Don’t Bother a Trip to “The Island” - Rafal Smigrodski
“The Island” movie may have been already been mentioned on this list, so perhaps I am beating a dead horse but the story riled me up considerably.
Spoilers follow below.
The movie is meant as a cautionary tale, where fully sentient clones of paying customers are made in an underground facility, kept alive in a fully controlled society, and then slaughtered for transplant parts. There are evil villains, great production values, car chases to put Matrix to shame, and a happy ending - all the makings of a great Hollywood movie, right?
Watching it one may at first be drawn into the tale the director is telling us, and even feel properly cautioned about the dangers of an uncontrolled future. But then, one starts to wonder: Apparently in the movie’s physics it is within a few months possible to grow fully formed adult clones whose brains are empty. Obviously, at this stage you could harvest them, without any ethical quandaries. Yet, clones are imprinted with fake memories, and awakened in a facility where they form a society manipulated for stability, at enormous expense. We get the explanation that trying to keep them alive without a mind for long would result in the deterioration of their organs, as if the human soul was needed to nourish the body, and not the other way around. Does it mean that the fiendish doctors are going to all the expense of building an artificial society to merely increase the shelf life of their product, instead of going the easy way and selling it straight out of the cloning vat?
Did you say “fiendish doctors”?
Then it starts to unravel, when you notice that in this cautionary tale everything is switched around: Obstetricians murder the baby’s mother as soon as it’s out of the womb. Computer programmers, supervisors, businessmen, hundreds of professionals and support staff are working to perfect a system so evil it could make Mengele recoil in horror. Of all the thousands of working Americans involved, nobody spills the beans, everybody gets their check and hustles living people straight into the waste incinerator, not even bothering to gas them first. Two out of two rich people we get to meet are evil scum, one is willing to murder his twin brother of a clone, who shares his memories (apparently through some sort of telepathic resonance), to get a liver. The other is the archfiend himself, a doctor dreaming about about curing little childrens’ leukemia and daily murdering innocent people, with his own hands (saying, of all things “I brought you into this world, and I will take you off it") .The only people willing to help the clones make their escape are a sleazy member of the economically challenged class (played by Steve Buscemi), and a noble hired assassin.
A noble assassin?! The archfiend physician?
By now you would need to be arch-stupid not to see there is something seriously wrong with this tale. Nothing fits real life. On our planet murderers usually don’t dream about curing leukemia. Physicians are not murderers, we are in the business of making lives longer, not shorter. The rich are in fact more honest than the poor, and honest businessmen succeed over the long run more than thieves (see Sam Walton vs. the Enron gang). And of course, we scientists do not have a god complex - we don’t believe it.
So, yes, the movie is indeed a cautionary tale. It tells us that if you give a hundred million dollars to a bunch of anti-progress, anti-science, greedy leftist Hollywood idiots, you get a load of glittering shite, as Ewan McGregor should have said instead of signing on to make it.
Don’t waste your money.
Rafal Smigrodski is an instructor in clinical neurology at the University of Virginia.
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