December 26, 2010

The Lesson of Tron: Don’t be a machine. Learn to use them instead.

Filed under: Software Blog — marcstober @ 5:48 pm

Tron–whether the original 1982 movie or this year’s Tron: Legacy–has got to be the movie that glamorizes computer technology more than any other, and that’s why I love it. It’s no stretch to say that the original furthered my interest in the field which turned into a career. (Although The Social Network, despite being a very different sort of movie, actually says many of the same things.) So, given that I’m biased, I want to think that the movie says something meaningful and hopefully positive about the role of the digital world in our lives.

I think the lesson is this: Despite attractive memes to the contrary (in both directions), digital technology is not destined to be a force either for good or for bad; it just lets people do the same things faster. It’s up to us to do something good with it. And, this actually reflects my experience in the software and IT industry: while some people assume that those of us who work with machines are essentially doing the work of machines, in fact a large part of my job is using human judgement to ensure the “programs” actually do something useful for the “users”–and it’s rarely a forgone conclusion exactly what that is.

(Embedded video clip is the first appearance of the Tron character as a logo for its creator, Lisberger Studios.)