Let's Discuss Tron Legacy.

It's a little tricky, because I was really impressed with how big some of the ideas in this movie are. On the other hand, it doesn't exactly handle them with grace and elegance.

First off, the visuals and soundtrack are every bit as good as you'd expect. The writing and acting... not so much. I recommend seeing it, but I wouldn't call it a great movie by any stretch.

A friend of mine complained on the way out, about how some aspects of the movie were total crap, how there was no real-world analogue to the idea of ISOs... and that's when it struck me that they really needed to do a better job explaining things.

Fair warning: Here there be spoilers.

The idea of code spontaneously coming out of an orderly and well-defined system... doesn't really translate in the real-world. The term "isomorphic algorithm" is pretty much just techno-babble. You can make incredibly complex AI that'll emulate some of those behaviours, that "learns" as far as we define the word, but outside of its defined purpose, it's probably not going to serve much purpose. Bots aren't going to turn around on you in the middle of a game of TF2 and ask if their frequent demise undermines the meaning of death by making it into something that can be skipped over with two clicks of the mouse. Your MP3 alarm clock software isn't going to start composing symphonies. For better or worse, the singularity is still a ways off.

But outside your computer - within the world of people who interact with computers on a daily basis - that kind of emergent behaviour and spontaneous idea generation can happen all the time, especially if the right conditions are in place to facilitate it. And it's in that context that I think the movie's messaging on open vs. closed progams, of creativity and spontaneity vs. tight control... rings a lot more true.

Now, admittedly, I'm pretty biased in that it's my job to manage many of the day-to-day operations at a coworking space, so I see these kinds of things all the time. But because I've seen that first-hand, I feel like I can articulate these ideas a hell of a lot better than the movie did, so here goes:

Open-source isn't so easy to define as "give all your software away for free and never make any money!" and closed-source vendors aren't all so evil as to keep issuing "new" software with no updates or improvements (insert your own Madden joke here). That being said, developers of all stripes who have access to a collaborative work environment filled with people who have complementary skills... can be a huge thing. Tightly controlled and sealed off workplaces don't provide employees the opportunity to share their successes and challenges, and reduce the amount of external recognition and assistance, respectively, that they can get. No one needs to give away business models or their company's secret sauce to discuss problems they're having with a certain bit of code, or to help others in a similar fashion. And, as everyone's problems become easier to solve, everyone in the ecosystem benefits from the ability to more quickly resolve issues.

It's the whole being more than the sum of its parts, and in the context of The Grid, it's a great analogue for ISOs, illustrating why there's a lot to be said for flexibility and openness... even if the movie doesn't quite do the best job of explaining it.


Share this post


Leave a comment

Note, comments must be approved before they are published