After opening this series with a hard look at the contemporary Church’s shortcomings, you may have expected us to proceed by outlining how the religious institution should revamp itself to more fully reflect what God desires of His Churches. Not to worry—we will get there, but as mentioned in the introduction, this series is about more than just Western Christianity. This is a vital point, because modern culture is made up of more than just those who follow Jesus. In fact, a vast majority within our society today are unsaved. So if we speak only to the Church, we are “preaching to the choir.” Furthermore, since many Christians have, in recent years, found it difficult to maintain relevance to secular culture, anything that isolates the religious institution as a topic fails to bridge the cultural and communicative gap when it comes to the world outside the Church. While we believe that God’s transformative power has the means to change the world when people look to Him for direction, we also understand that God has allowed humanity to be agents of free will. As such, when we look for answers within the four walls of the church that would apply to the troubles that pillage the world outside, we often hit a disconnect. The transformative power of God accompanies the willing heart, and society is filled with those who aren’t ready to surrender. Because of this single element, our biblical solutions are limited outside the Church or the Christian home. For the Church to become relevant to culture again, we have to understand where people are, and where they’ve come from.
In the meantime, we’re able to see fairly accurate reflections of where our society is headed when we study the media. Movies, books, television shows, and other means of storytelling outline where society has previously projected itself to be, and how we have fared along the journey. When fiction writers construct a good story, they often imagine where mankind’s depravity and technological advances will take us in the future. Then, based on their imaginings, they approximate a story they believe will be thrilling, scary, or engaging. At the time they’re written, many of these speculations seem impossible; yet, the possibilities become more realistic as the years go on. In this entry, we’ll show only some of the many ways that we’re currently living the sci-fi movies our grandparents were afraid of. Likewise, we’ll reveal how dangerously close we are to living—in the not-so-distant future—the seemingly impossible entertainment that viewers take in today.
If we were to say that we’re living in a horror or sci-fi movie, most folks would probably say, “No way.” After all, such productions reach for the fantastical, while combining out-of-reach technology with an escalated and even dehumanized level of human depravity. The blend of such things, in the realm of entertainment, is what makes a great book or movie. In fact, the perfect balance of these elements is often what sets a work apart as really gripping or even downright scary. Yet, once a piece of media crosses over completely into the realm of what viewers perceive to be the impossible, it’s no longer considered “scary,” but mere “fantasy.”
For example, a criminal in a Superman movie may kill many people and terrorize a city, but viewers—many of them children—never really experience fear. In fact, many moviegoers leave the theaters with smiles and laughter; they never believed they were in any kind of real danger. On the other hand, those who take in a movie about a calculated serial killer often watch with intense facial expressions, sitting at the edge of the seat and even jumping at sudden, unexpected encounters with the antagonist. As these patrons exit the theater, they’re often wide-eyed, discussing unforeseen plot-twists or the fearsome depravity of the murderer. Additionally, we would wager no small children will be seen exiting that particular film, even though far fewer deaths appear in the movie about the serial killer than in the superhero flick.
What, then, is the difference between these two types of movies? It’s the notion of fantasy vs. reality: the possible vs. the impossible. Anyone watching a Superman movie feels secure in knowing that they won’t ever see a day when a boy from another planet possessing special powers, including that of flight, will land on earth and fight global terrorists. They can explain to their children that the characters are a product of mere make-believe. On the other hand, serial killers do exist, and they have terrorized populations before. These individuals are real people, whose maladaptive minds are the places where real nightmares are made—and few is the number of parents who would expose their kids to such brutal reality (even on the big screen). There is nothing pretend about it. It is a completely possible scenario, which is why such films cross the line from exhilarating into scary.
When viewers walk away from a production saying “that would never happen,” they usually report their experience in terms of whether or not they were entertained: “That was fun!” “An enjoyable movie, highly recommended!” When they’ve experienced a sense of threat, however, reports tend to be more emotional: “That was scary!” “I’m so freaked out right now!” They may even describe a physiological response: “I screamed when [insert frightening event here] happened” or “I was on the edge of my seat!”
