If you’ve ever seen the Bruce Willis movie Surrogates, then you’ve seen the world of people living through robotic human replicas. If the technology existed, would you want a surrogate of your own?
For those who haven’t seen the film, Surrogates is a 2009 movie featuring Bruce Willis and Radha Mitchell. IMDB gives the following synopsis: “People are living their lives remotely from the safety of their own homes via robotic surrogates — sexy, physically perfect mechanical representations of themselves. It’s an ideal world where crime, pain, fear and consequences don’t exist. When the first murder in years jolts this utopia, FBI agent Greer discovers a vast conspiracy behind the surrogate phenomenon and must abandon his own surrogate, risking his life to unravel the mystery. “
The movie is yet another warning against too much technology, but if you put that aside, it is a very interesting idea. Imagine if you could go out into the world and do anything you want without ever risking your actual physical body. The movie shows the low-end models as robotic mannequins with expressionless faces that give no physical input to the human owner. However, high-end models allow you to feel everything that your surrogate does, as if you were really there. The movie also shows that the use of surrogates nearly wipes out all crime, drug use and transmittable disease. Since the people aren’t interacting, their surrogates are, no one is at risk, and injury to the surrogate is simply considered vandalism.
Personally, I’m a bit torn. I love the idea of being able to look however I want, being able to use a body with none of my real physical limitations and being able to go anywhere without the fear of being raped, assaulted or otherwise injured. However, there is the fear that using a surrogate could become addictive, and some people might never leave their homes, and instead choose to live through their surrogate and never experience life in the flesh.
There are some serious benefits to the idea of surrogates. Imagine that you’re a victim of a horrible disease that makes it painful for you to move and get out in the world. Perhaps you’re a paraplegic or quadriplegic, or you have missing limbs. Through a surrogate not only could you move without pain, you could walk, run, swim, and do any number of physical activities that your own body is incapable of. For those afflicted with cancer or other diseases, it would allow them to be out in the world without fear of injury or infection, with full physical freedom and a healthy, attractive appearance.
Physical appearance is another benefit of surrogates. You can get your surrogate made to look like the real you, or like anything you can imagine. Your surrogate can be as handsome or beautiful as you want it to be. Are you overweight? Your surrogate can be slim and trim. Do you have scars or other unfortunate qualities? Your surrogate doesn’t have to. And unlike real plastic surgery, surrogates can be modified at any time without pain, so you can change your look whenever you please. No longer would you have to worry about not looking good enough to be out in public.
This can even be taken one step further in the fact that gender reassignment surgery would be a thing of the past. If you feel like a woman trapped in a man’s body or a man trapped in a woman’s body, simply get a surrogate of the gender you want to be. No more hormones, surgery or psychological testing needed. It would also be wonderful for people who are somewhere in the middle of the gender spectrum. With enough money you could have both a male and female surrogate, and switch between the two at your desire. You would have the freedom to experience life as whoever you really want to be.
The biggest problem, and the one that the movie addresses is the addictive nature of having a surrogate. If you could be strong, attractive, healthy and fully functional by using a surrogate, why would you ever get out of the machine and come out in the real world as yourself? Who would want to be seen as disabled, ugly, diseased or in any way imperfect when they could have a flawless representation of themselves out in the world instead? Some people might be able to use a surrogate as an entertaining toy, but many people might choose to live a life inside a machine for the opportunity to fit in and be healthy.
I’m not sure if this generation will live to see that kind of technology, but it is something worth thinking about. The movie claimed that surrogates were so affordable that 98% of the population had one. I find that hard to believe, but I can believe that a large portion of the population would want one and try very hard to get one. How would having these robotic avatars running around in the world affect life overall? Would the world be a better place? Would anyone choose to live normally if they could afford to have a surrogate? I’m not sure where I would stand. It sounds wonderful, but it might be too much of a good thing.