RE: TRON: The Ghost in the Machine
on Tuesday, April, 30, 2013 8:15 PM
If you go by Tron 2.0, it's not as apocalyptic as all that. The reformat in particular gives some important clues.
At the beginning of the level, you can overhear two ICP soldiers talking about the upcoming reformat, and they are annoyed by it but not frightened. It's an inconvenience to them, not a threat. One jokes about how the last time he ended up losing all his updates, and the other one ribs him that he'd "lose his header if it wasn't compiled on".
Once the reformat actually begins, one program warns you to "Quick! Save yourself!" and then explains that he's saving himself every few microcycles so as to minimize losses when reinstalled.
Life and death clearly doesn't work the same way inside the machine, for programs, as it does for humans in the real world. There's a difference between terminating a running program's operation and deleting it permanently. Few people reformat or restore a system without backing up data and programs. Anything saved and reinstalled returns.
For a program, existence might very likely be more like a video game, where you can "die" and then return to your last save point, losing only what you have not saved. The films use deresolution as a metaphor for death, but it's very likely there's a significant difference between deresolution and deletion. The latter is permanent, the former might not be.
There also seems to be differing levels of sentience and autonomy depicted throughout the films and games. Some programs seem to be fully realized characters and others seem to be mostly dronelike. The difference seems to be narrative convenience more than a coherent model of operation. One thing is certain, those characters that have users or interact with users seem to display more sentience. Again, that may be a matter of narrative convenience but it also may be a clue that programs reflect the intelligence of higher forms that interact with them. Perhaps they have different modes of functioning that are context specific? There is a case to be made for such a concept.
When we first see Yori, she seems to be in a dronelike mode, performing rote functions in a dazelike somnambulent state, until Tron quite literally awakens her. One moment she doesn't recognize him, doesn't sound or act humanlike but instead very robotic until suddenly she snaps out of it and from then on she acts like a full sentient person. The reason for this is never explained, but throughout Tron82 and 2.0 you can find examples of programs that act in both of those ways.
Think for a moment about the Sec Rezzers you see throughout the game in Tron 2.0. Are these things actually pulling ICPs from a holding area somewhere, teleporting them in as if they're constant persons like we are? Or are they creating them on the spot, like duplicate browser windows opened? If the latter, then they're not "killed", they're just closed. What we never do see is what happens AFTER the danger has passed. Once the Sec Rezzer is activated, the summoned ICPs get you or you get them. But what happens after, if you escape or are derezzed? The extra ICPs are no longer needed, where do they go? It's logical to think that a mechanism that rezzes extra ICPs when needed would also DErez them when they're not. This is a natural part of system operations.
In the normal course of a computing session, programs are started and closed, ran and stopped, all the time as a normal part of operations. Browser windows, notification buttons, process indicators, scripts and functions. You run a defrag, the program opens, runs it's course, and is closed. Nothing violent or destructive about it, just the way it works.
Even without a full explanation of how exactly it all works, it's clear that the normal human paradigm of an individual being birthed, persisting constantly, and then destroyed forever isn't fully translatable to the reality inside the system. If there is a difference between deresolution and deletion, and it would certainly seem there is, then there is no true killing of a program as long as a copy exists. And deresolution is the closing of an instance, stopping a program from running, ending a session. Presuming everything is saved, the program can pick up again right where it left off when opened again. As to deletion, it can't happen when a program is running. Unless the hardware is physically damaged and / or catastrophically fails, you have to stop a program before you can modify or delete it. It can also crash on it's own and have to be restarted. That happens all the time as well. So, for a program, they're never "awake" when they're deleted. They can be shut down gently or forcefully, and can crash or shut down on their own, but regardless deletion happens when they're dormant. So it's like going to sleep and never waking up.
Programs can be moved, duplicated, cut and pasted, backed up, restored, opened and closed, ran and stopped over and over again. It's not the same as human existence. There are some things in common but certainly not all. It's hard for us to really wrap our heads around exactly what existence is like for a sentient or semi-sentient program, but it's not like ours. We'd be mistaken if we project our experiences directly onto theirs.