Sunday, October 10, 2010

Droids R Us

The most terrifying commercial I've seen in a long time is an advertisement for the newest "Droid" techno-gizmo. I freely confess that I don't know what "Droid" is, though from what I've seen, I gather it's the latest and raciest in a seemingly endless line of palm-held gadgets designed to lure us away from life into a pseudo-realm of puerile, onanistic fantasy.

Anyway, in the commercial, a young guy, early twenty-ish, sits at a conference table in his office building, surrounded by his co-workers, his boss standing at the head. Our hero whips out his "Droid" and begins fooling with it. As his fingers fly ever faster over the crotch-sized keyboard, a startling, CG-assisted transformation takes place: his hands and forearms turn to shining, chrome-plated cables, and before you know it, man has become part-machine. As he completes his task and rests back in his chair, the voice-over intones: "Turning you into an instrument of efficiency."

What are we to make of this? To begin with, the masturbatory appeal of the pitch is unmistakable, with a presumably pleasurable physical transformation obtained via the agency of one's own hand. At the same time, the voice-over converts erotic pleasure into yet another business protocol: hearkening back to the efficiency system of Frederick Winslow Taylor, this commercial defines the ideal worker as the man who buries his individuality (and sexuality) in the routinized performance of corporate labor. To put it simply: you jerk off, the Company makes a killing. Work, in this commercial, is literally transformed into a fetish; sexual arousal and fulfillment arise not from human contact but from contact with, indeed inseparability from, the machine.

All of this is horrifying enough. But when you add to it the fact that the "Droid" into which our satiated worker turns strongly resembles the soulless killing machines of the Terminator movies, we've left the realm of horror and entered that of absolute, totalitarian nightmare. This commercial implies--and from what I've seen on the street and in the classroom, it's not far off--that people want to be turned into Terminators, want to surrender their humanity in the interest of corporate profit, want to lose their identity, their heart, their spirit. The Terminators are precisely what I've described above: mass-produced slave labor employed by the ultimate faceless corporate entity, the military computer Skynet; their sole reason for existence, their sole source of pleasure (if they can be said to desire or experience pleasure at all) lies in carrying out Skynet's merciless, murderous dictates. The Terminators are out to kill the human race--and they do so with perfect efficiency.

It makes me want to ask: this is what we long to become? This is our evolution as a species? This is the end of human life?

On second thought, I guess it might be.

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