Update (9/10/2013): This article was just recently re-published by the Institute for Ethics and Emerging Technologies (IEET).
My following article below was originally published by Transhumanity.net:
Note: Understand that my assessment of “Hollywood” isn’t actually on Hollywood in general. Hollywood here is being used as a symbol of the film industry, whether the film was actually done in Hollywood, or independently, or via foreign film industries.
Dr. Eldon Tyrell: I’m surprised you didn’t come sooner.
Roy Batty: It’s not an easy thing to meet your maker.
Tyrell: What can he do for you?
Roy: Can the maker repair what he makes?
Tyrell: Would you like to be modified?
Roy: Had in mind something a little more radical.
Tyrell: What? What seems to be the problem?
It’s no secret that Hollywood is known for its anti-technology films, stirring fear of a supposed robot-led apocalypse – ranging from The Matrix, the Terminator series, I Robot, THX 1138, Metropolis, etc. etc. So little number of films have been done with an opposite direction in the storyline, i.e. Robot & Frank, A.I., Short Circuit.
But then what role does Hollywood play in answering the question of immortality?
By far one of the most famous sci-fi films ever to be developed, to which the core question of immortality flooded its storyline, was Blade Runner. Its protagonist, Rick Deckard (starring Harrison Ford), was a retired police officer in 2019 – also known as a “Blade Runner” – who finds himself back on a job, set out to locate and destroy (in the film they called it “retire”) bio-engineered sentient beings known as replicants, whose leader went by the name Roy Batty (starring Rutger Hauer).
For those of us who consider ourselves Transhumanists, Immortalists, etc. would surely understand Roy’s concerns of death. It was, after all, the entire basis of his mission: to conquer a fixed-death and live freely. Unfortunately, though, Roy’s character and ambitions were deemed abhorrent by the film’s producers and thus needed to die.
In doing so, a fight between Deckard and Roy ensues. In what appears to be a fight which Roy could’ve easily won, he spares Deckard’s life in order to provide his tidbit of wisdom before his life runs out:
“I’ve seen things you people wouldn’t believe. Attack ships on fire off the shoulder of Orion. I’ve watched c-beams glitter in the dark near the Tannhäuser Gate. All those…moments will be lost in time, like tears…in rain. Time to die.”
A sad moment, indeed. Though not just for Roy, given the failure in his quest for immortality, but for everyone – Humans and replicants alike – whose life’s mission is in destroying their greatest foe: Death!
In the black and white animated French film Renaissance, arguably one of the most stunning animated films to come out in the 21st century, a police captain, Barthélémy Karas, is working on a case dealing with the disappearance of a scientist named Ilona Tasuiev, who worked for this megacorporation known as Avalon.
To make a long story short, Karas discovers that Ilona was kidnapped by a Dr. Jonas Muller, a former Avalon scientist who’s been trying to find a cure for progeria that his younger brother’s suffering from. Dr. Muller eventually reveals to Karas that Ilona had discovered the secret to eternal life and that Avalon was set in withholding this monumental discovery from the general populace. Ergo, Dr. Muller’s reason for kidnapping Ilona.
To add a twist in this already confusing film, Dr. Muller is eventually revealed to be his younger brother who was suffering from progeria. Only now he’s immortal, trapped in an old man’s body. The obvious absurdity here being that, while immortality is discovered, the film’s producers make it out to be a torturous trap for the aging with no death to relieve Dr. Muller from.
When Karas finally finds Ilona, he attempts at giving her a fake passport so that she can leave everything behind and start a whole new life. Instead Ilona tells Karas that she’d rather live forever, resulting in Karas shooting and killing her.
So who’re the bad guys in this film? Ironically – albeit hardly surprising – those sought for immortality are eventually deemed as the film’s antagonists.
Does it make it anymore absurd that on the film’s poster on IMDB its tagline says “Live Forever or Die Trying”?
And then there’s the 2006 film The Fountain, starring Hugh Jackman and Rachel Weisz. In the film, again arguably another masterpiece in film and storyline production, Tommy Creo (Hugh Jackman) is losing his wife Izzi Creo (Rachel Weisz) to cancer. Like any loving husband would, he’s dedicated his life in discovering a cure in order to save her before her imminent death.
During the film, Izzi begins writing a story similar to her own life, though set during the 16th century inquisition. Her husband Tommy becomes conquistador Tomás Verde and her, Queen Isabella, to which Tomás is set out in discovering the Tree of Life for her.
Though, due to her declining health, she leaves the story to Tommy to finish. Leaving Izzi outside to gaze at the cosmos, imagining that her and Tommy will eventually meet again. This gives way to another side story, this time with astronaut Tom in 2500, trapped inside a biosphere containing the Tree of Life.
Oddly enough, though, in each three separate plots, Tommy/ Tomás/Tom is unable to discover, nor extract, immortality for his wife/love affair/whatever to benefit from.
In the end, as the film’s director Darren Aronofsky states, “ultimately the film is about coming to terms with your own death.”
I’ll tell you what the problem is!
So what is the problem here? The problem is Hollywood’s anti-immortality fixation! For the life of me (no pun intended) I cannot even think of a single film that was produced with a storyline that was favorable toward the quest for immortality.
Any film that comes out with a big budget that deals with questions of life and death, death always comes out victorious in the end. It spits in the face of every living species on this planet and condemns them to a limited life with an eventual death not long after. This is a big problem.
It begs the question – particularly to those of us trying to educate society on the importance of Transhumanism and Immortalism – how are we to convince the masses that immortality is a good thing when the films they watch and submerge themselves with preaches the contrary?
Perhaps the creation of a pro-Transhumanism, pro-Immortalism films studio? Maybe an outreach campaign to celebrities, script writers, and movie directors to convince them on why they should adapt our ideals within their storylines? Honestly, I have no idea where to start. Which is why I feel it’s important we have this type of discussion and begin addressing the issue in a friendly, democratic way.