Thursday, January 29, 2009

Dan Green | Blog 2 (Option 2)

Lyotard put it most eloquently when he simply states “thinking and suffering overlap” (Lyotard, 18). He states several examples of why this must be true, but the easiest example is through the development of Victor Frankenstein’s monster.

Lyotard presents his readers with difficult passages that often stray from the main points. One of the messages he was trying to relate was “will your thinking, your representing machines suffer?” (Lyotard, 19). This line directly translates to Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein during the final conversations of the monster. Up until the daemon’s encounter with Walton, it was apparent that the creature enjoyed himself when he was berating Victor along their arduous journey and past dealings.  Victor even notes “a grin was on the face of the monster; he seemed to jeer, as with his fiendish finger he pointed toward the corpse of my wife” (Shelley, 200). Even in the final conversation, the reader’s are supposed to feel no sympathy toward the monster, that is until Lyotard’s essay has been read. Upon further reading of Frankenstein it was evident that the creature was hurt more than he upset others. It is true that our “representing machines” can suffer. The later doings of the monster turn him onto a new suffering: guilt. He pleads with Walton that “my agony was still superior to thine” (Shelley, 225). He did not want to murder the innocent and helpless, but had no other choice since Victor lied to him and vowed that the creature will be forever alone.  In conclusion, Lyotard’s argument on whether or not our machines will suffer dramatically changes how we perceive the devilish creature in his last moments.

Along these same points, Lyotard also advises us that “we need machines that suffer from the burden of their memory” (Lyotard, 20). I already argued that they can in fact suffer, but now Lyotard investigates the foundation of these sufferings. As Victor lay there cold and white, the monster realizes what he has done, but to him this is a new memory. The creation has never loved and lost and, up until this moment, never known what it feels like. Again, to Walton this comes off as the monster just trying for pity before he retreats to his ice grave. Walton even goes as far as to yell out “Hypocritical fiend! If he whom you mourn still lived, still would he be the object, again would he become the prey, of your accursed vengeance” (Shelley, 223). However, after reading Lyotard’s statement on the impact of past memories on the current and future thought, it is sympathy that I feel for the monster. As I said before, the monster has never had these memories so was unaware of the repercussions of his malevolent labors. Had he grown up and had his own memories, instead of those that are just “no more than letting a givable come towards you” (Lyotard, 18), the journeys of the two may have been changed for the greater. It is definitely unknown to whether or not memories of his own would have persuaded the monster to stop his vengeful journey, but after reading Lyotard it would have helped him realize the evil that he was doing.

                The last argument of Lyotard that is relevant to Frankenstein is “the unthought hurts because we’re comfortable in what’s already thought. Thinking, which is accepting this discomfort, is also, to put it bluntly, an attempt to have done with it” (20). At first glance, it appears that Victor is demoralized because of his relations with the monster and all the suffering that he has gone through. He’s comfortable in “what’s already thought” and that is that “the task of destruction was mine” (Shelley, 220). Going back to this passage with the new knowledge Lyotard has bestowed upon me, I can see that he is remorseful because thinking is merely “accepting the discomfort” of all the anguish he has witnessed. When he is awake he can see, hear, and talk with the ‘ghosts’ of his beloved ones that perished at the hands of the daemon. During this time, he has to be thinking, which with each waking moment makes Victor realize the discomforts of the past. He looks forward to sleep, because “it was during sleep alone that I could taste joy” (Shelley, 207). I think that this last quote pertains to Lyotard because it is with sleep that Victor can hide from “the unthought.” In closing, it was “the unthought” that was making Victor continuously uncomfortable and caused his endless suffering.

                Through the lessons of Lyotard, and the experiences of Victor and his daemon, it is obvious that “thinking and suffering overlap” (Lyotard, 18).


To be human is to be flawed, to have thought and understanding. To have emotion. To be human means to be many things. Posthuman, which literally means ‘after human’, implies the end of humanity and all that defines it. The Posthuman is what survives after this end of humanity. “Human death is included in the life of human mind. Solar death implies an irreparably exclusive disjunction between death and thought: if there’s death, then there is no thought.”(Lyotard 11) Lyotard explains that the beginning of the posthuman is the natural end of humanity (by solar death). Yet he suggests that the posthuman be created to in essence carry on a human attribute. That is thought, the most intangible of human traits. Thus, Lyotard’s essay poses the question ‘can thought go on without a body’ but believing that the posthuman is the body, the new question is ‘can thought go on with this (posthuman) body?’

