Wednesday, January 31, 2007

I may be paranoid…but not an android

Human’s dependence on machines/technology in relation to the pure android still intrigues me and even though I’m not finished with Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep, there has already been some powerful images conveyed. The first chapter starts off with the mood organ. Dial a number, and you may feel whatever you want to feel. You can wake up with a smile even though outside the window, the Earth is crumbling under a cloud of radiation. However, setting your mood as one may set a timer may make the human feel good, at the same time; one’s humanity is being stripped away. Iran could feel this; feel how wrong it was “So although I heard the emptiness intellectually, I didn’t feel it” (Dick 5). “But that used to be considered a sign of mental illness” (Dick 5). So by programming depression into her day, she recaptures her humanity, although to the frustration of her husband, Rick Deckard. At times it’s tempting to just wish all the painful emotions away, but would loosing half our emotions make us less than human? Moreover, would depending on a machine (the mood organ) to regulate those emotions make us more cyborg.

Iran addresses despair, and John Isidore exemplifies human loneliness. Cut off from most other humans in the empty apartment complex, Isidore talks about Wilbur Mercer and the empathy box as the most important things in existence “It’s an extension of your body; it’s the way you touch other humans, it’s the way you stop being alone” (Dick 66). Once again, humans no longer possess the ability it would seem to connect with each other in a meaningful way without the use of technology. For instance, when Isidore goes to greet his new neighbor, he has forgotten social norms and etiquette, and ends up showing up with a block of margarine melting in his hand.

One last observation was the entire system of owning animals and the status symbol. At one time (still today but not to the same degree) an automobile was an obscenely important status symbol for people to take pride in, and in this novel, that symbol remains in the form of animals. Shame for those owning mechanical ones and pride for the owners of rare large animals, the owning of animals gives the leftover inhabitants of Earth some sense of pride as they live their lives slowly decaying from the omnipresent dust, and the Sidney’s catalogue a sense of hope for Rick Deckard to clutch onto.


As with Mike, I have not yet delved too far into "Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?," but my goodness. This idea of a free android from the UN (of all places) for those that emigrated (to Mars?) reminds me of the maid robot, Rosie, in the Jetson's which premiered in 1962. Interestingly, this book was published in 1968. It seems like he stole Hanna-Barbera's thunder, but maybe this idea of personal androids and hovercars had been popular science fiction themes of the 1960s. However, I do not think Astro was considered as much of a status figure for the Jetson's as the "electric sheep" represents for the Deckards. Another aspect that I found to be rather comical has to be that the sheep died of tetanus and not from perhaps cancer from the pungent dust cloud looming above. Moreover, any author willing to print, "and there existed chickenheads infinitely stupider..." makes me rather amused to read more (Dick, 17).


I made it through some of this, though not quite as far as I wanted. I found it quite interesting that humanity would make robots of animals. What purpose would this serve? It isn't like humanity can make any use out of these robots. (By use I mean biological use, they could do work and other chores that could normally be done by them, but could you eat an electric cow?) Wouldn't it serve humanity better to raise those animals that are still alive? I guess this is a personal matter for me, because no matter how realistic an animal-robot is, it still isn't the real thing. I could write more on this, but I feel like I would just run around in a circle. The problem is making human androids, because if they are made to act like humans, what's to stop them from temptation? Beyond that, they are stronger than humans, and probably do not want to be trapped by humans (their 'kin' so to speak).

Monday, January 29, 2007

interesting stuff

I don't want to steal this blog's thunder as they say, but this online community might be of great interest for some of you. It may be called "Cyberpunk," but it discusses a bunch of different facets of technology, sometimes even eugenics. But this highlighted link is a definite read for anybody, especially if you like philosophy. Plus, you don't need a livejournal account to read any of it, though if you want to comment or post anything, that's a different matter entirely.

This particular post is back dated a bit in the actual page of the community, but I directly linked it to the post of interest. They often give reasources on particular subjects.


Thursday, January 25, 2007

"heart between brains and hand"

Similar to the "Time Machine," the worker's city is far below the Earth's surface which is gloomy and robotic. The workers are inferior and only useful as part of a machine. If perhaps they are injured or even killed, the work must go on and no real regard for the loss of life is represented by the owner, "Freder's father". It is disheartening when the father says, "such accidents are unavoidable." The "people" of Metropolis have no compassion for humanity, and they feel that the workers are just subservient creatures that willingly perform ludicrous duties.
Eventually, the scientist produces machine men that will make "no need for living workers", but what will happen to all of the living workers? I do not think that we should become a society run by machines and robots. There will always be people willing to do working class work, and could probably do it better than a robot that may default like the Maria robot. I agree with the movie that it is important to include "heart between brains and hand." It is imperative to not take advantage of workers, because they will revolt as in "Metropolis." Although Freder proclaims that "ten hours can be such torture," it obviously does not need to be that way. Also, the storyline of the people meeting in the catacombs to hear Maria speak and search for a mediator reminded me of a Union meeting and Freder (the mediator) as the Union Steward.
I noticed that there was a star on the scientist's door. I don't know if that was a pagan reference or something anti-Semitic. I just found it to be interesting considering it was a German film.

