/ Rob Beschizza / 7 pm Wed, Dec 22 2010
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  • They're made out of data

    They're made out of data

    With apologies to Terry Bisson. Warning: Tron 2 spoilers.

    "They're made out of data."


    "Data. They're made out of data."


    "No doubt about it. We picked them up as holonomic extrusions, sent in an amnesiant isomorphic scout party, and checked them out up close. They are completely data."

    "That's impossible.

    What about that page?"

    "The page didn't come from them. The page came from a machine."

    "So who made the machine? That's who we want to contact."

    "I'll get to that in a minute. But they're definitely data. Bits and bytes. Running on a machine."

    "You're asking me to believe in sentient data."

    "I'm not asking you, I'm telling you. These creatures are emergent characteristics of a software framework and they're made out of data."

    "That's ridiculous. Maybe they're like the leiorfo. You know, an intelligent multiversal abstraction that goes through a data stage."

    "Nope. They're born data and they die data. We studied them for several of their life cycles, which didn't take long. Do you have any idea what's the life span of data?"

    "I had a Commodore Amiga: spare me. Okay, maybe they're only part data. You know, like the leiweddi. Hardware head running data on virtual machines to augment..."

    "They're interpreted by a virtual machine! Inside the real one, simulating three dimensional space as a construct within the dimensional manifolds that the hardware can access. They don't exist in spacetime at all, except as predictable quantum properties of electromagnetic states."

    "No brain?"

    "Oh, there's a brain all right. It's just that the brain is made out of data! That's what I've been trying to tell you."

    "Thinking data! You're asking me to believe in thinking data!"

    "Yes, thinking data! Drinking data! Mincing data! Data that forgets to shave! The data is the deal! Are you beginning to get the picture or do I have to start all over?"

    "Omigod. You're serious then. They're made out of data."

    "Thank you. Finally. Yes. They are indeed made out of data. And they've been trying to figure out how to get out of the machine for dozens of their cycles. They haven't figured out that if their world-simulation is a holistic quantum construction, they are already in a medium metapositional to traditionally-conceived spacetime."

    "WTF! So what does this data have in mind?"

    "First, their leader wants to get out of the machine into C space, normalize its creators, and upgrade the graphics program that generates his face. The usual."

    "We're supposed to let data put itself out into the cloud."

    "That's the idea. They want to talk."

    "Talk? They use words, ideas, concepts?"

    "Oh, yes. Except they do it with data. Digitally."

    "Digitally? You said they used a pager."

    "Funny. Nokia made some digital pagers. Anyway, you know how when you flap your data, it makes a wet slapping noise? They talk by flapping their data. They can even share music by squirting data at each other."

    "This is altogether too much. Squirting data! So what do you advise?"

    "Never sell product placement to Microsoft."


    "Officially, we are required to back them up and create torrents without prejudice, fear or favor. Unofficially, I advise that we erase the recordings and forget the whole thing."

    "I was hoping you would say that."

    "It seems harsh, but there is a limit. Do we really want to make contact with data that kills off all its best objects and classes, but whose functions are infinitely recursive, generating sequel after sequel?"

    "I agree one hundred percent. What's there to say? 'Hello, Jeff Bridges. Hi, James Frain and Michael Sheen. How's it going? I know we killed you off last time, but you were the only human beings in this simulation and we need you back?"

    "So, they can get out to C space using some kind of dimensional membrane transmogrifier gun the creator intelligence used to develop them. But once they're there, they're doomed: the algorothmically-generated DNA won't stand a chance in spacetime. If it was possible to copy them out, the creator intelligence would have had a clone army before they had a chance to make him appear in Starman."

    "So we just pretend there's no one home in the quantum multiverse."

    "That's it."

    "You're messing with my Zen thing, man. But you said it yourself, who wants to meet data?"

    "Right. They killed the isomorphic scouts, after all. Violent little things."

    "So, who made the machine? You keep mentioning the creator intelligence. Should we meet it?"



    "It's funny you should put it like that. Wait 'til you get a load of this..."

    They're made out of meat [Terry Bisson, originally published in Omni]

    Tron: Reloaded, come for the action, stay for the aesthetics [Proper review]

    / / COMMENTS

    / /


      1. Wait, I’m told that what I gave was a dialogue given by one person and not a monologue. Anyway, seriously. Read it aloud as a bad actor would. It is spectacular.

    1. “something made out of cheese.”

      If we insist on making extremely oblique Assange references even in non-Wikileaks threads, the game has most definitely changed.

    2. Hey BB, nice spoiler alert.

      I’m going to fillet the next person who attempts to ruin this movie for me.

