For many viewers, the term "isomorphic algorithms" was just meaningless techno-babble in a movie that didn't live up to their lofty expectations. But that's only part of the problem. You see, for the generation that grew up idolizing the original Tron movie, nothing could compare. Meanwhile, for the generations who knew little - if anything - about the original Tron movie, it was a movie whose content meant nothing to them and therefore - at best - was a movie with a hot girl and great visuals and not much else.
But there are a few of us who saw it for what it really is; who understand what the writers were trying to say, understanding what they were actually saying without actually meaning to. For those among us, this movie is something incredible; a gem whose beauty can only be truly appreciated with a greater understanding of the universe around us... and the nature of who we are as people and where, if we are very lucky, our technological innovations could someday lead.
To begin, regrettably, we must first define some terms:
1. being of identical or similar form, shape, or structure <isomorphic crystals>
2. having sporophytic and gametophytic generations alike in size and shape
3. related by an isomorphism <isomorphic mathematical rings>
1. Biology Similarity in form, as in organisms of different ancestry.
2. Mathematics A one-to-one correspondence between the elements of two sets such that the result of an operation on elements of one set corresponds to the result of the analogous operation on their images in the other set.
3. A close similarity in the crystalline structure of two or more substances of similar chemical composition.
1. (Mathematics) a logical arithmetical or computational procedure that if correctly applied ensures the solution of a problem
2. (Mathematics) Logic Maths a recursive procedure whereby an infinite sequence of terms can be generated
3. an effective method expressed as a finite list of well-defined instructions for calculating a function
In Tron: Legacy, an "isomorphic algorithm" (hereto forward to be referred to as an "ISO") was a lifeform that arose from the rapidly changing and expanding form of the "Grid" - or digital world - that Flynn was creating. These ISO's had what Flynn refers to as "digital DNA". But the idea of an ISO in this world is, well, astounding. You see, in Tron, the "people" weren't actually people; they were programs designed and created by users. The character known as "CLU" - or Codified Likeness Utility - while a primitive AI (artificial intelligence) created with the likeness of his maker, was intelligent and powerful, he could only destroy or repurpose programs; he could not create them. And the existing programs, for all their worth, were not like people; they weren't human - or in the Tron universe: Users - and therefore had none of the capabilities humans did.
But these ISO's were different. Their name alone rings to a truth that should both terrify us and give us hope. You see, these ISO's that just arose from the creation of the grid - an unintended side effect of the Grid's creator - were, indeed, isomorphic; they were digital mirrors of human beings. Their complex structure, or "digital DNA", made them unique; like nothing else in the Tron universe. But they were also algorithms; procedural methods with a finite instruction pattern for solving problems and/or calculating functions; perhaps even functions and calculations beyond our understanding. They were the solutions to problems we'd always known; perhaps even solutions to questions we had yet to ask. And they were the result, directly or indirectly, of human innovation. They were simultaneously perfection and imperfection; an exact digital mirror of humanity... without any of the preconceptions of "good" and "evil" that humans carry from birth. This was the biggest, most significant difference between ISO's and us, but not the only one. These ISO's had a "digital DNA" that could be read, modified and repaired at will. Their very nature was pre-mapped without having any pre-determined parameters. As such, they would have no definite purpose nor any definitive end. Because they were infinitely modifiable and/or repairable, this means that these ISO's could recover from wounds or infirmities that would cripple or destroy their human counterparts. Because of their isomorphic nature, what could be done in them could be mirrored in us.
Right about now, everyone reading this just got a light bulb over their heads.
And this is where the reality stops and the Science Fiction takes over. In the movie, all it took was a special laser to transfer the ISO Quorra (played by the lovely Olivia Wilde) into our world; to make the fantasy a reality. Sadly, even if we were to somehow create something as revolutionary as an isomorphic algorithm life-form, transforming them into physical forms is beyond anything we're capable of. Even so, having something so complex and incredible to interact with and examine is beyond imagining and forebodes possibilities that we can only dream of. Imagine, for a moment, being able to manipulate our base code - our DNA - to eliminate disease; re-grow limbs, hair, teeth; change how we look, breathe, eat, sleep and even think, simply by interfacing with our own base code to redesign ourselves at will. How about understanding who and what we are, the very nature of our existence, by examining the ISO's we inadvertently created. The possibilities are limited only by our imaginations.
So, was Tron: Legacy as revolutionary as its predecessor? Yes and no. The original Tron was the first movie to integrate traditional media with digital media - both a revolutionary idea and a trend that continues to this very day - while the newest one was simply continuing the fine tradition. But, in its own way, Legacy did provide us with a revolutionary new idea: What if we could create - by accident or otherwise - perfect digital versions of humanity itself, right down to the DNA? Creatures we could understand and simultaneously be constantly surprised by; creations that are both finite and as infinite as we are; creations that are mirrors of ourselves... without suffering from any of the corruption that we do? What if we could be free of disease, cruelty and pain? Could we act responsibly and honorably with and about our new creations? Could we finally understand God if we became him?