Nanotech Database

Article Title:
Machines and Human Beings in the Movies

van der Laan, J. M.

Journal Information:
Bulletin of Science, Technology and Society
Vol. 26, Num. 1


Movies have depicted the struggle between man and machine, and within the sci-fi genre, they generally seem to conclude with man triumphing over machine, ending a struggle with out-of-control technology. "These movies lead to a denial of the true conditions of our existence in technology," says van der Laan. But in two recent movie trilogies, The Matrix and The Terminator, the triumph is more ambiguous. In fact, man and machine merge.

Many parallels exist. Both series used and created big stars, Schwarzenegger and Reeves, and both made immense amounts of money. For each, the plot turned on a technology resistance movement. Thematically each exposed the "dark" side of technology. Likewise in both there is a plot and theme reversal, in which the machine becomes as valuable as a human being, and essential to the human future.

Neither film, says van der Laan, criticizes a tech-dominated future. These films carry mixed messages, but on the whole, they are propaganda for a uncritical acceptance of a man-machine merge. van der Laan glosses Benjamin, Lynn White, Heitler and Russo on the shaping of society by technology and argues that our true condition as fully human is threatened by those who welcome the fusion with, and reign of, machines.