This morning I heard that communication companies are attempting to rid us of phone landlines and replace them with wireless service only, and it reminded me of the two films I saw last night, Leah Gilliam‘s movie Apeshit and Wesley E. Barry‘s The Creation of the Humanoids.
Gilliam spoke at the showings of the film about her use of “obsolete technology” in creating a film using 8mm reduction film print of Battle for the Planet of the Apes and the hosts of the event finding also spoke of finding the rare print of Barry’s film. But the old technology also correlated with the themes of obsolescence in both films.
As mentioned here, Gilliam’s use of old film formats and technologies, including silent film dialogue cards, created a conversation around political ideologies and rhetoric that are now out-of-date, such as the ideas of tolerance, inferiority of different beings and assimilation.
Barry’s film, instead of having the humans and the alienness of humanized apes, has it between humans and androids. After an atomic war kills of over 90% of the humans on the planet, the humans left begin creating robots to compensate. But there is an antagonism between the androids, who are disparagingly called “the clickers,” and some of the humans. But the twist at the end is that some of the humans who think they are humans, are actually androids. They found out that there has been a secret process to transfer the memories and experiences of the humans left into robotic bodies through a “thalamic transplant” to keep them living because human bodies are becoming “obsolete” after the atomic bomb.
Although the film does have bad acting, needed to cut down on some of the dialogue, and had its ridiculous, laughable moments, there are underlying parts that do make you think. One of the lines in the film is that you love someone when you see a part of yourself in them. The main character in the film hated the androids until he became aware that he was one of them. The shock of being told causes other “humanoids” to shut down, but the main character has to be strong enough to accept it. Though all of the films characters were basically white, mostly cis-male, and able-bodied, underneath the visuals, it seem to speak to the treatment of marginalized groups and that groups of privilege (“humans”) are not as separate or superior as they might think. Additionally, both films questions the ideas of evolution — are humans more evolved? Could apes evolve past us? Are robotic bodies the next step of evolution? Maybe our ideas about evolution and different states of being are obsolete?
Back to “obsolete technology,” another thought I had was about access. As communication companies are ridding us of landlines, not everyone might have access to all of wireless depending on cost and where they are located. Some people may still be dependent on “obsolete technology.” Do we really need to get rid of all technology we consider “obsolete;” in the time of disaster, might we become dependent on them again. Going into the future, if we did develop a process to transfer people’s minds into robotic bodies, would everyone be able to do so; who would be chosen and who would be left behind? Also, how would doing that change how we think about race, gender, sexuality (in the movie, the doctor was planning on creating androids that could conceive and give birth, but based it on a biological need of women), disability, and other forms of being?
I think we have a new field of study: the politics of obsolescence – pros and cons of advancement and who gets left behind. For example, this book, Race, Rhetoric and Technology: Searching for Higher Ground, is a good place to start.