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  • Writer's pictureIlana Davis

'Devs' and the Recurring Myth

The cerebral series, Devs, was released on Hulu at the beginning of the quarantine and has filled my mind with thoughts of predetermination and the concept of free will ever since. Directed by Alex Garland, the series explores the science fiction genre in a way that is unlike anything I’ve been exposed to before.

A brief synopsis of the show:

Lily Chan (Sonoya Mizuno) is a software engineer for Amaya, a quantum computing company run by Forest (Nick Offerman). Lily soon becomes embroiled in the mysterious death of her boyfriend, who died on the first day of his new job at Devs. The series explores themes related to free will and determinism, as well as Silicon Valley

Lily finds herself in the midst of secrecy and conspiracy as it relates to her own actions, and the actions of those around her. She is at the will of a computational paradigm supposedly coding reality as it manifests itself, and is expected to follow suit.

But how are we, as humans, supposed to confront the consequences of our past as it relates to our future? Can the future alter itself despite past action remaining the same? Or is everything fixed in time - that is, are we living in some unseen system defining progress and purpose as it deems fit? 

In such a system, who would be in control? Would it be man, computer, or god? Are the three working together to conquer reality, confronting traditional thought over the role of divine beings?. 

Is man god? Is technology god? Or does god remain as some unseen being, working through these entities who believe they are in control? In the season finale, Forest reveals the true name of his technology capable of otherworldly powers: Deus. 

“[It’s] not about people trying to act as if they’re god, but trying to create god,” Garland shares in a Rolling Stone Interview. Rather, man is doomed to create the very thing that imprisons him, thinking it will lead to salvation. 

Throughout human history, man has grappled with the consequences of his actions amongst some ‘natural plan.’ Why waste one’s efforts or energies if the future already declares our destiny?

The technology’s true name, Deus, cleverly references Greek mythology and naturally recurring myth. When Forest recalls the name as being an ‘inside joke’, it is truly a laugh at the expense of human existence and the absurdity of it all. 

David Crowe writes for Den of Geek, “The term is Latin for “God from the Machine,” and it’s a literary device where an inexplicable act of seemingly divine intervention offers salvation and a happy ending.”

According to Miriam Webster, the reference comes from the crane that would hold a god over a stage in ancient Greek and Roman plays. This actual practice dates back to at least the 5th century BC, being used by famous playwrights like Euripides (c. 480-406BC). It has since been applied to scenarios which involve “unlikely saviors and improbable events that bring order and chaos in sudden and surprising ways.”

So in referencing ancient mythology, is Devs providing a narrative that has been used for thousands of years? Or is it countering the concept of artificial gods through the progression of technology? Can’t one say that this is the same idea used in ancient Greek and Rome, in that audiences would watch gods fly over the stage knowing technology accompanying them, only to accept the presentation nonetheless.

The use of mythological narratives, characters, and themes within modern popular culture is immense. Some may be as obvious as the sci-fi movie ‘Prometheus’, inspired by the ancient story itself. Pan’s Labyrinth explores the mythological creatures in a fantastically horrific way. 

Is man destined to repeat questions and concepts from the past, in an attempt to understand our actions and thoughts? Meta in nature, we continue to use the same archetypes and variations of past figures from myth within modern media and culture. 

As I continue to search for a reasoning for this, I am again reminded of the technology from Devs that has the capability of searching the past as it predicts the future. In answering these questions, do we grow closer towards salvation of human existence, or will the reliance on technology ultimately turn our relationship with it into another god-like being controlling our narrative?


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