The final chapters of Frankenstein brings about many endings and new questions. It is the conclusion of Victor’s story, his death, and the rediscovery of the monster. By rediscovery, I not only mean the physical, but also his mentality. The monster returns in a similar mood to the one he exhibited in volume two where he makes the demand of Victor for a companion. This time he is remorseful. He explains his mental processes to Walton. In this manner Shelley uses the monster to embody Lyotard’s posthuman. The monster mimics the thoughts and actions of humans. Yet unrestricted by rules and algorithms (as most artificial intelligence is) the emotions he exhibits are overwhelming and extreme. He follows actions that seem appropriate but at the same time he loathes them. Referring to himself as having at some point being “angelic” yet falling from grace with no demons as companions. He has no doubt learned the meaning of an “eye for an eye” (or in his case a few limbs, sanity, and an eye for an eye) when he kills Elizabeth after witnessing Victor’s destruction of the monster’s unborn bride. Through Victor’s eyes we see the monster as nothing but pure evil, yet when questioned, the monster admits to being remorseful even while committing his acts. This triggers the thought that perhaps the monster was not remorseful so much as realizing that he should be. He realizes (or is aware) of these human feelings but only acts on those with the strongest power.

The monster, standing over the body of his now dead creator, metaphorically represents the post human as it begins its own journey to mimic free thinking, free will, and reason. After some time has passed will the monster, as Lyotard suggests, be able to genuinely replicate the thoughts of humanity through its own struggles and memories, or will its actions only be a “ghost” of what humanity is? The idea of creating the hardware that can sustain in an environment which we ourselves cannot only to hold the “software” of ourselves is ironic to say the least. Thought has the potential to survive physical destruction if it only has the host which can survive as well. The human in this case proves inadequate as the case is that humans are meant to die, the posthuman not so much. This does not make the posthuman a perfect creature though. Stronger than the human as it can outlive its predecessor yet flawed in the fact that it can replicate the human entity to high degree but that is all. Replication becomes the very rule it follows. Rules that stray not too far from algorithms, that stray not too far from artificial intelligence. Therefore free thinking and free will become not so free, the posthuman, not so human, the monster, always a monster.

Option 2

Frankenstein’s monster, a result of scientific innovation, was endowed with life and suddenly found himself in a world of which he knew nothing about. Comparable to the birth of humans, both the monster and infants begin their lives with an empty canvas, as they begin learning from the instant of their introduction to the world. Based on this similarity of comparison, Frankenstein’s monster can represent the most basic form of human existence: because the monster is young and na├»ve to society, he expresses his basic yet powerful emotions in an uncensored manner. Instead of the monster representing the doom of humanity as a result of technological advancements, the monster can represent humanity itself. The application of Lyotard’s ideas to the emotions of the monster can therefore provide a foundation for explaining why humanity in general experiences unhappiness: ultimately, because of the existence of two separate genders.

In Lyotard’s essay “Can Thought Go On Without A Body?”, the relationship between thoughts and unhappiness is questioned and investigated. According to Lyotard, feelings of abandonment and incompleteness due to gender differences brings about strong forces of desire (Lyotard 22). This spoken desire, to the monster, was that of acceptance, compassion, and companionship from other living beings, as he states the following: “I am an unfortunate and deserted creature; I look around, and I have no relation or friend upon earth…I am full of fears [in being] an outcast in the world forever” (Shelley 136). Seeking to realize his dreams, the monster was only brutally rejected by his beloved De Lacey family and Frankenstein refused to provide a female companion. The monster’s desires grew so strong that, when not fulfilled, a desire for revenge took its place.

The monster's extreme unhappiness and despair grew exponentially, and can be traced back to his thoughts of gender and acceptance. Because he was aware of his gender, and also learned of human relationships formed between opposite sexes, the monster’s misery stemmed from this void in his existence. Here Lyotard’s view can be applied as he states that “Thinking and suffering overlap” (Lyotard 18). Lyotard believes that we think because there is something missing; in the monster’s case, he is missing a companion of the opposite sex.

