Just a quick hit tonight, as we are in a hotel, it’s late, and I’m going to have to hog tie the kiddos soon and put them to bed.
Tonight, after a day of doing some pre-Feast work here in Branson, my family and I watched the last half of the the 1983 movie WarGames, with Matthew Broderick and Ally Sheedy. June 3 of this year will be the 25th anniversary of its original release apparently. (I feel old…) The movie was playing on AMC, so thankfully most of the profanities were edited out. Regrettably, not all of them were.
This movie really affected me as a teenager, and was one of my very favorites. I enjoyed the technology side of it and the “geek in an adventure” quality, as well as the artificial intelligence flavor of the story. The final scene [watch out: spoilers!], with Joshua learning from the increasingly fast sequences of tic-tac-toe games, followed by the mind-numbing sequence of scenario after scenario of simulated nuclear exchanges — really awesome. Well executed and powerful to watch. Even after 25 years and knowing exactly what he would say word for word, Joshua’s “lesson” was still moving, and I don’t think the two-and-a-half decades have dulled the movie a bit.
Even though all I had was BASIC to program in, WarGames inspired me to dabble in some of the early AI programs that were floating around at the time — which is where I met the Turing test for the first time. I desperately wanted to create my own Joshua.
(I know… Some of my younger readers must think of programming in BASIC as the equivalent of communicating by Morse code — or, worse yet, with two cans connected by twine. Still, those were good times! Sitting in front of those Apple IIe machines as a kid and typing in that code was like nothing I had ever felt before. But I digress!)
I remember writing a paper in high school about the doctrine of “Mutually Assured Destruction” in which I was critical of a pure reliance on nuclear deterrence. It wasn’t meant as a slam on the approach in general–rather, I was trying to argue for the national need to invest in what was being billed at the time as “Star Wars”: the Strategic Defense Initiative. It is hard to imagine that the last scene from WarGames was not playing in my mind as I composed the paper.
As I matured, I saw the message of WarGames in more depth than when it first came out. Surely intended as a warning to our politicians at the time of the deadly “game” they were playing with the arms race, it seemed to miss the subtle truth that the arms race was, in a large part, motivated by the truth at the very heart of the movie’s not-so-subtle message: there are some games that no one wins. Our arms were meant to insure that the other side never took the first move. In that way, the movie actually was more of a confirmation of America’s strategy rather than a warning to change course.
Whether I wholly claim the message of the movie or not, the ending is still one of my favorite moments of cinema.
In other news, the Feast-related work we are doing here in Branson is going very well. I was reminded of what fantastic condos and cabins the Thousand Hills Golf Resort has, and our meetings have been productive. We should be able to update the website soon with helpful information for those of you doing housing research.
Well, I’m off to bed — aren’t you tired?