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Moon (Duncan Jones, 2009) - Alive, Live, and the "Live Feed"

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  • Moon (Duncan Jones, 2009) - Alive, Live, and the "Live Feed"

    Moon (Duncan Jones 2009) is a compelling futuristic film that thinks about the self, exploitation of the environment, artificial intelligence, human relationships, and more. Set in the year 2035, the film introduces us to Sam Bell, who is nearing the end of his three-year helium-3 mining contract with Lunar Industries. After a lunar rover accident, GERTY, the station’s artificial intelligence unit, follows protocol and “wakes up” a new Sam Bell. The newly awoken Sam Bell has no memory of the rover crash and discovers the old Sam Bell after going rogue and traveling to the scene of the accident. Upon returning to the space station, the two Sam Bells grapple with their separate yet undeniably connected identities and must rethink who (or what) they are. Among other things, the Sam Bells realize that their memories of their lives on Earth (wife Tess and daughter Eve) are transplanted memories. After venturing beyond the communication interference towers, Sam is able to restore their “live feed” with Earth and finds out that Tess has passed away and Eve is now 15.

    How is the “live feed” another way that Lunar Industries controls all of the Sams? Is there more to it than simple control or censorship of information? The film seems to suggest that the Lunar Industries version of the “live feed” is both a mechanism of communication as well as a literal “live” feed that provides the Sams with a sense of meaning, a source of purposeful life. Does the manipulated experience of this “live feed” make the Sams less human? Is there a difference between "live" and "alive"? What is the film trying to express about the role of communication in the distinction between subject and object?

    Another nuance to consider is the role of technology in mediating our communications and “live feed”. The film implies that technology interferes with our ability to directly and genuinely connect with other human beings. The interference towers are the most obvious depiction of this thought, but the additional barrier of screens in messages “sent” from Tess also support this idea. How has technology changed our ability to communicate and how and where has this impacted modern relationships? Has the use of social media improved or worsened the “live feed”s that we both broadcast and receive? Does social media augment our ability to reach out to past connections, bond over shared memories, and explore relationships that we wouldn’t have had the courage to do otherwise? Or is technology/social media merely an interference tower that distorts our “live feed” into highlight reels similar to the messages that the Sams “received” from Tess?

    Lastly, the inability to communicate directly with Earth was always something that the Sams appraised as truth. They accepted the illusion of broken communication at face value and never believed it was possible to converse with Earth before discovering the interference towers. What illusions do we currently have about communication that prevent us from making genuine connections? What does our “live feed” look like now and what should it look like?

  • #2
    Communication and interpersonal interactions are largely what drives a human’s identity and self-understanding. Moon exhibits this fact with the tragic existence of the clones of Sam Bell. Each clone is “woken up” on Lunar’s base on the moon, and is fueled with the memory of the original Sam to create a sense of self-worth and passion to get them to do work. Their only communication with what they perceive as their past life on earth is seen through old messages that Tess had sent the original Sam while he was on his three-year contract on the moon. Because the clones have only lived on the moon and not had any true interaction with another human, does that strip them of their subjectivity?

    As Habermas explains, humans gain their sense of self-worth from the recognition of other sentient beings of their own identity, and as another sentient being. Under this train of thought, it is difficult to attest to the true nature of the older clone’s subjectivity, as he had lived for almost three years with the memory of a human who had lived a life, but had never actually communicated with another human, until the next Sam clone arrives. I believe that his memory of Sam’s life is enough to provide himself an identity, and possible subjectivity, though completely manipulated. The fact that the live feed does not work leaves him in an isolated world away from a world that he doesn’t know. With a live feed and direct communication, he would have a sense of understanding and he would be affirmed by those that he might speak with from Earth. That possibility is stripped partly to avoid him speaking to someone back on earth and knowing the truth of his existence, as well as provide him with more sense of identity and worth than he otherwise has.

    The film’s thinking on the idea of identity and subjectivity is interesting, cynical with a spark of optimism. Lunar’s ability to fabricate false identities in these clones and force them to work based on a futile hope for a return home to their family relates to the control that corporations have on the identities of its consumers. Society has an ever-changing group identity that is driven by the media and the corporations that fuel and fund this identity, and makes the people think it is their own style, set of beliefs et cetera. The optimism, however, comes from the results of the two clones’ interaction together, and the strength and understanding that came from their relationship. They discovered a true live feed, could touch and hear another breathing human, and were able to find truth because of it.


