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Electric Dreams


‘…a deeply silly film that somehow accurately predicts that technology might get in the way of our ability to socially interface in person…’

‘Have you ever heard of artificial intelligence?’ asks the nerdy hero of Steve Barron’s forgotten slice of tech-based hokum from 1984. Taking on a villainous mantle in the latest Mission Impossible is just the latest intrusion from the traditional big-bad of technology, the third wheel of a romantic triangle in a goofy rom-com that plays as a promo for the mega-hit single by Giorgio Moroder, Together in Electric Dreams. I bought it as a 7inch single on release, and it’s an upbeat, wishing-on the never-never choon with a typically squelchy Moroder guitar sound that never seems to have been off the car radio since, and there’s no point in my lifetime where it didn’t get turned right OOP.

That song is fully integrated here; it’s a composition created by Edgar, a computer voiced by Bud Cort, bought in a retail store stacked with such dated ephemera as Atari games cartridges. The purchaser is Miles Harding (Lenny Van Dohlen), who is trying to create an earthquake-proof brick and hopes to use AI processing power to design something that might provide a useful function to his home city of San Francisco. Miles even trusts Edgar to control all the electric appliances, doors, windows and locks in his apartment, but while he’s in the office, the computer hears the music of his classical musician neighbour Madeline (Virginia Madsen). When Edgar gets doused in champagne and starts to respond with his own music, Madeline thinks that Miles is responsible, and at first, he doesn’t have the heart to admit that he’s not the author of the choons that make her swoon…

From Richard Branson’s Virgin label, Electric Dreams is a deeply silly film that somehow accurately predicts that technology might get in the way of our ability to socially interface in person. While there’s time to squeeze in some inessential tracks by Culture Club and ELO’s Jeff Lynne, the way the computer Shakespeare in Love’s the final showstopper together is cleverly done; that distinctive four note progression is revealed as Edgar’s start-up chime, and we also see how Edgar samples sounds he finds on t’internet. In the end, the AI repents and sees the error of its ways in terms of interfering, and treats the entire world to his composition Together in Electric Dreams in a way that proves the opposite of the famous U2 giveaway; fishermen dance on trawlers, girls in swimsuits frolic on the beach, rainbows and unicorns appear in the sunshine and everyone is happy.

I spent a large chunk of the previous afternoon online, opening an Instagram account in order to open a Threads account, on the fringes of the weird carnival atmosphere of a reported 30+ million Twitter pals migrating, reunited and cavorting digitally outwith the shadow of a car salesman for joke exploding vehicles who wants to use his profits to fund climate-change denial. Whether Meta’s Threads will turn out to be as vulnerable to abuse as Twitter and Facebook turned out to be remains to be seen, but for one brief shining moment, it felt like it was the people who drive the internet, rather than the other way around. At one point, Edgar enquires about what a dream is, and we see an image of some electric sheep as a in-joke for Blade Runner fans. But with human behaviour becoming increasingly sheep-like in our willingness to follow the herd together and without question, the latent threat of Electric Dreams should give us pause to reflect on exactly where we’re headed…



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  1. The song doesn’t sound how I remember it. Not to worry. He has a very nice apartment, designing bricks that make the earth quake must pay well.

  2. I really don’t think blaming people for following the herd is helpful.
    It’s governments that allowed tech companies to steal data from peoples lives and their work, and then use it to make profit.
    This started back around the early 2000s and is how Google became so big.
    People follow the herd because they feel powerless at how data companies use sensors to take information about their personal lives then profit from it, with their governments approval.
    If you use copyrighted material that artists have created to inform how AI creates new art, then you profit from that art without giving any of it to the artists themselves.
    That isn’t special. This is not an amazing technology. It’s corporate theft in broad daylight. If governments allow companies to thieve from people then they can make huge profits.

    Quote from Professor Zuboff:

    More than two decades ago American lawmakers turned over the new networked information spaces of our digital age to private companies. Mr. Musk is the beneficiary of this misguided past. It means that we have no laws to prevent one person from owning a significant chunk of our information space and doing whatever he chooses.

    Citizens have been turned into bystanders. Every day when you read the news, it’s all about, Please Mr. Zuckerberg, please do something to make things better. Please, Mr. Dorsey, please make life bearable for us. Don’t destroy our society! Don’t destroy our democracy! Don’t make every single hour of every day, so stressful.

    We are bystanders begging these once-young men who have access to knowledge about people and society that has never before existed. A Facebook document that came out around 2018 described Facebook’s artificial intelligence, how all the data flows get computed into predictions. It was ingesting trillions of data points every day to produce 6 million behavioral predictions every second.

    This is how the power of divinity was imagined, this kind of omniscience. But now we’re talking about operations essentially controlled by a few guys.

    • Totally agree with every word of this, and appreciate the data. I just hate the position where we’re begging mercy from tech billionaires; to be clear, that sense of freedom is, IMHO, an illusion, and there’s no much to choose from between Musk and Zuckerberg. Not sure where this is going but it doesn’t look promising…

  3. This sounds like a fun movie that I’d actually give it a go if it went free on prime. That’ll be years I suspect. But I have patience.

    Also, your whole little talk about Threads made me laugh. There is no way you are that naive, so I can only assume you’re mocking that herd of 30million.

  4. Some films are better dead and buried. I’m pretty sure Threads won’t be vulnerable to abuse. The abuse is a feature, not a bug.

    • Right, and it’s not lost one those signing up that they’re flicking back to the same owner they were trying to get away from in the first place. But seeking supposedly eco friendly cars to finance Republican climate change denial, whatever your politics, isn’t a position anyone can maintain for long. Still, we’ll always be together, a lumpen proletariat bent to the whim of fake businessmen.

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