BEAUTY FROM CHAOS
by Bob Plissken
In the early 1980s the development of computers facillitated the combination of graphics and mathematics. Benoit Mandelbrot's work in the 70s on Chaotic dynamics could now be fully realized. His book, Fractals: Form, Chance and Dimension had shown how many everyday phenomena in physics, biology and mathematics gave rise to something called fractals. Fractal geometry deals with figures which have a fractional-dimension, a part of them reveals an ad infinitum of the larger whole. Fractals are an idea, and they appear to illustrate many things in nature, and out of something which has a quality we might call 'chaos.' Unpredictability, a complexity which is yet to be fully understood. The imagery of various 'ideas' or abstract mathematical theories, sets, reveals some very strange and beautiful 'designs' though they are not particularly 'designed' by anybody. These concepts, called many things, such as 'Chaos Theory' among other things inspired and provoked many people in the 1990s. The depth of ideas and thought coming from this development of mathematics and technology is vast, and it still influences people today, as it probably will for generations to come.
The ideas that have come about since computers and the many uses of them have been astounding. The complexity of the interchange of ideas, and their related influences are even more astounding. The imagery of fractals and chaotic dynamics is just the tip of the iceberg of what computers can show us, and what we can do with computers, not to mention what we can do with our minds.
When TRON steps into the I/O Tower platform, one can see fractal patterns as he lets go of his Disc, and its energy and information flows to Alan, the User. It was at this point, as if from out of the hidden realm of the computer, and its strange mathematics, which was programmed by the Users for their own real world purposes, algorithms were 'creating' patterns unbeknownst to the Users. While the code of the programs was the work of human beings, the 'use' would eventually give way to new and unique patterns unseen and unknown to us, as new and novel combined 'uses' would be developed. Uses which nobody had predicted prior to the code. As with ordinary life, you might buy a pencil at the store, take it home to write with, but later, you use the pencil to poke holes in a styrofoam cup. Neither the creator of the pencil, nor the styrofoam cup predicted that they would be combined to form such a 'use,' nor the image which is created in your head, perhaps from a memory, which I just conjured by writing this sentence, and you by reading it. A new pattern has emerged which was not intended, not in the original 'code,' intention or design of either of these objects.
There are perhaps an infinite amount of unknown and undiscovered patterns, from the combined uses of both programs and simple objects which we create, there is so much that we have not discovered uses for. These abstract things, such as 'fractal patterns' have also become something to 'use' as well, and entirely new patterns made of these new combined uses emerge every day. Ad infinitum.
One word I would use to describe this phenomenon is "Art."
What is important in TRON is the idea and specific concept of the 'User.' Not simply as something 'ironic' as if they were 'gods' to entities which might exist figuratively inside the computer, like Yori, Tron or Ram, but the 'User' is a description of this particular dimension of ourselves which the computers have further revealed to us since their invention, it is something that is empowering once you understand its implications. The "User" has the ability to take the pencil and the styrofoam cup, two separate objects with totally different purposes, combine them for an entirely new purpose never imagined nor intended previously. Take any two or more objects and add imagination, and the 'User' can 'create' a new 'program' of sorts out of them. Meanwhile, as with Tron and the computer, some sort of flipside of reality, or dimension, an abstract reflection or illustration of this phenomenon can be imaged, or envisioned. The pattern can be described, whether through numbers, or in image, or the image itself is created with numbers, ad infinitum.
The implications of these ideas are sort of illustrated in Tron and Tron Legacy. While the computer-characters in TRON are some sort of digital shadows of the personalities operating in the 'real world' such as we have today with 'avatars' on the internet, the digital 'selves' are operating within the realm of this inter-use pattern dynamic. As if in some way, through the circumstance of the plot of the film, the corporate tyranny of Dillinger, against his employees and their 'use' of the computers, they invented new uses, and the interactions and intentions of their programs created a new pattern taking on what we see as the appearance of a 'world inside the computer.' As the mathematics of the variable sets of chaos dynamics can be illustrated with computer graphics programs, showing us strange and beautiful designs, things we never could have imagined before, TRON suggests a 'world inside the computer' which reflects the 'Users' and their 'uses' creating this bizarre pattern of activities we see as this digital adventure story.
