -- from the company he co-founded.
That’s all good. But it’s not good enough.
I would like to mention that all the allegations against Harvey Weinstein are just that, -- “allegations.” Harvey Weinstein certainly deserves his day in court. But just as in the Bill Cosby case(s), when that many women come forward, you can rest assured both men are guilty.
I hope Weinstein gets his day in court.
And then I hope he goes to jail for a very long time.
The National Sexual Assault Hotline : 1.800.656.4673 available 24 hours a day through RAINN.
RAINN (Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network) is the nation's largest anti-sexual violence organization. RAINN created and operates the National Sexual Assault Hotline (800.656.HOPE, online.rainn.org y rainn.org/es) in partnership with more than 1,000 local sexual assault service providers across the country and operates the DoD Safe Helpline for the Department of Defense. RAINN also carries out programs to prevent sexual violence, help survivors, and ensure that perpetrators are brought to justice.