Tag: evolutionary computation
I saw Tron: Legacy yesterday, and while I’m going to wait ’til I see the IMAX version before I write a proper review, I want to get the word out early as to how good this film really is. Ignore the critics: this film operates on levels that are both higher than they can grasp and lower than they’re willing to stoop. It will baffle anyone who is wedded to the idea that science and art are polar opposites, which is basically the bulk of the film critic community, including many online writers.
If you’re an average moviegoer who doesn’t mind the odd bit of technobabble to accompany very slick action sequences that leave you wanting more, this film is for you. If you’re involved in computer science and have great affection for the original Tron—if you feel like you’re creating new life with each piece of code you write—this film is for you.
If, like me, you were inspired by the first film to move into computer science, and now you’re doing research on genetic algorithms—where nature and silicon collide—oh man, is this film for you.
Now there are plenty of films that I love that aren’t particularly good: Flash Gordon, for instance, or Bride of the Monster. I can admit that—there’s no shame in liking a bad movie. But I’ll defend Tron: Legacy against any claims that it’s “dumb” or “silly”. It’s the greatest piece of big-budget computer science fantasy since its predecessor, 28 years ago. Sure, that’s not a large set of films, but it’s the antithesis of the Matrix trilogy, for example, letting us know instead that humanity can be discovered in the most unlikely of places. Man and machine aren’t so different after all.
Tron: Legacy is about the spontaneity of life, the magic spark that appears from within our brains when we reach consciousness. It’s about perfection and imperfection and the arrogance of youth. It’s about accepting who you are and rediscovering who you always were. It’s a continuation of the DIY hacker manifesto that was the original film.
It’s about computer science, not products on a shelf. It’s about transforming the world by experimenting on technology’s frontiers.
When I started doing my honours, I was immediately drawn to machine learning and evolutionary computation. Ever since I was eight and programming a TRS-80 (right on the heels of seeing Tron), I was fascinated by watching a creation come to life—something that only existed in your head until you translated it into programming code. You’d type RUN and then… voila! That concept in your head was suddenly flickering before your very eyes. I imagine animators feel the same way.
Once you throw a kind of natural selection into the process and point it at real knowledge discovery, you’ve got a living, breathing system that learns and evolves, adapting to the terrain of its search space. It’s a heady, fascinating mix. Where does consciousness fit into all this?
That’s the philosophy behind Tron: Legacy. The soul is both mystical and natural; it can emerge from circuitry just as much as from neurons in the brain. But it’s that stochastic element that allows life to flourish. The universe is a giant random number generator, and we’re all just programs on the Grid, products of paradox. Imperfection is perfection—that’s the beauty of life.