I am currently exploring the ever-growing integral relationship between the Christian faith, science, and technology. In the midst of my research I began to theorize that not only our language, but also our cinematic metaphors concerning science and technology might be ruining our hope for future technology.
Look around iTunes, your blu-ray library, or Amazon video and look at the available selection of movies with a theme based around science, technology, and the future. What is a common motif you see running through these materials? Here are a few that I have noticed:
· AI destroys the humanity in order to “save the world”
· AI turns evil and starts replicating itself in order to take over the world
· Robots and cyborgs destroy humanity
· AI puts humanity into an emulated matrix in order to fuel their rule of the world
· Crazy ruler attempts to build giant ship in order to blow up planets
Almost every cinematic metaphor conjured up by Hollywood portrays technology of the future in an apocalyptic manner. It’s no wonder Elon Musk thinks AI is going to take over the world and humanity. The metaphor has been reinforced for decades.
The hypothesis of linguistic relativity believes that the structure of a person’s language affects how they view and ultimately interpret the world around them. This was originally referred to as the Sapir–Whorf hypothesis, based on the works of Edward Sapir and Benjamin Whorf, who never actually co-authored any works together.
In a nutshell, your native language determines how you see the world, the universe, time, color, directions, relationships, and every facet of life. While this hypothesis is primarily concerned with language groups of varying cultures, I believe it also plays a significant role within subcultures as well.
Even with a limited understanding of this hypothesis in mind, one can begin to understand the impact of language on our world-view. Now, let’s take a step on the linguistic ladder. One of the most powerful forces in language, any language at that, is the metaphor and story.
Metaphors make connections in our brain that allow us to see and understand differently, while story makes our minds become entangled in the metaphor. Story stirs an emotional response to the characters and events that are happening.
The metaphor paints a picture in the empty space of your mind that your subconscious associates with what you have already stored in your memory. When we are continually bombarded by a negative metaphor and storyline concerning technology, we can’t help but immediately retreat to the negative connotations associated with the topic when it is brought up.
So where does that leave us as believers when it comes to technology?
In Paul’s letter to the Philippians (4:8) he reminds us:
Finally, brethren, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is of good repute, if there is any excellence and if anything worthy of praise, dwell on these things.
Are the themes of these movies and cinematic adventures beautiful, good, and true?
I mean, they’re fun to watch, but they reinforce a negative metaphor for the future of technology, and this puts a hamper on our hope for tomorrow. Movies are great, but I think Hollywood just might be ruining our hope for technology.
Reality Changing Observations:
Q1. What is your favorite tech-positive themed movie?
Q2. How can we promote and reinforce a positive view of the future technologies in movies?
Q3. What is the most mindful and non-argumentative way you can point people to a tech-positive view of the future?