Thursday, December 13, 2007

Lost in The Waste Lands -- Part 2

Certainly there had been an intelligence left in the ancient computers below the city, a single living organism which had long ago ceased to exist sanely under conditions that, within its merciless dipolar circuits, could only be absolute reality. It had held its increasingly alien logic within its banks of memory for eight hundred years and might have held them so for eight hundred more, if not for the arrival of Roland and his friends; yet this mens non corpus had brooded and grown ever more insane with each passing year; even in its increasing periods of sleep it could be said to dream, and these dreams grew steadily more abnormal as the world moved on. Now, although the unthinkable machinery which maintained the Beams had weakened, this insane and inhuman intelligence had awakened in the rooms of ruin and had begun once more, although as bodiless as any ghost, to stumble through the halls of the dead.
-----The Waste Lands by Stephen King

In the second half of The Waste Lands our travelers, Roland, Eddie, Susannah and Jake along with Jake's billy bumbler Oy arrive at the decaying city of Lud. It looks physically much like New York City of our present day, but with even a few more modern touches such as a sound-barrier breaking monorail running into and out of the city. The city has been decaying for approximately 800 years due to some cataclysmic event that wiped out most of its inhabitants. It's current population is made up of the Grays and the Pubes. Both groups barely subsist in the city's decaying infrastructure and the Pubes regularly "worship" and make sacrifices to the ghosts that run the machinery of the city.

That "ghost" is the computer Blaine which runs all the mechanical aspects of Lud. He speaks to the group of travelers and they note, "[t]hat voice belonged to a machine, an incredibly smart machine, a playful machine, but there was something very wrong with it, all the same."

Blaine himself describes to Roland and his group what's been happening in Lud.

[I suffer from] a degenerative disease which humans call going insane. . . . Repeated diagnostic checks have failed to reveal the source of the problem. I can only conclude that this is a spiritual malaise beyond my ability to repair.

I have felt my mind growing steadily stranger over the years. Serving the people of Mid-World became pointless centuries ago. Serving those few people of Lud who wished to venture abroad became equally silly not long after. Yet I carried on until the arrival of David Quick, a short while ago. I don’t remember exactly when that was. Do you believe, Roland of Gilead, that machines may grow senile?

At some point they [the people of Lud and Mid-World] forgot that the voice of the mono was also the voice of the computer. Not long after that they forgot I was a servant and they began believing I was a god. Since I was built to serve, I fulfilled their requirements and became what they wanted—a god dispensing both favor and punishment according to whim . . . or random-access memory, if you prefer.

What's more, Blaine reads people. He can see them through cameras around the city and he analyzes their voices to understand them and their motivations. Sound familiar?

So my new Smokey theory is that Smokey is a computer created by a now-defunct Island civilization that was more advanced or differently advanced than ours. Out of boredom, he uses his powers to dispense favor and punishment on whim. For example, he kills Eko because Eko won't play his game by confessing. He kills the pilot just because he's mad. I think Smokey is suffering from spiritual malaise that he cannot fix, and like Blaine, he should be avoided if at all possible.

But wait, there's more. Before Eddie and Susannah wake up Blaine, or I should say Big Blaine, they hear a small voice, Little Blaine, who warns them not to wake Big Blaine. The Whisperers?

Tomorrow -- more odds and ends.


capcom said...

Very interesting Memphish! It certainly seems as if TPTB did get a lot of inspiration from this story. Maybe Smokey does have sentient thought after all.

But if he doesn't, he might be more like that episode of the old Star Trek series where the computer of the long dead civilization was still acting out its orders centuries later, and that apparition of the women kept saying, "I come for you" and touching and taking the crew members and absorbing them. (or something like that) If he is computer driven, Smokey's original program could be so corrupt by now (via failing components, etc.) that his actions are now over-reaching far beyond what he was originally intended to do -- even if he might have been initially theoretically taught the Three Robot Laws. And if we take an idea from the movie "I, Robot", Smokey might even think (in his corrupt programmed thought processes) that he is actually protecting the humans from themselves when he judges and kills them. Or not. :-)

Little Blaine's warnings also sound like Walt's.

Lost 2010 said...

Blaine is my favorite character in that series. I must have 19 reasons why I love Blaine.

Blaine also loves riddles and games. Could that be how he sees using the apparitions to lead the losties around the jungle? As a game or riddle? Locke speaks in riddles and he is supposedly in communion with the island.

Also in line with this theory - The people had forgotten that the voice of the monorail was the voice of the computer. Is Jacob just a holographic projection that was once the voice of the computer but now it's on the fritz?

I may have to re-read this one. I had forgotten how much I enjoyed it.

Melissa_Lossa said...

That's a great comparison, memphish! I like the idea of Smokey slowly going insane.

It's been awhile since I read this book, but wasn't Blaine really happy to see Roland and crew because he wanted the challenge? I know that the book ends with the riddling contest, and knowing how the contest turns out, I think that your idea about Smokey getting mad at Eko for not playing along might be right.

memphish said...

