Weekly Digest #120
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In this digest-
1. Article- How Oppenheimer teaches us to Save The World
2. Happiness Quotient From Around The World
3. Did You Know?
4. Entertainment Quotient
How Oppenheimer teaches us to Save The World
By: Abhimanyu and Agastya Rao
*Spoilers for Oppenheimer below!*
“Nolan’s Oppenheimer is Fabulous, but its message mirrors a dark future for humanity”
My favourite director Christopher Nolan’s long awaited film Oppenheimer released this past week, and it is some of his best work, While it holds a lens towards the life of the “father of the atomic bomb” J Robert Oppenheimer, it also mirrors humanity’s current predicament with respect to Artificial Intelligence. While the comparison of an atomic bomb and artificial intelligence may not be a direct one, both drastically changed the world, and can also have disastrous consequences if used the wrong way, likening AI to the 21st Century Atomic bomb.
Here are 5 lessons from the movie that we as humans living in the 21st Century can take from it, along with a parallel review of the movie to check if it's really worth the hype.
1. It's not always the creator of the doomsday device we have to worry about-
Similar to the creation of AI and ChatGPT (and DALL- E etc) it is not exactly the creator we have to worry about for when the AI/Creation eventually wreaks havoc. In the film, while Oppehiemer merely spearheaded the construction and creation of the Atomic Bomb, it was the US Government who had a list of cities, out of which they picked 2 cities to bomb- Hiroshima and Nagasaki.
Cillian Murphy (Playing the role of Oppenheimer) gives a powerful statement that sums up the first lesson- “I don’t know if we can be trusted with this, but I know the Nazis can’t.”
In our modern world, we do need regulations for AI and those can only come from our respective governments. So in the likely (or unlikely if you support that theory) event that AI or a similar so called “Doomsday” creation causes serious damage on the world, we have to remember that even though a specific person created it, it will be our governments that’ll be accountable for being lax with its laws- which could lead to unpleasant consequences.
So while it is obviously partly a responsibility of the creator of the doomsday creation (they do know the extent of what they created after all), it is also the responsibility of the Government to ensure that these powerful creations are reined in and regulated. Otherwise, we may end up in a world that doesn’t exist.
To quote another of Christpher’ Nolan’s fabulous and mind bending films- Inception, “an idea is like a virus”, and it can change our world- for better or worse!
2. With great power comes great responsibility!-
As cliche as this sounds, it’s true! As Oppenheimer puts it, “I’ve got blood on my hands.” While this scene is dominated by Gary Oldman’s fantastic cameo as President Truman, we see the cross Oppenheimer has to bear after his bomb is unleashed onto Hiroshima. The brilliant minds of the Manhattan Project were responsible for the creation of the bomb, and in the process, they were responsible for the destruction it caused.
They were some of the most intelligent people of their time, and their mental prowess came with a responsibility for anything they created. While they weighed out their options before choosing to go through with the bomb, and experienced quite the dilemma before arriving at that decision, they were still responsible for the end result. The weight of the dilemma is beautifully conveyed by Ludwig Göransson’s score, and Murphy’s face perfectly displays Oppenheimer’s internal conflict, as the effects of his mental prowess truly become clear.
3. How much has humanity really learnt from World Wars 1 and 2?
Nolan’s films always leave you with something to think about. Whether it is a confusion about the ending of Inception, or the moral dilemma at the end of Oppenheimer- his movies make you think.
Nolan reminds us that we now have more powerful Nuclear Bombs, and that it's not just the USA which has Nuclear capable missiles, it is also 8 other countries including India and Pakistan, with a cumulative total of over 13,000 nuclear missiles in the entire world. He reminds us of the destructive capabilities of nuclear weapons, and the toll they take not only on the missile’s victims but on the people who create it and launch it. In the world where we live in today, we can’t hide behind a Nuclear Missile as a “break glass in case of an emergency tool.”
While yes, it is important that a country takes care of itself and ensures that it has the resources to defend itself from an attack, I don’t think these 9 countries understand how powerful and destructive their missiles really are. However, even if they understand its destructive capabilities, it's a power they aren’t ready to give up, not anytime soon at least.
So until such a day arrives, when our world leaders wake up and decide to cumulatively get rid of all of their nuclear missiles (Which may come in handy when aliens attack), the threat of worldwide nuclear war shall hang like a sword over our heads every single day. A nuclear missile doesn’t just affect one country, it affects the generation(s) of children coming after the damage is done.
4. Be careful whom you antagonise-
This was a darker realisation, but one that I felt was important enough to highlight in this article. Oppenheimer was indubitably one of his time’s brightest men, but his failings came from his knowledge of that very fact. That made him sometimes perceive himself as more powerful than he was, which ultimately led to his downfall. He didn’t think a simple man like Robert Downey Jr. 's Strauss could do anything to harm him, so he had no qualms in embarrassing him in front of his peers. Little did he realise that Strauss would exact a cruel vengeance and essentially alienate Oppenheimer from the things he loved!
This, apart from being one of the major twists in the plot, is a lesson for everyone to remember. Never make the mistake of underestimating someone, as it could lead to your downfall. In the final few scenes where Strauss’s plans are all revealed, Downey’s brilliant performance effectively expresses the anger and resentment he held towards Oppenheimer, and how that fueled his vengeance! If Oppenheimer had conducted himself with more grace and humility, maybe it is possible that something of that scale would never have happened!
5. Revenge is a dish best not served at all!
Lewis Strauss has concocted the perfect crime. He’ll destroy the reputation of the man he hates, prevent that man from defending himself, and ascend to a position of power in the Senate at the same time. All of that just to exact his revenge on the titular character! However, his plans fail! While Oppenheimer loses his security clearance, the knowledge of this pushes the scientific community to take action, and they besmirch Strauss’s name enough to prevent him from passing the vote that would approve his appointment to the Senate.
Once again, Downey’s brilliant performance filled me with an immense feeling of empathy, and I could feel everything his character was going through. This not only compelled me to feel bad for him, but I also understood the futility of revenge. Sure, he enjoyed destroying Oppenheimer’s life, but his devious plans backfired in the end, and he was left with nothing but unemployment and some mud on his face! Had he refrained from vengeance, he may have gotten his dream job after all!
Overall, while not being Nolan’s best work, ‘Oppenheimer’ successfully lands itself as one of the, if not the, best motion pictures of the year. The visuals are mesmerising, the music perfectly sets the tone of each scene, and the acting is Oscar-worthy! While it felt mildly stretched in the middle, it was fantastic overall, and I see several Oscar nods in this movie’s future!
By: Agastya Rao
By: Mihir Rao
Entertainment quotient for the week:
Guardians of the Galaxy Volume 3!
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