Sci-Fi Cliché part 2: Technology out of control yet again.

Someone posted on Reddit/r/WTF an ad for "Artificial Humans." Nicely done. I thought it was an ad for those life-like high-end sex dolls that cost about ten thousand dollars until I clicked on the "Watch Video" button and saw a serious looking William Hurt.

Surprise! A new series on AMC is coming called "Humans." From the trailer I can safely assume it's a long variation of "technology goes crazy." When I saw William Hurt I immediate thought of A.I. Artificial Intelligence, so there is the potential prequel filament.

Like Zombie films, I can't resist a show about technology turning against its creators, so I dug through my memory and Googled some classics you may or may not have seen. I hope this list is helpful, and suggestions are welcome in the comments.

Know your science-fiction subgenres:

Stepford Wives Wikipedia page:

Looker* Wikipedia page:

Demon Seed Wikipedia page:

West World Wikipedia page:

Colossus: The Forbidden Project Wikipedia page:

Terminator (franchise) Wikipedia page:

*Some of the films are about technology turning people into sociopaths and abusing it.

ps. I-Robot may be done to death, but it does broach the legality of automatons.

Here, take this pill.

It was the size of an average capsule. It was all white and had a red central band around it with something embedded that twinkled a purplish hue when I turned it over in my hand. The staff, previously busy moments before froze and stared at me wide-eyed. I hesitated. "What's in this?"

The doctor tightened his lips and exhaled a quiet, passive-aggressive hiss in his throat, then in a scornful monotone said "As part of the study we must rule out any psychosomatic effects. You might exhibit symptoms based only on what we tell you."

Clearly this was a phrase to every test subject he repeats ad nauseam to the point of having nightmares about it, like dreaming about your twelve hour shift working a summer job on the conveyor belt at a cherry orchard, sorting out rotten cherries for two hours, then switching to loading empty cans onto the canning machine for two hours, taking a ten minute break, then stacking full cans on pallets for two hours, then back to the conveyor belt again. The study, like working through cherry harvest season lasted six weeks and counting.

I supposed if I had read the contract all the way through I could have spared the doctor the aggravation. I looked at him and deliberately blinked rapidly and raised my eyebrows, expressing as clearly as I could without saying a word, 'Really? That attitude?' Then I took the pill.

I was escorted to a room with shower nozzles on the walls and ceiling. The door was a water-tight hatch. There was only one drain in the middle of the floor. They took all of my clothes, apparently so the drain would not clog. Luckily the room was warm. Something about the drain got my attention. The room was sterile, except there were about a dozen strands of hair stuck in the drain. As the door was closed and sealed, I reached down and pulled up the strands of hair. I kept pulling and pulling. The strands of hair were at least twelve feet in length.

Sci-Fi Cliche

Where do I begin? I would love to be able to tell stories that will shock everyone's imagination. Every aspiring science fiction writer has a notion about intergalactic travel or some scientific explanation for what was previously written off as a "miracle" in a religious text.

We want to live forever and we want to travel instantaneously to the very outer edge of the universe to see the boundary between the universe and absolute nothingness. What is there if we find it? A wall of some sort? Perhaps a boundary made of a clear material that we can see out and something or someone else outside can observe us? This is a classic device from the television series The Outer Limits

Are all the plots taken? Is there nothing under the sun that hasn't been done and done over and over again? Have we reached the limits of our imaginations? Can we accept old stories being updated and adjusted according to new scientific discoveries?

At the risk of justifying plagiarism I must admit that our choices for story telling are becoming limited as we reach the end of our imaginations. The rate at which new authors draw conclusions that match preceding authors exactly, is increasing exponentially.

As we find the edge of our imaginations, is there any way at all of going beyond? Is there nothing left of us but stories of relationships faced with different aspects of time and space?

We think we understand our own physical limitations. Perhaps we imagine that what we have found are the smallest particles in the universe. Perhaps we know only as much as Democritus, but at a smaller level.

How do we go beyond our perceptions, illusions, and delusions? Our mathematical skills can only take us as far as our perceptions can validate. We did develop technology that can sense the world around us outside of our biological capacity of perception, but by how much? Is it governed by our perceptual limitations?

Can we ever get out of this box?

This post was inspired by the film The Oculus.

Dirty Laundry

One afternoon Mike was folding his laundry and he began thinking about how to make the task easier.