Wednesday, January 24, 2007

Biblical Metropolis

I just got done watching the movie... Wow!!! I was blown away by all the biblical references and symbolism!!! The Eternal Gardens and Tower of Babel reference were the first to be seen and heard..but the first to really strike me visually was when Freder changes places with worker # 11811 and as he struggles with the arms of the machine, he looks as though he is on a cross and asks "Father, Father, will 10 hours never end?" This got me to thinking about The Time Machine and the reference to the name of the Eloi in the notes about section 6; " Eloi, Eloi, lama sabachthani?" translates to "My God, My God, why have you forsaken me?", Jesus's final words on the cross. Perhaps the Time Traveler gave the name Eloi to the creatures looking the most like man or created in man's/God's image and perhaps feeling that they have been forsaken to an awful fate with the Morlocks. In the movie, it's a cry for help, a question of why this is happening. Also, the themes of Creator (Frederson), Prophet (Maria), Mediator or Savior (Freder), humanity (workers) and the devil (Rotswang); of wanton desires and mankinds lustful nature (Yoshiwara); the reference to the Apocolypse and the Seven Deadly Sins that were present in the movie. The other religious theme, that has been perpetuated through time, is the portrayal of the main female character, Maria; that of saint and slut. How it was that the image of a woman, who was to save the people and lead them peacefully, could be turned into the image of something evil that will lead the workers to their death and downfall. Eventually, it seems that peace between Frederson (Creator) and the workers (humanity) is to be brokered by the Mediator (Freder) and the people are saved.... in front of a cathedral. It seems to me, at least in this piece of Science Fiction cinema, religion and science went together into telling this fantastic, futuristic tale!

The Movie

For me, this was a very difficult movie to watch and was hard to figure out. It seems as though that the whole society is a machine in itself. The workers are the clogs of the machine and the center brain or heart (depending on what you think is the center of a person) is Freder's (sp?) father. Without the brain/heart trying to ensure that everything runs smoothly, the machine falls apart. Those in Metropolis (the above ground area) do not seem to know how the machine works and just the vision of what the city should be, while the workers know how the machine works, almost as if they are part of the machines based on their movements. This means that they need to work together for the ultimate good of everyone; however, the workers revolt and destroy the main machine.
The creator of this film has created a dystopia in an urban setting and how it would be if there were two social classes at war. The creator of this film seems to say that people must be careful not to take for granted machines or those who work on them, else the machines could take over and destroy all that ha been built. This is based on the fact that the workers can be considered the machines since they move so much like machines and flow with the movements of the machine. It is also based on how the workers eventually get revenge on those who believe they have ultimate control. The creator is warning also that control is precarious and must not be taken for granted. Considering the destruction that was wrought from the robot Maria was able to convince the workers to revolt, I believe this creator of the movie is warning that robots could be huge trouble if they become too human in their nature and looks.
In a way, this reminded me of Well's book we just read. The similarity was mostly felt because their were two secret classes and in a sense, races. One could not survive without the other.

The Movie

Monday, January 22, 2007

Humanity and The Time Machine

While reading The Time Machine, Marx and class structure was interesting to think about in relation to “Machinery and Modern Industry”. How the Morlocks became so much a fixture in the great mass of machinery below the surface that they could not even live without it. They work simply out of habit, and centuries after they have been exiled from the surface, they could not return to the sunlight even if they desired to. Their bodies had changed in such a way that they were more suited to coexist with machines than with the Eloi. The human race had indeed become separated by more than class, but actually split into two separate species.

This has already been commented on a bit though, but what interested me the most was the frightening picture of what humanity has become. Humanity in general has not evolved into a utopia but rather devolved into something more similar to animals, children and machines. One particular bit which stood out to me was “Nature never appeals to intelligence until habit and instinct are useless. There is no intelligence where there is no change and no need of change. Only those animals partake of intelligence that have to meet a huge variety of needs and dangers” (Wells 79). At some point in the huge leap of the time traveler, the classes became cemented in place, and without a need for change, the Eloi abandon their intellectual institutions (the ruined museum the time traveler visits for example) and the wit of the Eloi degraded to the level of children or animals, and have lost their humanity, left to be preyed upon by the Morlocks, who have equally rejected their humanity in favor of the machines. True, the time traveler felt more of a connection with the Eloi and loathed the Morlocks, “Instinctively, I loathed them” (Wells 57), but that was mostly due to their physical appearances, yet fundamentally, both the Eloi and Morlocks had lost what made them human long ago as result of the class system and the growing use of machinery which Marx described.

