Archive | February, 2020

The Ten Year J.J. Abrams Production

12 Feb

When we look back on history, we realize that it was mostly centuries of almost nothing exciting happening punctuated with an occasional war or the intrusion of a new disease. Life was, for the most part, so boring that people had to invent stories with mysterious endings and hold public festivals just to make it bearable. A typical person might have been born, grown up, grown old and died without travelling more than a mile from their place of birth.

Skip forward to the year 2020. Americans have Donald Trump as President. His antics and daily tweets are both unsettling and entertaining. The ongoing effort to drive him from office is a daily drama.

New technologies are introduced daily. Just yesterday, I learned that it is possible, for about $2000, to get a completely electric portable power source that is dead quiet and does what an old gas generator did.

Bluetti

Just today, I learned about advances in 3D printing that will make it possible to 3D print items that used to be impossible. Any day now, Samsung will unveil their folding smart phone. Someone else will unveil a product that no one anticipated and that solves a problem no one knew they had.

Every day, we get new images of the sun or the planets. Every day we learn something new about gravity and black holes. Yesterday, the Corona virus was threatening to become a global pandemic. Today, scientists announced that they have found a cure. In regard to diseases, just three days ago I learned that a new treatment for multiple sclerosis has been developed.  Maybe it will pan out or maybe it won’t.

Today, it dawned on me that, if we think of 2020 as the beginning of a TV series, we are entering upon a ten year drama the likes of which J.J. Abrams would be proud to produce. However, there are some vital differences.

Unlike TV series’ like Lost, everything that we see and hear is a real part of the plot. There is no filler or misdirection. If a politician seems to be covering up a crime, the reality of whether or not they are doing so plays inextricably into the narrative. If a scientist claims to have explained or solved something, either they have changed the world or they will be exposed as a fraud. Either way, it is a real part of the drama. This afternoon, I was fooled by a video of a combat robot developed by Boston Dynamics. The video was an elaborate spoof, but the ability to make the video and the sociological implications of being able to do so are very real.

Combat Robot

Another vital difference is the depth with which this series can be explored. A TV series is only as deep as the imagination and dedication of the writers and directors. In this real life series, a person can look into any political activity or scientific endeavor in as much detail as their ability and ambition permit.  A person could spend a whole year just trying to get a firm grip on the Donald Trump Impeachment saga. They could study science for years trying to understand if there is anything to claims that black holes do not actually exist.

In this real life TV series, everything is intertwined. Science, politics and economics are inseparable. The Internet had to be invented for Twitter to be invented. Twitter had to be invented for Donald Trump to become the tweeting President. Drones had to be perfected in order for Amazon to consider delivery by drone. Delivery by drone may change home delivery forever. Changes in home delivery change all of our lives. Unlike a fictional drama, the intertwining is real. It is not just possible, but inevitable that every single thing that is introduced or changes will affect the plot.

In fictional dramas, the introduction of unexpected new forces is often referred to as deus ex machina and is frowned upon. In this real-life drama, dues ex machina is a daily phenomenon that cannot be dismissed because it is not really dues ex machina at all. Just because we cannot see something coming, does not mean it was not truly in the story all along. No one anticipated Nancy Pelosi tearing up Donald Trump’s State of the Union address, but her doing so was not a plot contrivance. If anyone had really understood her and the situation, they might have anticipated it.

Nancy Tearing Speech

Yet, curiously, no one seems to be giving away the end of the story. We really do not know who will be elected President in November. Will America have a gay president that is married to a man? We really do not know if the mach effect thruster Professor Heidi Fearn is developing at NASA will culminate in a star drive. Could Jetsons style flying cars be next?

Allow me to digress for a moment. I have a movie sitting on my desk: Spiderman Far From Home. I have been having difficulty getting myself to watch it and have been wondering why. It should be a movie that I am excited to watch. However, this evening, I realized why I am having trouble dropping it into my DVD player. Nothing that any screen writer can pen or that any filmmaker can produce compares with the news that I can turn to at any minute. Nothing in any Marvel script compares to the real-life drama that plays across our TV screens and into our lives every day. No story we can read or see enacted compares with the real thing.

Perhaps the reason why movies are becoming so impatient and erratic is that they are trying to compete with real life. Perhaps the reason why we are losing interest in stories and storytelling is that the real-life story we are all living every day is so much more compelling and exciting.

Not only is it more exciting, but we are all active participants. Any one of us could record a video or think of an idea that will make at least an incremental difference to the plot. Everything that we see or read in the news has an effect on us individually. When the Me Too movement got started all of us had to immediately be on our guard not to do or say anything that could put us at odds with this political reality. When Donald Trump was acquitted in his impeachment trial, this influenced the stock market. When the stock market moved, many of us were able to look at our personal IRAs and see that they had changed. Every one of us has an affect on everything and everything has an affect on every one of us…instantly.

This story is building to a giant crescendo around the year 2030 when technology may eliminate jobs and cure every disease. Maybe robots and/or computers will take over the world. It may even culminate in something that futurists call the Technological Singularity. That is a whole topic in itself. In ten years, we may see the end of history as we know it. What then?

Maybe God will literally descend from the machine. About now, I am ready for anything.

In a way, this new reality is disconcerting. However, it is also the best show on television. J.J Abrams, eat your heart out! I guess we will all just have to stay tuned and enjoy the ride.

Keep watching. It’s a great show!