The Final Cut
Recently I've seen the movie The Final Cut, a science-fiction thriller about a future where babies get implants that record every single moment of their lives up to their death. Robin Williams, in another one of his recent subdued roles, plays the role of a "cutter", a person who cuts together people's "life-movies" to play at funerals. His work becomes particularly interesting when, while starting work on the life of a corrupt administrator of an implant company, he discovers someone that may be related to a memory he has carried guilt about all his life.
It got mostly bad reviews, except for Roger Ebert. I think that's quite unfortunate. Critics mostly criticized the plot. I thought it was a great plot. For one thing, most of us can relate to the idea of guilt carried from something we did when we were too young to reason (I certainly do). The issues of privacy raised by the implant are also questions of great import, which should make us pause. So far issues of privacy have always been issues of either crime (such as cameras in the streets) or workplace abuse (which is what I consider drug testing is), but nothing resembling this kind of issue.
So what the fuck am I doing reviewing a movie on my blog ? I've never done that before. Well, there are two reasons, both of which have to do with theism.
First, there's the issue of privacy rights - many people in the Final Cut universe rebel against the implant because it means the end of privacy rights. Since anyone could have an implant - and theoretically not even know it - there does not seem to be any way to act naturally anywhere. One person is reported to have killed herself a few months after learning she had an implant, as she simply couldn't stand the pressure. So even though the government is not the one recording the data, or using it, and "cutters" are professionally bound to secrecy, there is still a possibility of your words and actions being captured, that exists at all moments. The only possibility left is to exclude from one's life anyone who has such an implant - which seems a priori impossible.
This also relates to the question of God. In my entry "Who wants to be a ghost ?", I discussed how even the possibility of being constantly observed would be enough to radically change our behaviour, and how this shows that Christians are hypocrites because they don't act any different than we do, let alone radically differently. The idea that your life is recorded is perhaps less frightening as your life being observed by God, in that the recording will not be used to judge your fate. So it's more of a theoretical anxiety, an existential anxiety, while the anxiety that an honest Christian would feel is a very real and important anxiety.
It would certainly be an important social experiment. So here's another interesting issue : what would such a social experiment tell us about human morality ? It seems possible that an individual, in this scenario, would come to terms with the implant by realizing that any consequence from it would only happen after his life. So there is definitely a possibility there that does not exist with the omniscient god scenario.
Secondly, the implant is very much religious in many aspects. For one thing, it is imposed on children without their consent, just like religious brainwashing. Unlike religious belief, parents are encouraged to admit the deed at a certain age, but this is not as important because, unlike God, the implant is real and still has real consequences even if one knows the truth. Like religion, the implant serves as a sort of knee-jerk, irrational replacement morality - the anxiety of having one's actions recorded forever. The implant serves a religious purpose - getting over grief, funerals. The cutters are bound to a professional code that is akin to priest-parishoner confidentiality. Finally, the implant causes social problems and turmoil on a global scale, like religion.
So the anti-implant groups are, if we follow this analogy, atheists. But this is a very unflattering comparison. The anti-implant groups are a rebellious sub-culture, they protest at people's funerals, and some of them will stoop to killing to help their cause. So they actually sound more like Christians. The implant is like the Christian meme, and the anti-implant groups are like Christians. It's a very weird dynamic. I think it might actually make the movie more interesting than it would have been with a straightforward religious comparison, although I would like to watch a movie made on that premise too.