The last few chapters present a strong image for humanity for anyone believing that the human race is more than a relatively short amount of time in the existence of the Earth itself. The Earth existed before the advent of humanity, and after humanity eventually dies off, the Earth will continue to exist, possibly inhabited by giant crab creatures, until it is eventually consumed by an expanding red giant.

Too Many Leaps

This is the first time since middle school that I read this novel, so it was like reading it for the first time. For me, Wells made too many jumps and conclusions. Although they do follow some logic (such as about the culture and what happened), I think it is too neat and tidy. Besides which, learning a new language, would be difficult and hard to do so within a few days. I did enjoy the amount of details Wells provided and I do agree that eventually, society may come to an almost Utopia type of society. It does seem logical that eventually, we will find a way to get rid of most diseases. Again, I do think Wells is jumping a bit to far in thinking that two races wold be created. I could not understand why or how they evolved; I did not understand why they could not try and get rid of the other race.

Poor Weena.....

When I was reading "Time Machine," Thursday's discussion did come to mind, yet, it was certainly no utopian society. The evolution of mankind into the two from the Marxist perspective was interesting, though even in the present day such evolution is happening. It reminded me that with societies such as ours, so heavily reliant on science, technology, and processed food, and that need increasing; People are getting fatter, and more prone to illness due to our habits.

Anyway, getting back on the subject, I thought the omission of most of the names was interesting, especially of the time traveler's, as it was blatantly written out and left blank. It makes me think that perhaps he wasn't named because of something he did wherever in time he went. It reminded me of "Back to the Future" How you aren't supposed disrupt anything or you could change history.

I remember reading this story along time ago when I was kid, and watching the movie too. Much different, as the movie takes off after his initial adventure. Worth a watch.

Time Traveller

I found H.G. Wells' The Time Machine presented interesting insights regarding the Time Traveller and his relation to the time machine. First, the Time Traveller curiously chose to travel into the future, and not just a few years (for instance to see where his own life takes him) but he goes so far that readers for centuries to come will never meet. Also, why didn't it stike him to go into the past to explore the time before or againt to tamper with his own life. I think it is our human nature that propells us to the unknown, the thirst to explore and discover things mysterious and unreachable. Also, the Time Traveller must have felt pretty secure in his current life not to tamper with it which to me seems like something a vast array of people may attempt with such thing as a Time Machine. It is interesting for one to ask themselves "if I could travel time, where would I go and why?"
Not to write a novel here...but another thing that caught my attention was the Time Traveller's connection to the machine. Without the machine, he was distressed and raving, not to metion highly helpless. Also, when he discovered it missing, he was almost violent in an attempt to question the Eloi to where it was. Then, when he believes the machine is behind the bronze of the White Sphinx he wants to beat it open by any means necessary to reunite with his prized possesion. I also thought there was a point where he took no remorse in the thought of pummeling the Morlocks for stealing his Time Machine. I enjoyed this book from beginning to end and feel there can be much to discuss about it. These insights I posed were just a few that interested in.

Wells and Marx

I found that Wells seemed to agree with a lot of what Marx was saying in his book Capital. As the traveler was passing through the future time periods he saw societies build up around him and then crumble back down and then repeat the same process until he came to the final societies of the Eloi and the Morlok. This society had the same basis of the workers and the factory owners. The owners were originally the Eloi and the workers were Morloks, but the Morloks revolted and began attacking the Eloi and using them as a food source. This also reminded me of a much more extreme scenario of what happens in Metropolis. It seems as though Wells comments on industrialized society are about the horrifying effects that it has upon society and its citizens.

The Time Traveler

This was my umpteenth time reading H.G. Wells The Time Machine and I must say that this reading was the most enjoyable and I discovered much that I had not seen before when reading it just as entertainment.

I have 4 questions that I am left with after the reading:

1) Why if the time traveler promised to come back with proof "up to the hilt" has he never returned? Was it because he could not or would not?

2) The future that the time traveler ended up looking at was a future that did not include him in the process, i.e. when the time traveler went into the future he took himself out of the time line that lead there from the past. This could be taken to mean that what is really important is that we stay focused on the present, the here and now. But I do not think this is what Wells intended or even thought of, for if he did then the time traveler would have returned to his time and remained there and he did not. Which ties back into the first question why then has he not returned.

3) Which direction did the time traveler go into? The past? Or The Future? And how far? Unless I missed it in the reading Wells did not answer this for us. The movie versions both have. In them the time traveler goes boldly back into the future for love and to save humanity from itself. But I do not see anything in the reading were Wells points us in this direction.

And finally 4) If technology is bad for us how is it that the time traveler thinks that he can save the world using technology (i.e. the time machine) to save us? Wells does not give an answer but I do not think that the answer lies in more, better or even more complex machines. The answer rather has to rest with us or in us. Our morals, our politics, our economics et cetera. Machines are like weapons or tools it is how they are used that determines their value.

