The smell of pine woods, a white-noise crashing waterfall and hundreds of miles of private forest. An ultra-modern, ultra-expensive home is nestled in the thick of the expanse. The stoic lodge has all the amenities of the 22nd century, really, and is without a doubt as beautiful as the surrounding nature, in a technological singularity sort of way.
If it sounds familiar, it’s because it is the home of Nathan Bateman (above), infamous techie of Blue Book, a fictitious take on Google from the movie, Ex Machina. It could also very well describe the home of Bill Gates.
His house is actually in Norway, but it could very well have been Idaho, Oregon or Washington. The hyper-intelligent, Uber-wealthy (pun intended) coder turned cool guy is the Silicon Valley dream. With all of its white male privilege with it, it has migrated North to Seattle. What are the red flags about Nathan’s lifestyle, and how can we avoid them?
Nathan and Caleb, main characters of the film. One a douchebag. Guess which.
Dominating others because tech overlords are psychopaths.
Beards and bottles of vodka and all, Nathan is an asshole. He’s arrogant, conniving, insecure and all the other negative stereotypes about World of Warcraft players to the nth degree. He’s beyond that, though, because of his influence. When a sheltered coder makes it big, their lack of sociability and empathy shines. It can mean there are psychopathic tendencies at play. Psychopaths enjoy trolling and lots of eye-contact; Nathan was a champion of both.
The progressive use of technology to delegate tasks is not inherently a bad thing. Think about Pokemon's Ash and the Pokedex, which can be allegory for Siri or Cortana. It’s a tool that complements Ash’s ability to live his life wherein he helps strangers basically constantly, participates in his community and contributes to social-political-world endangering issues (to the context of animal abuse, but he’s 10-years-old after all).
Iron Man has a place in the first issues of Brian Michael Bendis’ The Mighty Avengers that is significant to an integrated tech lifestyle. As Tony’s technology evolves, he discovers a way to implant his armor onto his cells, making his suit a biological one that he can activate. This convenient integration goes haywire when Ultron hacks the armor, and therefore synthetically alters Tony into becoming the new vessel for Ultron, in this case a spitting image of Janet Van Dyne, the Wasp.
Iron Man –> Ultron (who looks like Wasp. Because comic books.)
Nothing wrong with changing genders. The issue at hand here is Tony’s technology taking control of him from the inside out, unwittingly to its operator, then proceeding to hack satellites and attempt global domination. This is important because when we are not careful, the growing pains of a new technology will ruin the user and communities.
Be like Ash, don’t eff up like Tony and definitely don’t be Nathan. Use technology as complementary, mindfully and in a non-abusive way.
Promote the general welfare and then...
There are science-fictions we can look to that highlight a more optimistic relationship to technology than Ex Machina and Nathan. Blade Runner, which will have a Ryan Gosling-flavored reboot soon, shows us a world where cops use technology to ice out ne’er-do-wells.
What if this was a solution to body cameras for our city’s police department? It’s time the Nathans of the tech world poured less into their fancy homes and enormous egos and supported these justice-based technologies.
Alien, the Ridley Scott classic that also just franchised, apparently successfully, has a lot to unpack. The Nathan angle is not unlike the Blade Runner point: in all the Alien movies we see excellent integration of medicine and technology. Restorative healing bays and medical analysis to put WebMD six feet in the Google grave.
The Nathans need to deliver this, because we deserve accessible, futuristic medicine just as much as we like having Snapchat. American health care isn’t up to snuff. American policing isn’t up to snuff. Complementary technology can be up to snuff, so let’s make it up. to. snuff.
Stay mindful with tech.
From behavioral red flags, complementary use of technology pitfalls and possible futures, it doesn’t take Michio Kaku to break down where humans are at. It takes a Seattleite to recognize the savage types as we stroll through the International District, Georgetown and Roosevelt. Above all it takes a Seattleite to be mindful with themselves to not become the savage Nathan type themselves. As we all evolve with technology in our day-to-day, remember to check in on the ways technology is working for you. Make sure not to use technology to deceive, connive, abuse or malign.
Picture that house in the sprawling timbers of Washington again. Think of your friend who has all that Facebook money. Or your brother-in-law with the kush Amazon job. Or maybe it’s you with all the money and influence of the tech-world grants. With great power comes great responsibility; create a digital space that is intentional and peaceful.