Often, as mentioned previously, what makes such productions successful is the perceivable balance between the real and the possible. Truly successful sci-fi, thriller, and horror works take the audience to the height of suspense and fear by borrowing realistic notions from the real world, then launching them into the realm of what is barely speculative. For example, a film might portray something that could happen, then leave viewers with the exhilaration and relief that accompanies the return to the “safety” of the real world. The fear lingers beyond the close of the film, residually, based on how close to actuality a portrayed scenario comes. In a nutshell, the audience’s response is determined by the thrill of fright incited by events that could potentially happen, while enjoying the security of knowing that cinematic events aren’t currently occurring. While some productions and series such as Star Wars or Superman succeed on the mere fantastical and gather generations of loyal followers, others draw crowds who are titillated by the knowledge that the fearsome events on the screen aren’t completely out of the question in real life. In these cases, there are often only two elements that bar the storyline from creeping into our daily reality: the advancement of technology and/or the depravity of mankind.
To say that today’s movies and books could become tomorrow’s reality may seem sensationalistic. Yet it has been mentioned, in many ways, that we are currently living the sci-fi our grandparents feared. Great minds of yesteryear who dared to imagine what the future would look like drew similar responses to their writings in their own time. They, as it turns out, were closer than even they might have expected to the future reality, which reinforces the notion that, should history repeat itself, the media often foreshadows our culture’s future.
When we draw connections between the fiction works of yesteryear and today’s reality, we’re able to follow the shift in society’s mentality over the past decades. And, we are left with a notion more frightening than anything in past movies or books that has come true: The pattern can, and likely will, repeat itself. If we’re now living out scenarios that terrified and chilled past generations, then it seems reasonable that the Hollywood creations now showing post-apocalyptic, dystopian, or even post-Christian societies wherein the depravity of mankind runs rampant and unchecked could very well be the true scenarios of tomorrow. Could today’s media be a tool for shaping the masses to embrace the unthinkable? It’s not as unlikely as we might think. For those who still doubt the possibility of this statement being true, we ask you to join us as we look at a few examples of things that have already come to pass.
In 1949, when George Orwell wrote 1984, he depicted a world wherein one totalitarian leader, known as “Big Brother” (who, some say, is a predictive parallel to Antichrist), continually surveilled and controlled the entire population. People in this tale are subjects to the government through and through; their very emotions, ideas, and statements are legislated and monitored by the “Thought Police” and are constantly reminded that “Big Brother is [always] watching.”[i] In addition to this nonstop, invasive monitoring, this speculated world is kept in a perpetual state of war. This condition best serves those in control of society by keeping resources sparse and personal ambitions minimal. All efforts and resources of the public are directed at the “war,” despite the fact that there appears to be no resolution in sight. The livelihood and individuality of the population remains suspended toward political efforts, while liberties are surrendered in trade for safety. The controlled populace then surrenders their sovereign rights for what they’re told is the protection of the population as a whole; thus, this submission holds the makings of a good citizen. Healing of the land is not a goal of those who are in control in 1984. On the contrary, the state of war is suspended for an intentional purpose. Consider Orwell’s seemingly prophetic words: “War, it will be seen, is now a purely internal affair. [Previously, when war had been built on international conflict,] the victor always plundered the vanquished. [Now, instead,] the war is waged by each ruling group against its own subjects, and the object of the war is not to make or prevent conquests of territory, but to keep the structure of society intact.… It would probably be accurate to say that by becoming continuous war has ceased to exist.”[ii] The truly spooky elements of the 1984 story rely on the same two elements mentioned previously: the notion that technology could ever evolve to this level of surveillance, and the idea that a government would become so controlling that it would dare to censor the actions, efforts, relationships, and even statements and thoughts of its civilians. Likewise, one of the dystopian elements of 1984 that lends a sense of “safety” to readers (thus balancing the negative components and allowing the audience to end the experience with exhilaration and resolve) is the idea that Americans would never be asked to submit to such controlling forces that there would be a place for the Thought Police. Likewise, many in 1949 never would have dreamed of a future wherein every action could be completely surveilled, because at that point, the necessary technology wasn’t yet in place. But, seven decades later, we live in a place where accusations of “hate speech” and surveillance methods are a thriving, rampant, and even complacently accepted dynamic of censorship and governmental control (more on this in an upcoming chapter). In many ways, we are living a type of parallel to the world portrayed so long ago in 1984.