Blog 1-The Time Machine

This is the first book I have read by H. G. Wells and I loved it! While the idea of traveling through time is exciting, the portrait Wells paints of humanity is bleak, to say the least. Section 5, I found to be most interesting; the Time Traveler's speculation as to how humanity has come to be this way in the year 802,701 A. D. "That Man has not remained one species, but had differentiated into two distinct animals: that my graceful children of the Upperworld were not the sole descendants of our generation, but that this bleached, obscene, nocturnal Thing, which had flashed before me, was also heir ro all the ages." H. G. Wells, The Time Machine (London: Penguin Group, 2005), 46. What he goes on to describe is how the gap between the upper and working classes has eventually widened into seperate creatures, living in two seperate realms of the earth. This got me to thinking about the question that was posed in class last Thursday; What will become of the Upper class/Humanity when everything is done for us? A few thought that it would give humanity time to continue with great thinking, with art....Wells seems to see the upper class becoming "fatted cattle". (Wells, 62). The thought of humanity becoming useless scares me.

Saturday, January 20, 2007

Metropolis Comments

I just finished watching Fritz Lang's Metropolis, in a word stunning. Amazing that this is now 80 years old. The breadth and depth of Mr. Lang's concepts are extremely complex and varied. To start I wish to say a few things first that are not necessarily pertinent to our Cyborg discussion specifically. The two elements that caught my attention as the movie moved along were the religious and political (or perhaps economic rather) ideas. The parallels and Christian themes and allegories are fairly self-evident and I will return to comment upon those in a moment. In the beginning of the movie it seemed to be echoing Marx's ideas of the dehumanization of man by industrialization. The machine is portrayed as an entity of its own which survives and lives on man, i.e. the laborers. The machine at one point early on is called Moloch, which can be a type of deity or evil master. And in this case it seems Mr. Lang is definitely saying that technology is (or can be) a cruel and evil master.

The main (overt) theme of the movie is that the hands, i.e. the workers (or the proletariat) and the head (or the bourgeoisie) can only survive if they are united by the "heart" or the mediator, which given the movies religious/Christian overtones could be a direct appeal to Jesus and the message of the Gospels and New Testament, that being the message of the heart, one of love, forgiveness and compassion.

As the movie went along a theme that came to my mind was the fact that the masses, both the bourgeoisie and the proletariat, but especially the proletariat, or the hands need to be lead. In the beginning of the movie they are lead in a dehumanizing manner by the bourgeoisie, then there are lead by the hopeful Maria, then they are lead by the automaton/machine Maria (HEL), then the are lead by the worker who was in charge of the "heart" of the machine, until finally at the end of the movie I was wondering who or how they would be lead now. It seemed that the entire movie kept implying that one way or the other the hands, the workers must be lead, as a group or as a heard, but they must be lead. Perhaps Mr. Lang had a classical Greek idea in mind implying the importance of the group over that of the individual, or perhaps a more socialistic one I am not sure. But outside of the "individual" that is the mediator, the Saviour (and Mary, which begs for the interpretation of either Mary Magdalene, of the Holy Mother Mary) the emphasis is on how the group reacts and responds as a whole.

The one machine that represents the idea of the cyborg, is named after a women named HEL and is first presented underneath what looks like a cross (no pun intended) between the Star of David and and inverted Pentagram. So the only female of the main characters in the movie, Maria is portrayed as both the good (human) Maria, and Maria (HEL) as the bad (machine) Maria can be both good for the proletariat or bad, and apparently the choosing is not always easy. The human Maria represents love, peace and hope, whereas the cyborg Maria, represents violence, hate, and destruction.

It is not clear to me how Mr. Lang at the end of the movie wishes us to envision Metropolis moving on. It is clear that he seems to intend that it will continue on in a positive direction but the how is entirely unclear matter. Perhaps, somewhat like the Marxist (or perhaps Leninist) idea that the details will be worked out exactly what to do only after the revolution happens, which has always seemed a bit problematic to me.

Also unclear at the end of Metropolis is exactly what will be the relationship between technology/machines and humanity. In the end it seems that he is at least gives us an optimistic point of view that there is hope for the future even if the path to get there will be difficult.

The themes and images that Mr. Lang uses in in his epic masterpiece require a much more in depth study to come to a fuller understanding of Metropolis in all its magnificent complexity. And what I have put forth here is a first impression and a mere scratching of the surface of all the ideas and concepts that the movie deals with and portrays.

Thursday, January 11, 2007

Welcome to Cyborg Culture!

This Blog has been created for use4 in my course on Cyborg Culture at the University of Wisconsin - Green Bay. Students will be invited to post reviews of assigned materials and to comment on each others thoughts.