Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Ideas on Colossus: The Forbin Project

From fashion, interior and industrial design to the attitude and voice of the machine and the nature of the relationship between humans and machine, but also the relationship amongst humans themselves, the movie reproduced so many stereotypes (still prevalent today) on the contemplation and visualization of the future. An interesting question that arises is the degree of affect that those visions of the future have in the formation and morphology of the actual future of technology . How much have those Hollywood movies influence the design and style of present technologies? At least in terms of aesthetics, it is not extreme to argue that films have had a fundamental impact on what is popularly understood as modern, hi-tech, futuristic, cutting-edge, progressive, advanced and so on. As in other science fiction films from the 50s 60s 70s and on, Colossus outlined the aesthetic of the future: sharp edges, austere/plain colors ranging from white to black and an emphasis on silver, fine surfaces, smooth textures, flickering lights are all visual elements that signify the technological.
Besides the aesthetic of the futuristic, there emerge stereotypes about the nature of the relationship between humans and machines and amongst humans themselves. The movie raises a question on the notion of privacy when Forbin asks time alone with his "mistress." The machine, symbol of digitization, understands privacy as "away from company." As Eric Hughes describes in his essay we read A Cyberpunk's Manifesto, "Privacy is not secrecy," it is the right to choose what you want to reveal to the public. Forbin's power to choose when "away from company" is restricted. This scene could be viewed as a perfect metaphor for the problem of privacy that arises with the Internet. People may seemingly* have the power to construct their online avatars as desired, but their power to remain "away from company" is arguably removed. For example with social networks (facebook, email etc) one may choose what they expose, but what is exposed is permanent whether online or off. (Of course the problem of collecting data from private conversations and searches for market research is an entire other matter. )
In terms of gender and sexual, or romantic, relationships the movie could be seen as a radical gesture towards the acceptance of queerness. Although Forbin is clearly portrayed as a typical manly man, his relationship to Colossus indeed is sexual, and as Colossus seems more masculine than feminine, the relationship is homosexual. Furthermore, considering Forbin as the creator or father of Colossus, the relationship actually becomes Oedipal. Although the movie establishes stereotypes on the fetishization of the technological, it actually complicates preconceived notions of femininity, masculinity and sexuality in general, with the introduction of a kind of bi gender that goes back and forth being masculine and feminine. Colossus has a male name, he is rigid, austere, mathematic, technical and authoritative, which are typical qualities of a normative man, but is also jealous like a housewife, asking/demanding for Forbin's absolute attention and company, throwing fits and being manipulative when not receiving what (s)he wants...
The anthropomorphization of the machine is not only inspired by its implied complicated gender; the entire plot is based on Colossus and the Guardian having human qualities and compulsively wanting to take over the world. The role of Hollywood in propagandizing this manic fear of artificial intelligence and scaremongering over the staging a coup of machines over humans is quiet an interesting, if not worrisome, subject.

*free to choose from what is available

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