Like just about everyone wrangling with young children, a mortgage, and other trappings of 30-something life, I really liked the movie Jurassic Park. I say that in past tense because, hey, I don’t own the movie and my last memory of watching it was maybe ten years ago. Clearly, this movie exists in the past for me.
But then something quite odd happened over the last week or so. First, I found the above video, a funny little nugget from the writers of the Fox animated show Bob’s Burgers. Second, this video, which does a bait-and-switch gag with the Jurassic Park theme, popped up somewhere (Tumblr, I think):
And then there was a Twitter hashtag, #jurassicparksandrec, that went around a few days ago thanks largely to Parks and Recreation star Aziz Ansari. The hashtag mashed up Jurassic Park scenes, characters, etc. with scenes and characters from the NBC comedy for some fun results.
So, what gives? Why did a movie I saw as a pimply teenager seemingly vanish forever, and then sneak up behind me like an alpha velociraptor?
You could maybe explain this with the knowledge that a new Jurassic Park game for iOS just came out. “Coincidence” might be an equally suitable explanation. But, I think I might have found a more fascinating explanation, or at least a related thought problem: cultural singularity.
Science fiction writer Verner Vinge (A Fire on the Deep, Rainbow’s End) popularized the idea of a technological singularity, and the idea is this: intelligence and subsequent technological advances occur at an accelerating rate, to the point where superhuman intelligences are creating other, super-superhuman intelligences at an increasingly accelerating rate, to the point where the actions of humanity become utterly unrecognizable. A key point to this theory is that the process becomes automated, as in, out of human control, and largely unpredictable, albeit along some prescribed rules (or programming).
A cultural singularity, then, is a time in which culture becomes its own self-replicating entity, eternally spawning new versions of itself. Mike Rugnetta over at the PBS Idea Channel uses the explosion in internet culture surrounding the 2012 Olympics and the recent landing of the rover Curiosity on Mars as evidence that we are, indeed, approaching that singularity:
Where it gets fuzzy is, as Rugnetta suggests, whether this process can be considered automated or not. He makes a good argument that it is, based on the scale with which the internet allows us to create, disseminate, and consume culture … it looks like an automated process, walks like an automated process, quacks like an automated process, etc.
So, back to Jurassic Park. For me, Jurassic Park should have begun with opening credits and ended when I walked out of the theatre. That, at least, seems to be the model of linear cultural progress that assumes that, say, A must necessarily follow B. But here we are, nearly 20 years later, and Jurassic Park is no longer a movie that I saw and then only remembered fondly. Now, it lives through the efforts of “the internet,” the playground for a culture that no longer has clear-cut beginnings or endings to its creative works, and one where scale (from movie studio to TV writing room to bedroom melodica practice space), time, and distance mean relatively little. It’s where things just appear–clever, insightful, and funny things–almost as if they have created themselves. Whether this explains all the Jurassic Park stuff, I don’t know, but it’s a notion that might prove useful as creative works continue to flourish in the digital atmosphere.
Does our culture create itself? Do you think the internet seems like it’s automated? Are we overthinking all of this? Let us know in the comments.