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‘Oblivion,’ Tech and the Question of Humanity

person holding black smartphone taking a picture of brown house at daytime

Even with its predictable plot, ridiculous need to stick to tired clichés, and Tom Cruise, “Oblivion” gives viewers cause to wonder what makes us human. Its answer is “our memories.”

As clone whose memory was wiped five years ago, Cruise’s character Jack is bound to a tower where he lives safely and ventures out to patrol the land, kill Scavs if he has to, and fix drones. However, since Jack is cloned from the best of humanity, he starts to wonder about his existence and the dreams he has about a woman he doesn’t know. When he meets her and meets himself with a different number, he realizes who he is and who he isn’t. She doesn’t mind. She’s his wife and says that it’s the memories that make a person who he or she is.

If memories are what make us who we are, humanity might be in trouble. Smart phones and the Internet are eroding are ability to remember things. There’s no reason to remember facts when they can be found easily with a quick search, but when you don’t practice using your memory, you begin to lose the ability to remember. This is seen in the “photo taking impairment effect.” Because we take a photo of it, our brain doesn’t have to remember it. While this hypothesis is still being tested and debated, the question is:

If we are our memories, who are we when we don’t remember anything, and who will be as a society when we forget our past? What happens to humanity when the phones have our memories? Perhaps, the movie has told us more than we realize… “Oblivion.”

For further consideration:

https://www.wbur.org/onpoint/2017/10/12/smartphones-brain-memory

https://www.thecut.com/2017/08/how-taking-photos-affects-your-memory.html

https://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/science/science-news/10507146/Taking-photographs-ruins-the-memory-research-finds.html

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