Paranoid Machines

A Series of Sounds and Lectures

This Month: Tron, Kong, Qanon, Basilisk, Mnemotech
THURSDAY May 17 at 8pm

In the last scene of the movie Tron, our protagonist, the hacker Flynn, has been reborn as CEO of the mighty ENCOM corporation. He climbs out of his black helicopter onto the roof of his skyscraper headquarters, and there are his friends — his ex-girlfriend, who’s avatar he just smooched on, and her current brogrammer boyfriend — all dolled up in their early 80s disco best, about to head down to the executive suite for some coke-fueled debauchery. And as Flynn rushes towards them, arms and suit-lapels outstretched, he shouts a cryptic phrase:

“Greetings, Programs!”

This makes no diegetic sense. Flynn would have had to explain everything that happened to him: “Hey yeah so I got digitized, played death frisbee, got squirted out by the AI that controls the world, and that’s why I now say ‘greetings programs’ and am your boss. Yes, your boss. The board loves this. Now you call me program. Do it. Call me program.”

Another explanation: that Tron is an old Disney movie that focused more on groundbreaking CGI technology than plot and continuity. But no, that’s not it either.

What’s really going on is that final shouted “Greetings, Programs!” isn’t supposed to make sense within the narrative frame of the film. It’s directed at us. Because Tron is in fact an allegorical text depicting the rupture of digital technology into the physical world, where it now dominates us.

. . .

Hi. I’m Jason Brown. For the last twenty years or so, I’ve been trying to understand the paranoid nature of memory technology, using the 1982 movie Tron as a mythopoetic scaffold to explain everything, which has not worked. Does that sound Fun and Interesting? Then buddy, you are in luck, cause that’s what I’m doing this Thursday and you are invited.

This month, I’ll be talking about mediated epistemology and fractal unknowability, including such topics as: Tron, the Donkey Kong high score, Elon Musk’s love live, Qanon, the origins of mnemotechnics, and Tron. Something for the whole family. Also beer. A decade or two ago, this all seemed like a big ol’ joke. Digital technology rupturing out through children’s media object to take over the world! What a wacky funny joke! There will be beer.

The Lecture Portion of the Evening will be preceded by a brief musical interlude. Or at least that’s the plan. We’ll see how it goes. To be honest, this is actually sort of a dress rehearsal for the Paranoid Machines Series, which will continue through the summer on the third thursday of every month.

Next month is the seventy-first anniversary of the modern UFO. So on Thursday June 21, I’ll be talking about UFOs. Hey, why not come to that? Since now you have some advance notice instead of hearing about it the day before, ha ha, technology, amirite? Who can even get it together. It’s crazy stuff, man.