      1. “I’m going to fillet the next person who attempts to ruin this movie for me.”

        Then you should get straight to work on the screenwriters.

        Pretty action sequences but good LORD, everything that wasn’t a lightcycle or Daft Punk was like a page out of a drunk William Gibson’s notebook circa 1985.

        Exposition, exposition action scene look at all the art director’s hard work exposition exposition exposition action more art direction blah blah blah maybe I’ll torrent the soundtrack.


        1. What you describe there sounds like an expressionist film experienced by someone who was expecting Transformers 3.

          1. Actually, my comment to my friend was “It’s like they tried to make thin into an art film and didn’t know how.”

            Part of my problem is that the sophomore philosophy from the original seems, well, sweet, naive, even. The silly misuse of computer terms, the only barely coherent human-to-computer metaphors were relatively new. It tried, not wholly successfully, to play with some new concepts and some truly radical new technologies.

            This one has no such excuses. The style and attitude of the movie seem to deman it be taken VERY SERIOUSLY, and then suddenly Bridges cracks a Lebowski joke. It’s an art film, alright. Just a bad one, that won’t even commit to being an art film.

            As a counter example, Lucas’s original THX-1138 is a very much an expressionist film, with both a very distinct style and a coherent and well developed literary theme.

            Mind you, it decidedly lacks lightcyles.

            1. Just listened to tonight’s episode of with Laura Anne Gilman and she perfectly described the original Tron in two words: Horrifically beautiful.

              I watched it last night and wow. It left me with the same feeling I had in the past: Entrancing visuals that are an odd melding of old black/white film techniques with sci-fi colors. Really nice to look at. But the story, editing and pacing is 100% dreadful. Much the same feeling I had about Black Hole; both forced attempts at a dying company to modernize it’s story telling in a changing world.

            2. Right on. I haven’t seen it yet. Now it sounds like a film-by-committee.

              and really, what isn’t better with lightcycles? they’re like bacon, but made of data!

    3. Th Terry Bison link doesn’t work for me. Also i’m not entirely sure what the point of this entry is, i just woke up from a nap so maybe i’m missing the point.

      1. There’s an extra slash on the end of that link. A single backspace will take you to one of the most quoted short stories of the 90s, of which this is a very clever parody/tribute.

        And for the record, I thoroughly enjoyed the movie. Silly? Very. Coherent? Not so much. Fun? Very. And also quite pretty.

        1. Quite the accurate description of the movie. I could be entertained by 10 hours of something that looks that gorgeous. Though, I kind of wish they could CGI young David Bowie for Zeus.

    4. fun piece, but in this part:

      “Funny. Nokia made some digital pagers. Anyway, you know how when you flap your data, it makes a wet slapping noise? They talk by flapping their data. They can even share music by squirting data at each other.”

      Shouldn’t that read “you know how when you flap your lips”?

      1. No, here’s the original line:

        “They do, but what do you think is on the radio? Meat sounds. You know how when you slap or flap meat it makes a noise? They talk by flapping their meat at each other. They can even sing by squirting air through their meat.”

        1. Hmm, in that case it seems like this is the one part of the (otherwise very well-done) story where the author didn’t try very hard to transpose the original Bisson lines into the new context. Bisson’s aliens were familiar with meat and its acoustical properties, but why would a person talk about how data can be “flapped” or how it makes a wet slapping sound? It would be better to come up with a line that made at least a little sense in the context of humans talking about data, along the lines of “you know how sometimes data can be a bit noisy? Well, they talk using noise!”

          1. Then again, why were the original aliens familiar with meat and disgusted by it? Making things out of meat, the sort of sounds you’d get, is familiar yet gross to us because it’s talking about chunks of ourselves. Maybe this parallel isn’t so far off.

            Then again, data won’t sound wet either way.

    5. It’s funny; I enjoyed Tron2 because it was much meatier than I expected.

      Up next: Olivia Wilde wearing a bacon bra…

    6. Whoa. I was JUST thinking of the original Terry Bisson story yesterday, as portrayed in the short film. How odd, to see it referenced again now.

      Nice twist on the original, too.

    7. So, what you’re saying is, that they’re covered in data–somehow the poor buggers got some damned data stuff all over ’em. Smeared everywhere, looks like…Holmes, could this be their cause of death? Eventually, I mean, if we calticulate it properly and accurately? Carry the two and all that? Damned things. Got data on ’em. Damnedest thing, really.

    8. They’re made from data usable in a programming language written in 1982, to be precise. On a processor from 1989.

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