Does the presentation of martial arts training in movies provide an illustration of fundamental attitudes towards human nature? Michah Watson ponders this question at Public Discourse, where he examines "Neo vs. the Karate kid". This is an interesting, contemplative essay -- the best side of Public Discourse. Watson uses the instant-learning in The Matrix as an illustration of the "Baconian" ideal of mastery over nature, and contrasts that with the "Aristotelian" model of apprenticeship illustrated in The Karate Kid, where character and relationships are given priority over power.
Watson clearly prefers the "Aristotelian" vision over the "Baconian" one, which isn't surprising for an essay at the communitarian Christian Public Discourse. This essay triggered my sentimentality, but before long I was drawn back to the real world. An item in the news illustrated the futility of Watson's wistfulness: the relentless advance of military neuroscience. Watson admitted that Bacon's desire for mastery over nature was in many ways reasonable, give the high mortality rate of Bacon's time. However, Watson tries to argue that this consideration is no longer relevant in modern society where natural ills have been controlled to the point that the drive for enhancing our powers is somewhat frivolous, and we can afford to take our foot off the pedal (so to speak).
Watson's oversight is that the drive for enhancement does not originate from natural threats, but from competition. Human competition (whether military or economic) can consign a person to misery and death just as surely as natural threats can. Therefore, there is no point at which we can relax -- we will always be driven to further self enhancement.
People like Watson may assert that we can still choose to live as a human, and place limits on how much we are willing to change ourselves in order to increase our powers, but perhaps a more accurate description is that we can still choose to die as a human. Life will be defined by those who survive, and given the human traits of innovation and competition, I don't think that any sort of stability is possible for human nature, short of developing some communist utopia.