He had six pairs of socks. His usual routine was to do laundry once a week which should leave him with a deficit of two pairs of socks. The pair of socks he wore when he did laundry was an extra one day old.

He did laundry on Tuesday, which meant he had a clean pair of socks for Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, Saturday, Sunday and Monday, so he had to wear the Monday socks when he did Laundry on Tuesday. This means he couldn't wash the Monday pair of socks when he did laundry on Tuesday, so those socks would have to wait for an entire week before being washed.

After doing laundry he kept wearing the Monday socks for the rest of Tuesday, until Wednesday morning. So he had a clean pair of socks for Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, Saturday and Sunday. This means he had to wear the Sunday socks on Monday and Tuesday the following week if he still did laundry on Tuesday. Now one pair of socks had to be worn for two days, and couldn't be washed for a week.

The stench in his rented room was unreal. He had only a window for ventilation and there was never a breeze. Mike was frustrated. He knew that no matter how many pairs of socks, or any other clothing he owned, there would always be one pair that he could not wash, unless he stripped totally naked at the laundromat. He finally snapped. He was going to wash all of his clothing at once, no matter the consequences.

It was around ten o'clock in the morning on a Tuesday, which was good for Mike because everyone else was at work or at school, so the laundromat was nearly empty. The clerk was back in the office out of sight, so Mike stripped everything off and filled the washer.

The day was hot and the laundromat clerk was ordered by the business owner to not use the air conditioner. The clerk was overcome by a horrible stench and had to crawl out of the building on hands and knees. After the 911 call, a Special Weapons Assault Task Force was dispatched to the laundromat and only one body was removed, but it had been dead for nearly six weeks.

The Homecoming Theory

I stood there for a moment looking at myself, wondering why my consciousness couldn't be in two places at the same time. My other self looked back eyes wide, probably wondering the same thing for a only a moment.

He suddenly knew something I didn't. He suddenly had an advantage over me, even though he was me. His thoughts and memories were now newer than mine because I was standing in the same place, and he was in a new place, seeing from a new perspective, only a few feet away.

He was an exact physical duplicate, down to the molecular construct of my brain. He retained all of my memories, there was a slight lag, a slight delay due to his being materialized after a certain amount of time had passed and his different spacial location.

The test was a complete success. The ship would be able to travel at near the speed of light, speeds no crew would survive, but no crew was now necessary. Upon arrival at its destination the ship could use available materials to re-create copies of the original crew.

It was a brilliant theory. It wasn't teleportation in the classical sense, I wondered what it would be like when the ship returned home after thousands of years of travel and re-created copies of the crew that colonized and thrived on a planet far away in another star system. I just wish I could get the original consciousness from my dead predecessor. Maybe it was the blow to the head. Why does it smell so bad in here? It smells like rotten meat and there are flies everywhere.

Chain of Incentive

Once upon a time there was a prison warden who thought up the idea of using prisoners to take jobs from private citizens for less than ten percent of the minimum wage, and sometimes no wage at all.

The prison labor saved the local government money, but taxes for the local community remained the same. The local government officials then voted to increase their own salaries to benefit from the windfall from the prison labor.

The prison labor program was so successful that private prisons were created so the private sector could get in on the action.

One day an accountant for the local government realized the profit potential of creating new laws that made it easier to arrest and convict people. He figured, in addition to the lawyers and judges getting their fees, the police would also get their cut from seized property, called 'Asset forfeiture.'

The proposals for profit motive were widely accepted at national conventions in the law enforcement community. Being tough on crime in such a way would be a good argument for cutting taxes on the wealthy, but hopefully for the sake of huge profits, taxes wouldn't be cut, and from time to time Democrats would win a majority in a state legislature and taxes would be raised, despite the increased profit from asset forfeiture and production by prison slave labor.

One year a "Three-Strikes" law was created that would seal the fate of non-violent drug offenders, to life in prison. Not much later a foreign trade deal was made that cost Americans over eighty million jobs. The crime rate spiked and tens of thousands more slaves were conscripted into prison labor. Public schools instituted a new policy of outsourcing discipline to local police, effectively fast-tracking children into the prison system. Police were trained in the art of inciting peaceful protesters into committing minor infractions. Entrapping people into committing crimes was no longer considered unethical.

Soon the United States prison population became the biggest in the world.