ARTICLE CONTINUES BELOW VIDEOS
“THE LIES OF MEN & GODS–EPISODE 3” TOM HORN ENCOUNTERED THE LUCIFER DEVICE ON MT. GRAHAM AS APACHE WARNED OF GIANTS!
“THE LIES OF MEN AND GODS–EPISODE 2”: What’s Behind Flying Seraphim, Reptilians, And Portals Opening Above Mountains
“THE LIES OF MEN AND GODS–EPISODE 1”: The Vatican, Aliens, and Government Elites. Is It All a Coincidence?
Some question whether modern technology would even exist without its fictional inspiration. Certainly this is a fair question. However, it reaches into the realm of other questions without answers, such as which came first between the chicken and the egg. This is ultimately beside the point, because mankind will go everywhere that technology and ethical boundaries allow. When people feel inhibited, they press the boundaries within one or both of these parameters until they’ve created more room to evolve. We see evidence of this even within our lifetime; our modern innovations are the products of the imaginings of the previously fantastical. Think about it: Since the creation of The Jetsons, 2001: A Space Odyssey, and Dick Tracy, inventions such as Skype and Facebook video chatting have been on the roster of things we hoped to progress to. The 1980 film, Superman II, starring Christopher Reed and Margot Kidder, visualized replayable video messages in hologram form, stored on crystal disk-type drives. The military drones of 1984’s The Terminator seemed to predict the ones introduced in the early 2000s. Countless futuristic cartoons and movies such as the already-mentioned The Jetsons, The Fifth Element, Blade Runner and Total Recall predicted flying vehicles and self-driving cars. The 1960s series Star Trek inspired the invention of many new forms of technology, not the least of which was the first cell phone: Motorola’s 1973 800 MHz.[iii] Other movies and TV shows such as 2001: A Space Odyssey, Fahrenheit 451, and Star Trek foretold devices like iPods, tablets, and earbuds.[iv],[v] Star Wars portrayed a world where lasers could be used for cutting and holograms could be seen as 3D visuals. Back to the Future II suggested interactive home devices such as automatic-entry ID via fingerprint, voice-command functions such as lights, flat-screened televisions, video chatting, voice-activated food delivery, and cars that run on recycled forms of energy rather than solely on gasoline.[vi]
Movies portraying the concept of robots that both impersonate and serve mankind date back as far as 1927s silent movie, Metropolis, wherein the ethics of mass production, wealth-class distinction, and even the creation of a robot culminate in the predictive principle: “The mediator between the head and the hands must be the heart.”[vii] However, with this initially ethical approach toward the creation of robots seemingly abandoned, we now live with robots that serve and track us daily. For example, Apple’s Siri can be programmed to wake us up, manage our finances or social media, run varieties of calculations, track our schedule, give us reminders, and even make schedule changes and reservations.[viii] Amazon’s Alexa/Echo technology boasts similar services, offering everything from meal suggestions and a newsfeed based on preferences, smart-home controls, fitness tracking, and even vocal-commands TV controls.[ix]
Zeroing in one of the above-listed technologies, “smart home” features include an ever-growing list of amenities that seem to come straight out of sci-fi movies of previous generations, such as the aforementioned climate control, lighting control, surveillance, door-lock/unlock control, and home-security monitoring (many of these functions can be handled even from remote locations). Further, those who live in a “smart home” can “train” various devices to “communicate” for better efficiency or convenience, such as setting “the coffee machine to…[brew coffee] as you wake up…[or] automatically heating up dinner in a Crock-Pot as you roll into the driveway.”[x] Motion sensors, proximity detection in key fobs, and tracking in smart phones can be integrated with automated home features to bring one’s house to life—and production—without so much as the flip of a switch. Tracking apps on children’s phones and devices placed in pet collars make it easy to check on family members from the office, while door alarms can alert parents at work if the kids at home enter an off-limits area, such as the garage, gun-safe room, or closet storage for chemical supplies.[xi] Other safety measures include gas- or water-leak detection and security devices that can signal when there’s a problem at home—and can even call for professional help and intervention if needed.[xii]
In 2014, Japanese Professor Hiroshi Ishiguro introduced a robotic news anchor called Kodomoroid, a name formed from the combination of two Japanese words meaning “child” and “android.” Ishiguro, director of the Intelligent Robotics Laboratory, said he desires to see artificial intelligence become more “clever,” and he looks for such creations to become more readily available, eventually being sold for “price of a laptop computer.”[xiii] Consequently, he has made a life-like, robotic copy of himself, which he sends traveling in his stead to his speaking engagements. While these robots look more like robots than humans during their demonstrations, it is clear to see that the gap between the appearance and mannerisms of the two is closing.
