Stories That Remind Us How Technology Can Go Wrong
It’s no secret that our society has a love/hate relationship with technology. Everywhere you turn there are headlines—"When Apps Get Your Medical Data, Your Privacy May Go With It," "Farmers Turn to Artificial Intelligence to Grow Better Crops"—that are pushing and pulling us in either direction. While the old adage “everything in moderation” aims to ensure nothing extreme will ever arise, it’s hard to negate technology when it’s been the main driver for progress in society, especially in more recent decades.
From transportation to relationships, there are few industries that technology hasn’t transformed. Swipe right, you snag a date. Click one button, and a car is outside waiting for you in minutes. For younger generations, this is the status quo. And the more fluent the human race becomes in technology, the faster it will advance.
Now, wherever there’s convenience, there’s usually a cautionary tale of risk to go along with it. (We can thank TV and film for cranking these out year after year). Oftentimes, these stories are set in the future. They give us a glimpse into how the simplest of advancements can change our day-to-day lives, or even turn it completely on its head.
As Soulmates, a new AMC series that depicts a future in which science has invented a test that can unequivocally find a person's soulmate, premieres on October 5th, we’re looking at other stories that examine the not-always-positive impacts of technology. As a general warning, if you haven’t seen one of the movies below be wary of spoilers. Proceed with caution!
It doesn’t take The Matrix very long to deliver its warning to viewers. Within the first half hour of the first installment of the franchise, we see some visceral imagery. We watch as Neo (Keanu Reeves) wakes up in a glass pod, full of some sort of liquid, with tubes coming out from his chest and the back of his neck. When he rises out of this pod and looks around, we discover alongside him a frightening truth: he is just one pod among millions.
In the case of The Matrix, the cautionary tale revolves around machines that humans have created, which eventually take over. While many similar narratives would simply do away with humans entirely, these machines keep humans alive within pods in order to feed off of them. And that’s just the premise.
As we look ahead to the fourth installment of The Matrix (now set to release on April 1, 2022 due to production delays from COVID-19), it’s clear that the story will continue to examine what happens when our own creations come loose from our control. Keanu Reeves describes it as “a call to wake up,” in an interview with BBC’s The One Show.
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This 2018 sci-fi thriller has twists and turns that will keep you guessing until the very last scene. It’s good, it’s intense, and it all starts when a man’s self-driving car does the opposite of what it’s told. Grey (Logan Marshall-Green) is a mechanic, and he needs to drop a client’s car off. His wife Asha (Melanie Vallejo) comes along, so Grey has a way to get back home. As Grey and his wife Asha are being driven home, their car decides to take a detour, disregarding Grey’s commands to do otherwise. The car crashes and while we won’t go into any further details of what happens next, it’s not good.
The world that Grey and Asha live in is very high tech—computer chips that can serve as new brains, flying cars, etc. Yet, it’s something that we can buy today that sets this story on its downward spiral.
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While Elysium is set in the year 2154, only 134 years into the future, it feels like it’s thousands of years ahead. At least that's true for the rich, who live on a man-made space station called Elysium. There you'll find fully-functioning robots that act as your servants, body scanners that can identify cancer on the spot and eradicate it, and entire civilizations living just outside of Earth’s atmosphere. The poor, or those who aren't insanely rich, live back on a ruined Earth where the scene is much like what you’d expect in a post-apocalyptic world.
Elysium is a chilling look at what can happen when technology creates wealth disparities so extreme, that the upper and lower class are literally on different planets. The government officials that live on Elysium will stop at nothing to keep immigrants from Earth from entering into their world. Then a man named Max (Matt Damon) who lives on Earth, is tasked with the impossible: get inside Elysium and take them down.
Watch the Trailer:
Cautionary tales aren’t always so extreme—worlds aren’t always ending, humans aren’t always under attack. Sometimes it’s the simplest of advancements that can transform our most vital resources, like love. Soulmates, AMC’s new original series, is set 15 years into the future, when a new test can tell you exactly who your soulmate is.
At face value, the test seems like it could finally bring clarity and efficiency to the elusive, sometimes painful nature of love. But in Season 1 of Soulmates, we learn that the test disrupts the very thing that has become second nature to us. What if your soulmate is someone you would never, could never, associate with? What if your soulmate is no longer alive? What if your soulmate isn’t the gender you'd assume they'd be?
While we shouldn’t take these stories as a reason to live in fear, it couldn't hurt to keep an eye on the latest technological developments, and consider both the good and the bad they could bring. In the meantime, we can count on TV and film to keep our imaginations flowing.
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