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SkyNet(flix) and the Rise of the Machines



"If they want to binge... we should let them binge."

Kevin Spacey said that, talking about his Netflix-produced show House of Cards. But regardless of what show you're into, who hasn't drawn the blinds and hunkered down for a retina-burning marathon of not dealing with all the other stuff constantly beating at the mind? Addiction is the last rickety leg keeping Western civilization propped up and Netflix is an entertainment game-changer because it feeds one of the last addictions left — escapism.

Of course, this is the time of year for it. Rain and underemployment are Whistler's ubiquitous autumn roommates, so the download of the week is season eight of the Trailer Park Boys. Ricky, Julian and Bubbles are back in top form alongside new characters, old favourites and some of the snappiest one-liners of 2014. This show is probably the pinnacle of the mockumentary genre and anyone new to Whistler/Canada should hop onto Netflix and devour all eight seasons of these Canadian national treasures.

Netflix isn't a game changer just because they cut out the DVD box set, however. Like most addiction-based success stories, there is also a dark side. The company is also very into the "big data" business. According to a recent Salon.com story Netflix tracks and records viewing habits from each and every user — they know when you pause Kid Cannabis to go make another bowl/bag of popcorn. They don't know why you got up, but they know you did, and for how long. Ditto when you watch three shows in a row or walk out on one and never come back. When you fire up Pokemon every morning around 7 a.m., Netflix will record that info and use it to push you associated content at the same time next morning via their recommendation widget.

Welcome to the new age; where corporations use machines to feed an already addictive-prone society exactly what it wants, when it wants, all the while gathering, logging and analyzing individual lifestyle habits in real time. Right now it's just to keep you distracted and unengaged with reality in order to convince you to buy more shit you don't really need. These days Netflix still has real people somewhere monitoring the big data algorithms and using them to decide what shows to make next, but the next logical step is for the machines to start controlling more aspects of the data collection, analysis, programming and human existence, until, voila! — The machines become self-aware, eliminate the human element and go rogue. Skynet from the Terminator franchise might not be that far off.

Speaking of life imitating art, did you see that Internet thing about the woman in Florida who got a third breast implanted so she could be a reality TV star? Just like Total Recall ("Makes a guy wish he had three hands"). But if one Arnold Schwarzenegger movie can come true, why can't another one? Terminator: Genysis stars Arnold and hits screens in 2015.

Thankfully, salvation is as easy as closing the laptop, going to a movie theatre and sharing a real experience with other people. When we laugh together (or cheer for explosions and revenge), it transcends escapism and entertainment and reminds our subconscious that yes, there are other people on this planet and, yes, some of them are a lot like us. That tiny subconscious connection can be built upon, which is why things like music festivals, movies in the theatres, team sports, even, are more important to our future than they get credit for.

There are literally mountains of human connection in The Little Things, a snowboard-lifestyle movie concocted over the past two years by local ripper Marie-France Roy and cine-genius Darcy Turenne. Inspiring mountain people (and David Suzuki!) talk about making slight life changes that help them feel good about their place in life. It premieres October 16 at Millennium Place and will sell out. Get your tix now.