In the 1970s, a professor at the Tokyo Institute of Technology, Masahiro Mori, coined the term “uncanny valley,” explaining that, as human-like robots become more realistic, there is a point at which they will lose their charm: “They are so lifelike and yet they are not ‘right.’”[xiv] Those watching robots as they speak can see what he means, but we wonder how long this visible differentiation between the invented and the real human will exist.
In fact, that gap between the mechanical and biological forms narrows daily where digital humans are concerned. At the 2020 Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas, Nevada, Samsung unveiled its “Neon” line of video chatbots. These are on-screen digital, interactive humans created to provide online chat support, artificial-intelligence assistance, or customer-service exchanges. These avatars are completely convincing; because each is designed with unique styles, looks, and personalities, users may not realize that they’re talking to a computer product.[xv]
Heading farther back into history to 1865, Jules Verne wrote about the potential of mankind making a trip to the moon in his work De la Terre à la Lune (“From the Earth to the Moon”). The parallels between his imaginings and twenty-first-century space-travel innovations almost need no mention. However, it’s worthwhile to note that beyond merely going to space and landing on the moon, the 1990s television series Babylon 5 depicted a self-contained, interplanetary space city filled with “humans and aliens wrapped in 2,500,000 tons of spinning metal; all alone in the night.”[xvi] That series also presented many of the other advances listed in this chapter, but most notably predicted the use of deepfake technology in an episode wherein a main character was told that if he didn’t publicly confess to crimes he didn’t commit, he would be executed, with a posthumous confession artificially created to deface his memory.[xvii] The setting of this encapsulated, galactic city also bears a striking similarity to the International Space Station (ISS), which NASA is now opening up to commercial companies for “producing, marketing, or testing their products,” along with “filming commercials or movies against the backdrop of space.”[xviii] Certainly, anyone who can shell out the thirty-five thousand dollars per day/per person cost of staying on the station probably won’t expect to share amenities with aliens from non-human races, but that may soon be one of the few distinctions between Babylon 5 and NASA’s ISS.[xix]
The invisible plane of the Wonder Woman series, as well as the wholly transparent vehicles in Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home and James Bond’s Die Another Day, showed a futuristic world wherein cloaking devices could render objects invisible. This technology is now closer to reality with “active camouflage,” which is a mainstream pursuit for militaries around the world.[xx] Similarly, fabrics with “retro-reflective projection” (RPT) allow wearers to blend in with their surroundings, offering fluid camouflage that results in near invisibility.[xxi] Star Trek: The Next Generation’s “holodeck” was only one of many portrayals of a world where participants can engage in the virtual reality (VR) that they imagine and desire. Now, VR technology exists—and is rapidly improving—to create an interactive experience for users in settings ranging from video-gaming to simulated, hands-on training such as surgery.[xxii] Like Orwell’s 1984, 1998’s Enemy of the State alluded to extreme levels of surveillance we may someday be subjected to, and few would argue that these foreshadows of what’s developing have become fairly accurate (more on this in an upcoming chapter).
