When the 2021-setting sci-fi Johnny Mnemonic film came out in 1995 320-gigabytes seemed to have been an enormous amount of data, akin to one’s impression of how much the Library of Congress holds. Of course it holds much much more than that, and 320 GB is paltry nowadays when terabyte external drives are stacked on shelves much like choices of fruits or potato chips in a grocery store. But Johnny Mnemonic will always be something big for me.
I saw it during my getting-to-know-Keanu-Reeves-days many years ago, when I didn’t even notice that the Just-Johnny role doesn’t need much acting skills. Which didn’t make me conclude that Keanu Reeves couldn’t act, thank goodness. Whatever could be said about him what remains is that this actor projects respectable charisma and he’s among my enduring favorites.
Johnny Mnemonic was disturbing to me then, and even now after I rewatched it, for the fact that I felt that it used the most extreme avenue for information transfer: the human brain. It was disturbing to see that it could become possible that the brain encasement be legitimately violently invaded for electronic purposes.
Yet while I was rewatching it I realized that the idea of using the brain for induced memory storage is fantastic (even) without foreign-object implants, like that chip that Just-Johnny had.
The induced-memory/ies would just be existing in the neurons themselves. The human brain has more than enough “space” to hold such extra memories — this with the assumption that we use only about 10% of its capacity. But please excuse errors in my statements here. I’m not a brain expert; just a thought dabbler. What’s sure is that the brain is a little understood organ of our body.
In another way Johnny Mnemonic can be seen as an exploration into the wonder of the human brain, brought into popular media. However, the violence in that film seemed to have downplayed this feature. That’s another thing that imprinted that movie into my psyche — it was violent. Stabbings. Bazooka hits. Big city filth. Monster companies and disenfranchised population. A courier job that traded childhood memories for a brain implant. A strong antagonist is dressed as a preacher, and it’s only now after I discovered that he’s Dolph Lundgren that his scary effect on me has lessened.
Recently I noticed that when I download a video I’d get only images and no sound. Sure enough I found that other people are having the same problem as I do and the discussions on the solutions is replete with jargon that had me jacking up my logic fast or else I wouldn’t be able to catch any of the drift.
Thankfully I understood enough to realize that there’s nothing wrong with my codecs and I need not uninstall anything. That in fact it’s not my doing. Incidentally I had figured out earlier that the safest choice, for me at least, is the webm file. I used to choose either flv or mp4 but they’ve become more of miss than hit for me. So far so good and I hope there’ll be no more seemingly-malicious hitches anymore, and forgive me if they aren’t malicious at all but most people out there seem to think so. This takes me back to Johnny Mnemonic.
What’s malicious in Johnny Mnemonic’s story is that the big-time company/ies block vital and can-be-easily-had information from getting out into the people. But here’s the third reason why it remained big time for me: a dolphin’s brain is a main conduit for information capture and release. If a dolphin could do that then how much more a human, though there’s the mention of the sonic waves that we can’t detect to consider, which gets me a bit puzzled now because they’re not electromagnetic waves. I could have heard it wrong. Oh, well, at least I took to the dolphin faster than Just-Johnny did.
Now my thoughts are threatening to go whichever way, because suddenly while I was writing the paragraph above I thought of TRON and his fight against the Master Computer. But I can’t accommodate TRON here now or I’ll get off my track.
I should be talking about my wonder of the human brain here, which basically is what Johnny Mnemonic has tampered with. Way back during my paperback-novel-reading days I got introduced into the wonder of the travelling bard of the ancient Celtic societies. He’s trained to memorize his people’s knowledge through songs and stories and it is through him that subsequent generations learn of their past. He’s responsible for training one who will follow after him and in this way precious knowledge is not lost. In that story that I read an antagonist hit a bard, causing his skull to be broken (sorry about that, but I had to retell it like that).