    • #3

      In Moon (Duncan Jones 2009) tells the story of a clone astronaut who is reprogrammed every three years. The Lunar Industries have placed a mission of having clones continuously be the ones up on the moon instead of actual humans. The clones are an actual clone of a real person, Sam who was once an astronaut and is now living his life on Earth. The clones believe that they are truly the real Sam and have all his memories implanted in their head. The Lunar Industries manipulate them into believing they are on a three-year mission. They do this because each clone gives out after three years so they need them to reprogram a new one every three years in order to sufficiently complete their mission.

      The “live feed” the Lunar Industries’ use helps further manipulate and control the Sam’s into believing they are truly on a three year mission. The live feeds they show are pre-recorded videos of Sam’s wife, Tess and daughter Eve. Sam hangs on mentally to his videos and is anticipating being home. The videos help Sam get through the mission he needs to complete and cope with isolation. The Lunar Industries know this will help the clones further cope with the anxiety and stress of loneliness that they feel. I think the manipulated version of the live feeds do make the Sam’s feel less human, since they literally are. I mean why go above and beyond in pleasing these clones when they aren’t real humans. They do the bare minimum in order for them to get the work done that’s needed. They make sure they don’t find out what is actually going on in real life, or else they could potentially figure out that they are just clones and the role Lunar Industries is forcing them to play.

      I think that this film does show how technology has interfered with our actual communication and overall happiness. It’s much easier to become isolated when people have all of these different forms of communication and media without actually having a real-life conversation. We are able to watch TV shows, movies, YouTube videos and feel a sense of community, but really have no true connection. I think people feel the most isolated they ever have because of the increase in social media. The “live feeds” that are broadcasted now are more fake and not as authentic as one’s in real life. Just like in the movie, Sam loses his mind by being extremely Isolated. He has very small doses of footage from his wife and doesn’t know what to do with himself. Obviously that is a much more extreme example, but I think it’s important to keep your mind open and to think how social media is truly affecting your happiness and communication.

      The biggest illusions we currently face regarding communication that prevents it from being genuine is the lack of authenticity. People can choose what they display, instead of in reality were you have to show your full self. People can edit and really put a lot of effort into what they display on social media, which ultimately makes everyone’s life become an illusion, furthering the disconnect from people.


      • #4
        “Where are we now? How do we make the world so much better?” These questions are posed in the commercial for "Lunar Industries" which open the film, Moon (Jones, 2009). The conceit of the commercial is that Lunar Industries has made the humans better off and the world a cleaner place with the energy technology they import from the moon. But it is also one of the central questions of the film: where does the human race stand today with great advancements in science, medicine, and technology? Have the advancements truly made the world so much better? The short answer from Moon, is “yes and no.” While there is no argument against science’s role in improving the standard of living for people on the planet by improving medicine and cleaner methods of energy production, the film does question technology’s role in de-humanizing inter-personal relationships, or what Jürgen Habermas refers to as the dedifferentiation of human interaction. It is in this question that Moon explores on its surface the ethical question of the cloning human life, and the greater question of how technological advances paradoxically portend to bring society closer, when the opposite may be true.

        Habermas writes that it is in order for one to have self-recognition as an individual, a person must be recognized by others as a person. In Moon, Sam has no person to interact with in real-time. Sam interacts solely with Gerty, a computer, and with video transmissions from Earth of his wife and his superiors on a delay. His conversations are not in real-time with his wife and with Gerty, the interactions are not with a human. Through Gerty, Sam can only see emojis on a small screen installed on the robot; the film predicts correctly a recent phenomenon that exists in modern society, as many interact on their smartphones today with emojis and emoticons, a virtual substitute for human emotional reaction and recognition. When Sam II emerges in the film – a clone of the original Sam Bell – he possesses a curiosity that leads him to discover that a “live feed” of transmissions are prevented by jamming mechanisms near the lunar base. The climax of the film is the destruction of the jamming towers, allowing real-time transmissions to resume and Sam II to travel to Earth. All of this action is possible, this ability to break out of a technological and corporate bondage, because Sam I and Sam II have the opportunity to recognize the humanity in each other. The film asks us to remove from our lives what may be preventing us from making real connections to people – what may be preventing us from recognizing others as people instead of things.

        Lunar Industries engaged in a program of cloning, presumably to cut the costs of training and sending employees up to the moon to supervise the mining. They cut-off the live feed to their clones at the base station so that the clones could not become “awaken” to their own reality. The absence of a live feed gives Lunar Industries the perspective of viewing the clones as objects, as things, not as persons. In the final seconds of the film, we hear the broadcasts of news reports: Sam II’s return has caused a firestorm of controversy. There is hope that ethical people would find this use of cloning to be immoral. We also hear the voice of a talk show host comparing Sam II to an “illegal immigrant.” As a denouement in the film, Moon is asking us, in addition to technological and inter-personal themes, to look at the all the other classes of people who we may be treating as “things” because we do not recognize them in a real way.