Yes ML Blaine was excited by the fresh blood so to speak though Eddie and Susannah had to convince him they were worthy of his time. And they had to do it fast and "honestly" since Blaine could read their emotions so well. Roland's ability to mask himself from Blaine could also be something the Others have taught themselves to do or the purpose of the ring around Jacob's cabin not to mention the sonic fence and how it relates to Smokey's circuitry.

I also wonder if the Hostiles managed to get a slightly better understanding of Smokey though still an imperfect one sort of like the Grays relative to the DI like Pubes.

Paula Abdul Alhazred said...

As you know, Memphish, I've been saying similar things over at my blog, and it was really characters like Shardik and Blaine that caused me to start seeing the monster in this way. Shardik is a guardian, sort of the same way the monster is a security system, and they both seem to like chasing people through forests and knocking down trees. And then Blaine, with his fractured personality, willingness to judge who gets to live and who dies, and his completely irrational rationality all recall the monster.

The idea that the monster could be some type of failing technology makes a lot of sense, though it raises some other big questions. Is it actually a form of artificial intelligence, or is there another will controlling it somehow? The way I see it, if the monster is a form of sentience a la Blaine the Mono, then there's no way it was created by DHARMA. It would have to be some form futuristic technology. But if it's not actually sentient, if someone is projecting their will onto it, then it's likely it was created by DHARMA originally.

Either way, it's looking more and more as if the monster is really a manifestation of Jacob. So, the big question here is, is Jacob actually a person with special powers who is using the Cerberus System as his way to move around the island (which is similar to a certain DARK TOWER character you ain't met yet)? Or is Jacob actually a projection of the monster's intelligence, sort of its core personality? I could see Jacob being a real person, someone with psychic abilities like Walt who has bonded with the forces of the island, and is now existing in a distorted form of space-time. But I could also see it that Jacob is the intelligence of a superadvanced computer, which has gone completely insane and developed a god complex as it slowly starts malfunctioning, and has now convinced itself that it's not actually a machine but a spiritual force. It would be fascinating if Jacob's hatred of technology was actually Jacob's unwillingness to admit that he himself is a machine.

I think both of these scenarios are completely plausible, and either one would relate back to some of the key elements of THE DARK TOWER.

memphish said...

Smokey could be a mere Shardik, i.e. a guardian of the doorway, but he seems to have more going on with him like Blaine. I agree you've posed the key question PAA about whether or not there is someone or something or nothing controlling Smokey. Unfortunately we have no answer yet.

As for Jacob, everyone needs to seek out the complete Room 23 video. It's probably on DarkUFO's site somewhere and it's an Easter Egg on the bonus disk for the DVDs. It starts out with a Dharma ID tag of sorts and includes shots of the DeGroots and Hanso, but it also has the "God loves you as he loved Jacob" screen. This really makes me wonder about our Jacob. Was he part of DI? Was this added in later by Ben's people? Or did this refer to the Jacob of the Bible and it's only coincidence (or fate) that there's a Jacob in some sort of authority position with Ben's group?

Paula Abdul Alhazred said...

I did check out that video when Dark posted it. Very cool! I had assumed that the video was created by the Others as a brainwashing tool, because it seems DHARMA and Jacob are at opposite ends of the spectrum. But apparently, on the special feature available only on the Blu-Ray version (grrrrrrrrrrr), Darlton explain that DHARMA used Room 23 as a psychological experiment, and now the Others use it to keep people in line. I don't really like the idea that DHARMA created the brainwashing film; the reference to Jacob makes little sense to me in that regard. I like better the idea that the Others cut up various DI films and spliced them into their own weird little psychedelic rave movie.

memphish said...

I'm having serious Blu-ray envy. I suppose most of those things will turn up in various places, but still. Why don't I get to see something because I don't have $500 to spend on a technology that may go the way of Beta to get some answers?

The idea that Dharma used this film makes me wonder if Ben was subjected to its use. Did he make little birdies fly into walls when he watched it?

Paula Abdul Alhazred said...

Yeah. I can't even pay my rent, let alone worry about upgrading to hi-def. Between DVD, HD-DVD, Blu-Ray and the emerging importance of downloading, I'll just stick with the reliable thing for now.

DarkUFO has a summary posted of all the revelations from the Blu-Ray edition. Apparently, they confirm that Walt is psychic, that DHARMA caused the Incident by drilling into the electromagnetic anomaly, that Des is exclusively responsible for the plane crash, the submarine is only part of how the Others reach the island, and that the foot statue has something to do with ancient Egyptians. It would be nice, you know, if something like this was available to LOST fans who don't have much money or aren't tech snobs.

capcom said...

What has bothered me about the "God loves you..." message, is that it says lovED, in past tense. Does that mean anything? I dunno. But I've always wondered if it meant that Jaocb was revered very much in the past, but then banished or something.