Avatar 2?

The ABC recently asked ‘What would you want to see in Avatar 2?’ This was my reply.

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Well, now we know that the bio-networked planet ‘Eywa’ can kick back, I think we have to ‘take it to the next level’ and see a threat to Eywa itself / herself!

This gives an opportunity to discuss the native’s belief systems versus the scientific interpretation of Eywa. As a Christian myself, I was not threatened by Eywa but simply found it to be an interesting concept. With the way the internet and modern AI are developing, we are close to a ‘silicon’ Eywa here on earth. When Google cars drive the street powered by AI receiving feedback from the GPS and who knows what other local sources of information, can it be long before we have eco-bots ploughing through our oceans and forest-bots wandering through our forests cleaning up pests and rubbish, and feeding the results back to live data on the internet?

What’s the big leap to a biological version of this network? I simply don’t understand Christian pastors I know of being threatened by Eywa. Maybe they didn’t pick up that the movie itself encompassed both the Scientific interpretation of Eywa *and* the Native interpretation, without necessarily siding with one or the other. Indeed, both are true: Eywa exists, but not as a ‘spirit’ but a planet wide biological network.

We live in strange times, and in my view the movie Avatar was not so much an ‘add’ for pagan mythology but an exploration of the strangeness of today’s world. With global warming and ecocide snuffing out biodiversity around our globe, Avatar raises all the obvious environmental questions.

But at a more metaphysical level, it also asks: when *is* something sentient, and ‘alive’? When are we going to see synthetic life, biological or silicon? When are AI’s going to be so responsive and mimic our behaviour so well that they pass the Turing test? What is sentience anyway?

Jake Sully is mortally wounded, and so the Soul-tree downloads him into an Avatar to save his life. But was that the real Jake Sully, his ‘soul’, or a photocopy, a backup, while in reality the *real* Jake’s brain dies?

If Avatar 2 explores some of these questions further it might just crack all the box-office records again, and usher in a new generation of Cyberpunk geeks staying up late in Cafe’s to argue these points. Isn’t that the goal of a Sci-Fi blockbuster these days?

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