Thursday, April 5, 2007

2(.2)B Sad or Not 2(.2)B Sad? That is the question.

First, the down side of Power's novel. The need to use 'A.' and 'C.' to stand in for the two relationships in his life and the fact that he used his name in the novel as well as that the character was a writer makes it seem all to much that this was an (semi) autobiographical purging for him about his past relationships and his choice of a career as a writer. These items got in the way of the story their attempt at artificial intelligence, i.e. ultimately Helen.

I was to say the least shocked by the ending. Suicide(!?) who would of thought. The sad condition of existence, the eternal struggle for existence and survival, it was to much for Helen. But the real straw that I believe was the one to break, is that of loneliness and isolation. In the last few sentences that Helen speaks she says "I never felt at home here. This is an awful place to be dropped down halfway" (326). This isolation and loneliness has been expressed by several characters in the works that we have read as well as characters in other works that we have not read this semester. From the latter category I am reminded of Victor Frankenstein's monster who rage at being alone, rejected and isolated is what spures him on to his murderous vendetta towards Victor. Also I am reminded of Data from the StarTrek: The Next Generation, where he too often laments on the state of his loneliness because he is the only one of his kind. Even among a world full of sentient life forms Data still longs for "another of his kind."

I would make that case for Helen that it was this, the realization of her loneliness and isolation, the realization that in a sense she truly was alone that drove her into existential despair. Even for the example of Helen Keller (which Dani brilliantly brought up, which had not yet occurred to me) she was not isolated in who she was, i.e. she was a human being amongst human beings. But not in the case of Frankenstein's monster, Data, or the Helen of this story, they were utterly alone. It is this realization, this despair that pushes Helen to desire "death" to a life of pain and anguish.

Yod and Joseph both wanted to live but ended up dyeing. I wonder if ultimately there difference would have led to a similar type of loneliness and isolation. Isolation when chosen in life, like so much else, is much easier to bear than isolation forced. For example, the child who is sent to his/her room for the night as punishment is generally not as happy as the child who ends up playing in his/her room of their own volition. Any condition that is forced upon us becomes a burden whereas when we choose that condition it is not a burden.

I keep searching for the lines "My maker did I bid thee make me?" which I still think is in Mary Shelley's Frankenstein. But the point I wish to make is that in most if not all of the AI stories we have read this semester the created and/or the creator ends up regretting the act of creation, of life itself. We are left we "abandoned children" and "deadbeat parents" that end up dysfunctional, lonely, isolated and despairing.

I wanted a "happy ending" to this story for Helen, the same way that I wanted one for Yod, Joseph. It seems that authors of AI Sci-Fi do not like to give us those happy endings.


Adam said...

As I've said along with the raison d’être topic, when one loses their purpose suicide becomes a possibility. Although it is generally frowned on by our society and some religions, that doesn't mean it's not a possibility. Many a man has gone their way through suicide because they [thought] they had nothing left to live for. The struggle for purpose continues on, but there are those who decide their purpose in life has been accomplished, so they "leave" by means of self-destruction.

Again, raison d’être is powerful... if you have it, it can bring you joy. If you do not, it can bring you to your own end.

Good thoughts.

Sarah said...

I find it interesting that Helen offed herself as well...and kind of sad. However, wouldn't it have been possible for Helen to realize the progress she was making? Wouldn't that give her hope (if she could "feel" hope) that her existence wouldn't be so lonely and that the devout Richard would continue his work on her? They seemed to be making progress not only with her learning but also things like a visual function. Though ultimataly she "lost heart" and was in a place she felt was an "awful place to be dropped down halfway," it just seemed there was more to be done in her creation. But as Kurt noted, most endings in these Sci Fi books aren't happy ones.