What is it Like to be a Drone Adrift?


The still is taken from Nolan’s “Interstellar” (2014). The sci-fi movie proposes a peculiar question in the case of the drone adrift. What would happen if these algorithmic based machines ran lose and lost their purpose intended by their human creators? In this movie the answer is a naturalisation of the drone. It becomes an animal that simply exists until it runs out of fuel. There is, of course, a major difference between the drone and the animal, seeing that the protagonist can simply tap into the ‘consciousness’ of the drone by using a computer and control it, causing it to land. Thus the movie creates a scenario in which it has an animal-like drone that behaves as such due to a bug in its algorithm. However, contrary to the case of Nagel’s bat and the impossibility of experiencing batness in spite of the knowledge of its intrinsic qualities, the experience of the drone is wholly accessible due to the knowledge about it and the ability to control it through the great mesh of consciousness that we call the internet. In this manner the focus on consciousness is similar to that of Ex Machina in which the consciousness of Eva is based on a fictional pendant to Google.

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Alexander Wilson
Alexander Wilson

In what way might the drone be said to have a consciousness? Is consciousness just some lines of code in its firmware? Or does it require the incompleteness and autopoiesis that are afforded by organic life?