ISAC board member Jeff Thompson wrote the following movie review of Ghost in the Shell 2 in contrast to Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow. The review will appear in this week's Tech Tidbits, and is interesting enough to post here by itself. Jeff highlights the different motivations behind the scenarios (social commentary, future prediction), and reminds us that our baseline visions of the future can be woefully far from the direction in store for us--no matter how futuristically on the ball we try to be ;-).
Last week's Tech Tidbits linked an article by James Pinkerton comparing two current movies, Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow, set in the 1930's, and Ghost in the Shell 2, set in the 2030's. Sky Captain is not really an attempt to visualize the future, but rather to nostalgically present how people viewed the future in the 1930's. There are airplanes that turn into submarines, wrist radios and giant mechanical robots. The movie does reveal one fascinating thing: for all their imagination, no one in the 1930's imagined the most important development which the future would bring only a decade later: the electronic computer. At the core of robots in the movie are gears, not digital processors. Power is about having bigger metal feet that can crush cars, not about being able to manipulate information faster. (It wasn't until 1937 that Alan Turing showed that a general purpose computer, like the one you're reading this article on, was mathematically possible.)
Contrast this with Ghost in the Shell 2: Innocence, which gets it. There are many reviews, like this one which will confirm that the mix of hand-drawn animation and 3D computer graphics is gorgeous. At the end of the first Ghost in the Shell movie, the main character's police partner is basically uploaded, becoming pure information on the world's data networks. In the second movie, he wanders through the sensory overloaded urban landscape, vaguely missing his partner and trying to solve a case. He mostly does this by interviewing one person after another who questions what it means to feel like an individual when the world has so clearly been shown to be a just sea of information created by ubiquitous computing and instant communications which link everything. Among the philosophizing and eye-popping scenery, there is indeed a plot involving the case (remember the movie title) which is a literary device to ask the question: In a world where information devices can turn the whims of anyone, even a little girl, into a reality that reaches out across the world, who can truly be innocent? Both the main character and his uploaded partner (and hopefully the audience if they were paying attention) are left wondering how to proceed when physical space has been turned into mind space, and like it or not your fate can be determined by the naive - but not innocent - impulses of a random child. Maybe even the ever-resourceful Sky Captain would realize that the threat in the future is not an army of giant robots, but the precipice of confusion and cognitive dissonance.
Jeff's website (thefirst.org) has a new paper outlining his perception of how minds percieve perception. It's titled, fittingly, The Orders of Perception and I'm sure feedback would be appreciated from those so inclined.