Logan's Run
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Credit: MGM

An A.I. controlled utopia is no utopia at all

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Jan 6, 2020

Logan’s Run is an example of how terrible life can get for humans if artificial intelligence is running the show. The 1976 movie — based on the novel written by William F. Nolan and George Clayton Johnson — is about a future utopian society that actually turns out to be a dystopia in disguise. The computer in charge keeps the human population in check and maintains the consumption of resources by killing everyone who reaches the age of 30.

The A.I. of Logan's Run is far more sinister than any A.I. in other movies set in a dystopian future. In fact, it makes Skynet seem downright merciful in its handling of the human population.

Credit: MGM

Logan's Run diverges from its source material in several ways, but one of the major story changes in the adaptation was the addition of the ritual called Carousel: a rite of passage residents of the city must participate in for the chance of being renewed when they reach the age of 30.

Spoiler alert: No one ever gets renewed. Instead, they're killed. It's like Jigsaw did the software programming. There must be some eugenics coding in there too, because the society appears to be predominantly white and non-disabled. So the computer was programmed to be not only ageist but also racist and ableist.

Credit: MGM

The A.I. of the movie plays chess, not checkers. It uses what is left of the human population to eliminate themselves. Some residents are chosen to be Sandmen — a group that works for an agency called the Deep Sleep. They exist to help keep the population in check by killing those who try to run once their time is up. They also help remove individuals from the population who are deemed "unfit" to live among everyone else, placing them in a sector of the city that might as well be a prison. It’s interesting this future could have state-of-the-art healthcare that offers nothing when it comes to mental health. The Sandmen also seem to be comprised of white men, which is a case to add sexist to this A.I.'s programming.

The one and only bright spot to this particular A.I. is sexual freedom, because reproduction is no longer dependent on needing a person to get pregnant from the act of sex. The main character, Logan 5, asks Jessica 6 whether she is a lesbian after she expresses no romantic interest in him — which could be problematic if the implication is that she must be a lesbian for not being interested, but due to his nonjudgmental tone, this rather indicates that queerness is no longer taboo in the movie's futuristic society. Even before having the encounter with her, Logan calls up a man who winks and flirts with him. Logan even entertains the idea for a moment before the man vanishes and Jessica 6 appears.

Credit: MGM

As the movie progresses, however, all of the sexual liberations don't mean much once Logan 5 and Jessica 6 reach a frozen cave after exiting the city and encounter a robot named Box. At first glance, it looks like Box is a custodial robot who was left to take care of a frozen museum filled with animals that no longer exist, but that's not what's actually happening. Thanks to some Hannibal Lecter programming, Box has been capturing runners who tried to escape the city.

Their deaths might be arguably worse than those blown to bits during the rite of Carousel, as Logan 5 learns that Box has been freezing the captured runners who are later used as food. This whole time, everyone in this utopian city has been eating other humans. It's a reveal that makes the artificial intelligence of Logan’s Run just as messed up as the machines of The Matrix who were using human life as batteries.

It makes you wonder how much information the computer allowed to be leaked into the city to encourage residents to run. The Sandmen only knew about runners when alerted by the computer too, so you also have to imagine how many runners weren't reported so that they could ultimately be caught by Box to be frozen and used for food later.

It's really messed up the more you think about it, and I'd almost welcome Skynet to be our overloads. At least Skynet wasn't tricking humans into becoming their very own food source. It just blew the human population to kingdom come and then terrorized some poor woman on her day off instead.

Credit: MGM

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