Perhaps the knowledge of gender differences is not the main source of unhappiness in humanity, but it can certainly be considered the basis of such, as the simple desire for acceptance and companionship causes humans to think, which in turn cause our suffering, and may account for various negative actions in society. When reinterpreting Shelley’s work in such a way, it can be concluded that had Frankenstein created a genderless monster, he would not have felt such unhappiness and despair. Similarly, should humans remove focus from gender differences in society, we would not be consumed with thoughts of fulfillment, and much of our current unhappiness would become absent.

Option 1 - The Death of Meaning

Lyotard's essay "Can Thought Go on Without a Body?" is difficult and full of many difficult passages. It is an intriguing essay, but hard to really engage with without understanding some of the more difficult parts. Parts of the first paragraph on page 11 are particularly hard to understand, and this is what I shall focus on.

By far, the most difficult sentences in this paragraph are in the middle of it: "Look here: you try to think of the event in its quod, in the advent of 'it so happens that' before any quiddity, don't you? Well, you'll grant the explosion of the sun is the quod itself, no subsequent assignment being possible." At first glance, this passage seems almost gibberish. 'Quod' has no definition by itself, outside of such latin phrases as 'quod erat demonstratum' (QED). Quiddity, according to means "The real nature of a thing; the essence". A paraphrase of this passage might read then: 'Look here: you try to think of the event logically before its true essence, don't you? Well, you'll grant the explosion of the sun is the logical end itself, since nothing comes after it.'

The passages before and after naturally provide some context. Before the above passage, he says: "You'll have been seduced and deceived by what you call nature, by a congruence of mind and things. Claudel calls this a 'co-naissance', and Merleau-Ponty spoke of the chiasmus of the eye and the horizon, a fluid in which the mind floats. The solar explosion, the mere thought of that explosion, should awaken you from this euphoria." What Lyotard appears to be expressing here is that philospohers and the like glory in this sort of co-existence of the mind and the things that surround it, and shape it, but that this attitude will not serve them in the end, when everything is dead with the sun. That this positive attitude of the mind and things takes for granted the existence of the earth, and betrays the transitory and chance nature of human existence.

The passage after the first one, likewise provides context. In it, Lyotard states: "Of that death alone, Epicurus ought to have said what he says about death - that I have nothing to do with it, since if it's present, I'm not, and if I'm present, it's not. Human death is included in the life of the human mind. Solar death implies an irreparably exclusive disjunction between death and thought: if there's death, then there's no thought." What he seems to mean here is that when one person dies, there are other people to make sense of that loss, to understand it. But when all life is extinguised by the death of the sun, there is no one left to make any sense of it; it is just over.

The first passage, then, implies that logical thinking and most human endeavors are meaningless, because when the sun dies, it will all be over; not remembered, not even forgotten, because there would be no one left even to forget it. These passages, and indeed, the whole essay, need to be so difficult because without it the gravity of the situation, the death of the sun, would not be understood at all. If he were to simply say that 'After the sun is dead, nothing will matter' it would make no impression on any reader. Something stated so bluntly is easy to ignore; but by making the passages so difficult, the reader must wrestle to understand the meaning, and by doing so, also wrestle to understand the nature of the death of the sun, and thus Lyotard's point.

Option 3: Shelley's Definition of Post-Humanism

Lyotard’s polyvocal essay ‘Can Thought Go On Without A Body?’ (Lyotard, 1991), is full of convolutions as a result of his two-sided conversation with the abstract. Lyotard stages the conversation as a dialogue between a ‘He’ and a ‘She.’ The essay frames a discussion of the nature of thinking through a typically Lyotardian conceit. Lyotard’s conceit, technically speaking is that of how it thought itself might continue in the wake of the imminent explosion of the Sun, an event of unprecedented catastrophe due sometime towards the latter part of the next four and a half billion years. Of course, as Lyotard tells us, it is impossible to think such an end, because an end is a limit, and you need to be on both sides of the limit to think that limit. So how could thought – as we know it or otherwise – go on? This is the question that postmodernist Lyotard is asking of the “post-human” world.

