I've Now Seen Wall·E Twice

I’m afraid James has said pretty much everything I’d like to say — I actually saw the movie again so I could properly absorb the amazing credit sequence. And I’d also like to highlight Matt’s brief observation:

I was relieved to see a kids’ movie in which the obligatory message of ecological apocalypse is framed in terms of jeopardizing our own humanity, rather than being mean to poor Gaia.

I hope Matt Crawford mentions Wall·E in his Shop Class book. In fact, I kind of hope Crawford writes a children’s film adaptation, as it would blow many minds (in a good way).

I was struck by how such a radical message is considered so banal and unthreatening. I mean, it must — otherwise Disney would never have bankrolled the film. Because children’s movies are often used, very understandably, to anesthetize rowdy kids, I wonder how the message will be interpreted and vaguely half-remembered as those kids grow up.

David expressed some concern regarding the meta-ness of contemporary children’s entertainment. I can’t help but think it’s a very good thing. It reminds me of a new blog post from the consistently excellent Jamais Cascio.

The version of the Singularity story that I think is well-worth holding onto says this: due to more detailed understandings of how the brain works, more powerful information and bio technologies, and more sophisticated methods of applying these improvements, we are increasingly able to make ourselves smarter, both as individuals and as a society. Such increased intelligence has been happening slowly, but measurably. But as we get smarter, our aggregate capacity to further improve the relevant sciences and technologies also gets better; in short, we start to make ourselves smarter, faster. At a certain point in the future, probably within the next few decades, the smarter, faster, smarter, faster cycle will have allowed us to remake aspects of our world — and, potentially, ourselves — in ways that would astonish, confuse, and maybe even frighten earlier generations. To those of us imagining this point in the future, it’s a dramatic transformation; to those folks living through that future point, it’s the banality of the everyday.

Increasing “meta-ness” is one early indicator of the kind of entertainments that will consume some portion of the cognitive surplus. My fear, actually, is that our video games will soon become so good and so stimulating that they will soak up the cognitive surplus, leaving little additional brain power for improving the lot of the world’s worst off. Unless, that is, improving human welfare becomes the object of an elaborate, engrossing alternate reality game. The free market is one such ARG. But it’s not clear that we have the rules quite right.