Consciousness and pop stuff

Transformers: The Movie (2007)

Posted in Brain+mind dualist by Trevor on October 13, 2009

Mostly I don’t go to movies thinking “Hmmm, I wonder how this will reflect on popular attitudes to the mind-body problem?” But in this case, I did. I seriously went to the cinema to get an idea of whether people were okay with the idea of talking, thinking, emoting robots. In a non-children’s film, would viewers accept robots that were righteously angry? Evil? Sentimentally loyal?

Also the movie has a bunch of big robots punching each other. What’s not to like about that? I love robots. I want to be a robot when I grow up. Though perhaps not a Roomba.

Anyway, I didn’t really grow up watching the Transformer cartoon, so I didn’t know a lot about the Transformers universe. So I went in with all these questions about sentimental robots still unanswered, and ready to pose to my movie-watching self.

I needn’t have bothered. Right out of the blocks, the very first seconds of the movie, even before the credits I think, an important-sounding voice intones: “Before time began …” (what could that possibly mean?) and goes on to tell the story of the “All Spark”. The All Spark is a little grey box which is the magical source of all Transformer life. Its existence preceded the universe itself. Its actual nature is left unexplained, it’s as mysterious as God. The Transformers are not human-made, they come from a distant planet, but they were originally formed when the All Spark’s ancient power was imparted into dead matter.

In other words, despite the famous tagline “Robots in disguise”, the Transformers aren’t robots at all. They’re dualistic beings with metal bodies and this mysterious, metaphysical, All Spark energy-soul.

Optimus Prime: Not-a-robot in disguise

Optimus Prime: Not-a-robot in disguise

I did a bit of research – i.e. I buggerised around on youtube when I was supposed to be working one day. And I found out that the All Spark isn’t really part of the original TV show. There was a similar sort of thing that lives in Optimus Prime’s chest called the “Matrix of Leadership”, but that’s more a sort of battery / backup drive as far as I can tell.

So there you go. The writers of Transformers movie perhaps found it too difficult to accept the idea that these characters could just be just material, mechanical devices; they had to add in the All-spark to give them life. The Transformers are, in fact, not robots at all.

The Consciousness Verdict:
Transformers is Brain+Mind Dualist.


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