UP NEXT: Demon Seed
[i] Orwell, George. 1984. (New York, NY: Harcourt, Inc.; 1949), 2.
[ii] Ibid,. 156.
[iii] Sloane, Paul. “How Star Trek Inspired an Innovation.” Destination Innovation. 2020. Accessed November 6, 2020. https://www.destination-innovation.com/how-startrek-inspired-an-innovation-your-cell-phone/.
[iv] Costello, Sam. “How the iPod Got its Name.” Lifewire. December 10, 2019. Accessed November 6, 2020. https://www.lifewire.com/how-did-ipod-get-its-name-1999778.
[v] Engber, Daniel. “Who Made That Earbud?” New York Times. May 16, 2014. Accessed November 6, 2020. https://www.nytimes.com/2014/05/18/magazine/who-made-that-earbud.html.
[vi] Westaway, Luke. “See the 2015 Tech That ‘Back to the Future Part II’ Predicted, and What It Missed.” CNET Online. October 17, 2015. Accessed November 6, 2020. https://www.cnet.com/news/heres-the-technology-back-to-the-future-part-ii-predicted-and-what-it-missed/.
[vii] Lang, Fritz, director, Metropolis. (Babelsberg Studios, Universal Film A.G.; 1927).
[viii] Prince, Alicia. “15 Awesome Things You Didn’t Know Siri Can Do For You.” Lifehack Online. 2020. Accessed November 6, 2020. https://www.lifehack.org/articles/technology/15-awesome-things-you-didnt-know-siri-can-for-you.html.
[ix] Profis, Sharon. “10 of the Best Things You Can Do with the Amazon Echo.” CNET Online. February 13, 2017. Accessed November 6, 2020. https://www.cnet.com/how-to/the-best-things-you-can-do-with-amazon-echo/.
[x] “9 Ways a Smart Home Can Improve Your Life.” SmartThings Online. March 31, 2015. Accessed November 6, 2020. https://blog.smartthings.com/news/roundups/9-ways-a-smart-home-can-improve-your-life/.
[xiii] “Meet Kodomoroid, Japan’s Android Newsreader.” Sydney Morning Herald. June 25, 2014. Accessed November 6, 2020. https://www.smh.com.au/technology/meet-kodomoroid-japans-android-newsreader-20140625-zskoq.html.
[xiv] Caballar, Rina. “What Is the Uncanny Valley?” IEEE Spectrum. November 6, 2019. Accessed November 6, 2020. https://spectrum.ieee.org/automaton/robotics/humanoids/what-is-the-uncanny-valley.
[xv] Haselton, Todd. “Samsung’s Neon ‘Artificial Humans’ Look Like Super-Realistic Video Chatbooks.” CNBC Online. January 7, 2020. Accessed November 6, 2020. https://www.cnbc.com/2020/01/06/samsung-neon-artificial-human-announced-at-ces-2020.html.
[xvi] LaFia, John, “Intersections in Real Time,” Babylon 5: Season 4, Episode 18. (Burbank, CA: Warner Brothers, 1997). DVD.
[xviii] Grush, Loren. “NASA Is Opening the Space Station to Commercial Business and More Private Astronauts.” The Verge. June 7, 2019. Accessed November 6, 2020. https://www.theverge.com/2019/6/7/18656280/nasa-space-station-private-astronauts-commercial-business.
[xx] Mizokami, Kyle. “Russia to Demonstrate Active Camouflage for Soldiers, Tanks.” Popular Mechanics. August 20, 2018. Accessed November 6, 2020. https://www.popularmechanics.com/military/research/a22777736/russia-to-demonstrate-active-camouflage-for-soldiers-tanks/.
[xxi] Dar, Talha. “This Is How Invisibility Cloaks Work To Make You Disappear.” Wonderful Engineering. May 13, 2015. November 6, 2020. https://wonderfulengineering.com/this-is-how-invisibility-cloaks-work-to-make-you-disappear/.
[xxii] “Virtual Reality: Another World Within Sight.” Iberdrola Online. 2020. Accessed November 6, 2020. https://www.iberdrola.com/innovation/virtual-reality.