It has been nearly three decades since Jeff Bridges played the protagonist hacker Kevin Flynn who attempts to hack into the ENCOM mainframe only to end up being transported into the digital world itself. As the sequel to this cult classic hits the cinemas, we look into the possibility of the science involved behind the idea of Tron and Tron Legacy in the wake of modern technology. We shall discuss the efforts of scientists who are working to explore the opportunity to export human consciousness and how this science fiction is fast becoming a scientific fact.
The idea of exporting ones consciousness is widely seen in movies, books and TV programs today. One of the latest inclusion to this concept are movies like Inception. However, little do people realize how close we have actually come to being able to simulate ourselves and our conscious mind with the help of modern technology. If the continuous distraction from the internet, mobile phones and the like was not enough to glue people to the screens that depict the virtual world. Motion control games has added fuel to the fire. For example with Nintendos wireless motion Wiimote controllers people are already exporting their active selves into a gaming console. Sony and Microsoft too have vowed to win the motion control gaming war with their motion-sensing game controller Move and Kinect for PlayStation 3 (PS3) and Xbox 360, respectively.
Many people may not be aware of the fact that the depiction in movies such as Avatar and Inception of exporting ones consciousness is older than they might think. I still remember Steven Soderberg’s Solaris that blurred the lines between the real and unreal in 2002. A more direct approach was taken even earlier by Producer Chris Carter (producer of the X-Files) in 1999 with his short lived TV series called Harsh Realm. In the series Lieutenant Thomas F. Hobbes (Scott Bairstow) is tricked by his military superiors into a virtual world where human consciousness is simulated in a post apocalyptic virtual game. It is worth mentioning here that The Human Consciousness Project (an international consortium of multidisciplinary scientists and physicians) is already looking into the possibility of the potential of exporting the human consciousness.
Coming back to technology, the lack of awareness of our surroundings being caused by Television, the internet, mobile phones, etc is already a form of virtualization of connecting human beings to an unreal world. It is quite frustrating that people are becoming more and more absent minded while using their portable devices. I’m sure many of you might have been in the situation where you failed to get a response from someone watching a HD movie or using asmartphone (such as, Android, iPhone, WP7, etc). It reminds me of the X-Files episode called “Kill Switch” in which a scientist exports his conscious self into the virtual world before dying.
Interestingly the Blue Brain Project is working on creating a synthetic brain by reverse-engineering the mammalian brain right to the molecular level. Such technological advancements render not only hope for people to be able to acquire what they perceive as immortality but also an attempt to become closer to the simulated world. I strongly believe that as people begin to play games, use the internet, stream Television programs and movies, they will begin to want more and more from the virtual reality than from real life itself. I would admit though that the theory of Tron to molecularly transport a human being into the artificial world seems a little too far fetched. As it is not a reasonable assumption to digitize real life matter and scan it into the computer world for deconstruction at the molecular level for re-assembly. The reassembly cannot take place with the same unique atoms and such a notion simply defies the laws of science and nature itself. Having said that, it is worth mentioning here that the want of virtualization is becoming uncontrollable and it is only a matter of a single break through in scientific technology that more and more people will be willing to jack themselves into a machine at the conscious level to play games and take part in perhaps virtual chat rooms. As the idea of uploading ourselves via You Tube, Facebook and the like becomes worn out, the hunger for simulation will lead mankind into an unchartered territory, the negative effects of which cannot be anticipated.