A Freudian analysis of Humans and Machines in classic films

A Freudian analysis of Humans and Machines in classic films

After reading The Movies on Your Mind (Harvey R. Greenberg, 1975), I’m still not sure what the goal of this book was. The theme is clear, but the goal not so much.

My favorite takeaway is that humans have always rejected our creations when they seem to threaten our dominance. The movies the book analyzes that focus on machines and technology are way more interesting that those that focus on the tired Oedipus complex. If you’d like to hear the Freudian analysis, it would seem that this rejection is a reaction against the perceived threat that such creations pose.

In other words, we are all afraid of being replaced by a better or improved version of ourselves. We are afraid of becoming obsolete. We are afraid of death.

The book draws parallels between Frankenstein‘s monster (the original Robot), 2001‘s HAL, the machine from Metropolis, and Colossus from 1970’s The Forbin Project. Each movie reinforces the confrontational relationship between humans and machines.

Unfortunately The Movies on Your Mind is one of those old books written in that academic style characteristic of cumbersome vocabulary and long descriptions that lack personal insights.

All in all, I do love reading how old authors understood our relationships with machines.

The Myth of the Beast

The official records called them “vertebrates”, but in 3018 everyone knew them as “beasts”. These were birds, fish, reptiles, and Alyx favorites, mammals. Alyx was a record keeper, and had read all the books and all the records in existence. And the story that had always fascinated her most was known as the Myth of the Beast.

In the Quiet Dead of Space

The day our spaceship arrived to Proxima Centauri, my wife and I were hiking the meadows of the Azores.

Alone, my wife and I had been traveling in the void of space for 20 years. She was the most wonderful woman I had ever met and I was truly in love with her after all these years.

And during this time, the holographic simulation room our only escape. Here in the the holodeck anything was possible.Here we could experience any location on Earth. And we explored them all. We liked to get lost in the illusions of the places we visited.

A Solo Cocktail at the Headless Horse

The evening that my boyfriend threatened with breaking up over my excessive drinking, I did what any other sane man would do. I went to my local bar to talk to my therapist. Over a drink.

I wasn’t intentionally ignoring my boyfriend. It so happens that The Headless Horse is the bar is where my psychologist works. The customers here come to get professional mental help and life advice. All the bartenders are robots who are both licensed shrinks and skillful mixologists.

Man vs. Machine

David Apatoff from the blog Illustration Art talks about one of my favorite topics in his essay for Phil Hale‘s book Let’s Kill Johnny Badhair: the conflict between man and machine, between natural and artificial, between creator and creation…

The clash between man and machine has inspired many legends, from John Henry’s race against the steam drill to John Connor’s struggle with Skynet. You might say it has become a central metaphor for our time. Like all great metaphors, the clash between man and machine offers both strength and flexibility. Its imagery is strong and clear while its message is flexible and ambiguous, permitting a wide variety of interpretations. For example, a clash between man and a machine might represent humanity’s clash with modernity, but it might also symbolize sterile efficiency against organic imagination. We might reflect on it as a statement on the endurance of the human will when flesh is pitted against metal; or the value of a soul in a conflict with the soulless; or the conflict between order and disarray.

—David Apatoff, Comic-Con 2016: Phil Hale

Man vs. Machine

Art by Phil Hale, from his book “Let’s Kill Johnny Badhair”.

Ernest Hemingway on the Daily Practice of Writing

You write until you come to a place where you still have your juice and know what will happen next and you stop and try to live through until the next day when you hit it again.
—Ernest Hemingway

Here is an interview conducted by George Plimpton on 1954:

[Hemingway] keeps track of his daily progress—“so as not to kid myself”—on a large chart made out of the side of a cardboard packing case and set up against the wall under the nose of a mounted gazelle head. The numbers on the chart showing the daily output of words differ from 450, 575, 462, 1250, back to 512, the higher figures on days Hemingway puts in extra work so he won’t feel guilty spending the following day fishing on the Gulf Stream.

— George Plimpton for the Paris Review, issue 18, Spring 1958

And here is Hemingway’s daily practice in his own words:

When I am working on a book or a story I write every morning as soon after first light as possible. There is no one to disturb you and it is cool or cold and you come to your work and warm as you write. You read what you have written and, as you always stop when you know what is going to happen next, you go on from there. You write until you come to a place where you still have your juice and know what will happen next and you stop and try to live through until the next day when you hit it again. You have started at six in the morning, say, and may go on until noon or be through before that. When you stop you are as empty, and at the same time never empty but filling, as when you have made love to someone you love. Nothing can hurt you, nothing can happen, nothing means anything until the next day when you do it again. It is the wait until the next day that is hard to get through.

Ernest Hemingway, The Art of Fiction No. 21

History of the Far Future

I love fiction and non-fiction stories that imagine the far, far future. One can think of flying cars and super-computers, but what comes ten thousand years after, or one million years after?

Nobody knows, but here are some stories that try to answer that question:

Lastly, here are a couple of links from Wikipedia with many more resources:

The Hero’s Identity

Video games, basically interactive storytelling, fulfill a great number of human needs. If only the rules of the game on real life where do clear…

Today, Cam has been sober from gaming for seven and a half years. For him, it was a problem that insinuated itself into every corner of his life over the course of his adolescence. “Gaming fulfills all of my needs in one thing,” Cam explained. He earned rewards consistently. Benchmarks for success were clear, tangible. He got his social interaction. Structure. It helped him forget about how he had dropped out of high school, lost friends, got too out of shape for hockey. Or his bullies, his deteriorating family life, his pretend jobs. He had an identity.

The Truth About “Video Game Addiction”

On Quiet Minds

Alan Lightman on the human need to spend quiet time unplugged and alone every day.

Invisibly, almost without notice, we are losing ourselves. We are losing our ability to know who we are and what is important to us. We are creating a global machine in which each of us is a mindless and reflexive cog, relentlessly driven by the speed, noise, and artificial urgency of the wired world.

Why we owe it to ourselves to spend quiet time alone every day

On the Value of Bad Art

Bad Art. It sounds awful.

I love Art. Art that is big, and confident. Art that is unapologetic and grand. Art with capital A.

But there is also beauty in “bad” art. The art that’s small and unpretentious, that is not educated, that is unfinished, rushed, abandoned. There are worlds of infinite complexity in the most simple of art.

And so it’s funny when you look at a piece of Art with a fat A–


–and then you put it next to this doodle by Austin Kleon:


Hard not to see how they stand equal side by side.