As "art," since the movie TRON was NOT created by a computer, it was made with computers, but not by them, we see a fascinating concept come into existence, and that concept is simply another 'illustration' of what computers mean to us, a kind of revelation, and it is entirely about these ideas that 'emerged' from the 70s and 80s because of our use of computers.
We learn from this kind of 'reflective art,' we are entertained by it, and it though it appears to be a childish cartoon, the 'artists' who made it were playing with ideas that were far from cartoonish fantasies. TRON is distinguished from the MATRIX in that it isn't depicting 'cyberspace illusion' which has deceived people, it is depicting a reality or dimension that is unseen and unknown to the reality of the "Users." They didn't create what that world looks like, they merely created the circumstances which led to that world appearing the way it does. In TRON LEGACY, Flynn attempts entirely create his own new Grid, and inside it appears something new he neither predicted, nor created. The ISOs. They appear out of nowhere in the spaces unknown and unseen, the new resulting pattern emerged from some new circumstance, something which leaves the audience of the film somewhat baffled, aside from the terms which were bandied about such as 'evolution.' However, they didn't evolve, as we understand the term in biology. They emerged from what appears to have been nothing, but we know better.
If the writers of TRON 3 have any intelligence, they might gather from the first film's ideas regarding the 'digital-characters' such as Tron, Yori and Ram, that their 'Users' were unaware of the imagery of their patterns, and that while the intentions of Lora, Flynn and Alan were operating inside the Encom system through their programs, their programs were 'becoming' new patterns of their own, emerging from many different new variables in the new circumstance when Flynn decides to hack into the system, and Dillinger locks down the system. For instance, RAM calls himself an actuarial program, some sort of accounting program, he is not a video game, or video game non-player-character sent to play games. He is re-purposed, he is a new pattern that has emerged from these new and unintended circumstances, from the world of the "Users." This is same with TRON, and YORI. YORI is a new pattern which has come into existence from presumably a program LORA had written, combined with varying new circumstances regarding the MCP, FLYNN and the Program Revolution. What YORI represents on an even more important level is that who or 'what' she is, is a larger idea through which TRON and FLYNN can assimilate in order to carry out new 'intentions' of the 'Users.' In other words, TRON must break away from playing video games, and somehow apply those particular functions to stopping SARK. FLYNN is operating as the only 'REAL-TIME' human inside the Grid. He is ever-present, he is in control of all of his own functions, he has no other functions but those of Kevin Flynn, because he literally is Kevin Flynn. Tron must contact Alan, his 'User,' he is a function of Alan Bradley. FLYNN represents the idea of the 'User' attaining full and complete consciousness of what he is doing inside the computer, and just what is happening on this flip-side world of these emerging patterns. He is fully experiencing everything, and seeing just what this world looks like 'on the other side.' He is the awake dreamer. TRON breaks free from the games, FLYNN must realize his own conscious power, YORI breaks free from SARK/the MCP's control, and takes TRON on board the Solar Sailer, either Lora has given her new instructions, or she is a new pattern which has emerged, which represents the 'Users' new intentions, and those intentions are to repurpose previous program functions inside the computer to new ends--to destroy the MCP, and 'free the system.'
This suggests to us a way in which we 'change the system' or 'free the system.' Our computers reveal to us something while we change our intentions, that new abstract patterns emerge, and that we can actually 'use' these new patterns as new tools in our dream to 'free the system.' This is good news to those who can comprehend it. You can call it Chaos. What we understand as 'beautiful' could very well be the awareness and revelation of seeing 'new patterns.' And then the process begins again, ad infinitum. Yori brings Chaos to the Grid. Use it.