The author lamented the tragic loss of all those lengthy sagas and lore, all stored within that helpless brain of a now lifeless mystic. I did cry when I read that and it’s among those paperback-scenes that I will never forget. It’s like experiencing a world where all information within books and libraries have been burned down (which thankfully got saved in Aeon Flux in glass-like panels, but I can’t talk of Aeon now…)
Going back three paragraphs past, I was about to say that an okay-functioning notebook doesn’t get examined by me until I notice that accessing files and webpages are getting frustratingly slow or something’s not like the way it used to be. By looking for causes and wanting to overcome my frustration I get thrown into a world of fanciful jargon, like my newest vocabulary: splitter. If you’re not into computers then don’t worry if you don’t know what this is, yet. Without anybody to help me with computer troubles I have already figured out that I could survive just by learning from the web community itself. I’ve discovered that it’s not only me who’s having this or that problem and that there are lots of people out there willing to help out. Beautiful beautiful world.
Now, what I was about to say again is this: that as much as a single personal computer is like a brain [!break! I’m listening now to Joe Hisaishi’s First Love and I’m going berserk because I didn’t know it’s his and it’s among my favorite sound tracks, this one in The Legend/Taewangsasingi 🙂 ]… as much as the computer is like the brain the cyberspace is also like a bigger brain. But then I’m a member of the cult of the human brain and I do believe that it’s more wonderful than the web, as much as I believe that human cloning will never be successful.
If, just as in TRON, it’s possible to have all the body’s particles be digitized — and that means a one-to-one coding has been achieved — then that means memory locations can also be specified. But my argument is this: the neurons are not fixed entities but are rather, like all the human cells, dynamic. If it becomes possible to be accurate on the permutations of the totality of neural functions then memory functions can also be tracked. I doubt if this is possible, much as I doubt if it’s possible for a successful human cloning. A cloning of the physical parts, maybe yes, but the human is not only cells and tissues. Cells and tissues by themselves will not work unless there’s a “something” else that is added (e.g., in a specifically comatose patient), and then it’s a fully functioning person. I did ask my organic chemist classmate about this and he said, yes, modern technology can now successfully produce a human clone. I did ask my teacher where the soul would come from, and he said, well, God can work in indirect ways. But I didn’t press anymore because I didn’t want to compromise anyone with my fanciful speculations. At least what’s clear is that the manifestation of a genetic trait is the function of groups of genes plus the environment, a topic yet little understood nowadays.
The jargon that computer experts use just throws back at me the fact that information handling is a very specific arena. An mp4 is a world away from an mp3: one engages both my vision and hearing while the other has no visuals at all. This specificity is what our brains deal with all the time, a coordination of visual, auditory, olfactory, gustatory, tactile, proprioceptive, equilibrioceptive, nociceptive, thermoceptive and chronoceptive information handling, and simultaneous reactions, and more. Don’t be stressed about the 6th to 10th terms; they’re also new to me 🙂 . It’s all extended to the nerve system, hence throughout the body, at micro-world speeds. There’s storage and garbaging, filtering and enhancing, recycling, dissolution and recalling — all the complicated stuff happening in just seconds within 1 person, 1 baby, 1 elderly, even 1 dolphin!
Haah! Now I’m irrevocably lost and can’t return to Johnny. But as this post gets disseminated to individual brains out there via cyberspace then small chunks of sense here and there among the paragraphs above will be perceived by one person or another. Bastante. I’m satisfied with that. As much as I wanted a coherent composition I didn’t exert enough will to muster the will power to do so. Nevertheless, the mind isn’t confined to just logic, the kind that has a neat row of arguments. Intuition and random functions are also important features, and they sometimes manifest in one wanting to stop crazy studying for a moment and go configure into words a collection of recollections, like this one here.
It’s now Yiruma playing with his lovely lovely A River Flows In You. I wish for a river to flow within you. I wish everyone a peaceful day/evening and may you be the blessing that you wish to be.♥
♥ Muchisimas gracias to the owners of the illustrations above.