Our discussion of The Cyborg Manifesto this morning got me thinking of Frankenstein’s Monster. I had made the comment in the group that Frankenstein created his monster within the social and cultural paradigms of the day. The Monster sought self-realization and self-fulfillment by operating, albeit in a crazy and psychopathic manner, within those parameters. Actually, if you read the book, and then watch Frankenstein and The Bride of Frankenstein, The Monster does not act so far out of bounds of reality that many in our world do today. He, like many others, has no sense of self-control, no patience, is totally amoral and apathetic to the feelings of others. His sole focus is eliminating his own loneliness and meeting his own desires. This central theme in his life is the result of a previous life of crime and brutality, which has irreparably defined him. I think what may be unnerving to us is our realization of how close we may be to feeling each of those emotions within ourselves at one point or another. But fortunately, unlike The Monster, we don’t manifest them all at once.
Cyborgs on the other hand, as described in The Cyborg Manifesto, have no social or cultural paradigms to operate within. They are seeking, through whatever convention is most efficient, their own sense of realization or fulfillment. This may come via prior programming or subsequent programming based upon learning experiences. The development of “Data”, in the Star Trek: The Next Generation series, and “Sonny” from I, Robot, may be a good examples of this.
For us, looking at cyborgs from our own human perspectives, see these created “beings” as cold, heartless, and at times cruel. But is that really accurate? To label cyborgs like that may assume we believe them capable of being the opposite, an assumption which may not in fact be true. And if we mix cyborg technology with our own natural system, we get something akin to Robocop, which spends a good amount of time fighting the memories of the past with new urges and desires more attuned to cybernetic tendencies. The end result, at least according to Hollywood is a reconciling of man of machine into a functional unit capable of feelings yet able to put them aside, at least temporarily, in favor of the sterile performance of programmed tasks.
In any case, I was left this morning with a good supply of philosophy to think about over the weekend.