The ‘He’ and ‘She’s subjects are opposing views. In the ‘He’ Lyotard states that artificial intelligence is necessary because it will allow humanity to save its thoughts, providing meaning in lives that would otherwise be meaningless at death. However, the view, developed in the “She” section, questions the ability of artificial intelligence to characterize and provide others with a sense of humanity. The “post-human” is the society that develops after this earth and our race’s inevitable demise. Human is the human race’s current state of existence. The ‘He’ and the ‘She’ are arguing over not ‘what is post-human?’ but ‘is post-human even possible?’ Despite Mary Shelley’s gender, her vision of the post-human is not femininely questioning our ability to create artificial intelligence that can retain and exhibit humanness; instead she shows us that it is possible.

Shelley’s representation of the post-human is Frankenstein’s “monster” or creation. Compiled of dead human parts, and a spark of light, Frankenstein’s creation is Shelley’s example of artificial intelligence. Light reveals, illuminates, clarifies; it is essential for seeing, and seeing is the way to knowledge. Just as light can illuminate, however, so can it blind; pleasantly warm at moderate levels, it ignites dangerous flames at higher ones. Light is balanced always by fire, the promise of new discovery by the danger of unpredictable—and perhaps tragic—consequences. Being analogous to knowledge, the light that struck the composition of dead body parts is Shelley’s example of what Lyotard is talking about in the ‘He.’ If we think of Frankenstein’s creation as a robot and the light as the humanness that Lyotard feels should live on, then we have artificial intelligence onto which humanity can save its thoughts.

Frankenstein’s creation gives hope to the ‘She’ argument as a result of Shelley’s emphasis on his very strong human emotions, crying, desire to love, loneliness, and need for revenge. Shelley produced in the creature what Lyotard felt was impossible, a true post-human. The post-human recognizes imperfectability and disunity within him or herself, while also understanding the world through context and heterogeneous perspectives while maintaining intellectual rigor and a dedication to objective observations of the world. Frankenstein’s creation is but a year or two old, however his knowledge of things and ability to understand is increasing exponentially.

While Shelley makes a good example of combining the arguments/concerns of the ‘He’ with those of the ‘She,’ the story’s final fate for the creature, in which he ends his own life is essentially unraveling any hope for the possibility of having a post-human that is both human enough to demonstrate what Lyotard feels is the most important human emotion, pain, but also utilitarian enough to maintain the utmost of intellectual rigor. The creature’s death states that the only way to create something human enough to car on our thoughts past our inevitable end is to literally make it a human. By definition if it is human, it is not artificial, and as human it’s life will end as any of ours could.

Shelley’s example of the post-human is more like a statement of her non-belief in such a thing. Frankenstein’s creature is considered part “monster” and part human, however he died like a human making him less monster than human, or similarly less artificial or robotic than human.

Option 1: Can thought be mimicked into immortality?

Lyotard, among other things, attempts to explain human thought and the complexities which surround the process in such a manner that we may build a body which may perpetuate this ability beyond our earthly, closed and solar-dependent existence. In short, he describes human thought as a reflexive process which must be properly understood in order to be captured in the form of artificial intelligence that may survive beyond the immanent storm of nuclear fires which threatens to terminate all earthly thought and meaning in the suns last throws before extinction. In the laboring process of describing human thought however, Lyotard presents his ideas in a very challenging set of analogous comparisons and conclusions which at first appear to be drawn out of nowhere. In order to better understand this segment of his passage however, one must read deeper beyond the philosophical appearance of the matter and look to the technical conclusions it ascertains. As Lyotard begins his essay, philosophical questions must, “remain unanswered to deserve being called philosophical.” From this, we will find no conclusions on the matter of human thought, and immortality through artificial intelligence will forever be out of reach.

Reflexive thought, as Lyotard describes it, is, “a mode of thought not guided by rules for determining data, but showing itself as possibly capable of developing such rules afterwards on the basis of results obtained ‘reflexively.’” He continues by pointing out that, “reflexive thought…does not hide what it owes to perceptual experience.” At a glance, it appears that Lyotard is saying that human thought references itself within its own processes in order to function. In referencing itself, we rely on our experiences and existence as a sentient being with a tangible body to draw experience in which thought can be derived. What does this mean though? How does this idea help to explain human thought in such a way that we can adequately model artificial intelligence to mimic it?

Thought doesn’t just present itself as an analogy to perception. Thought requires perception in order to proceed. Without physical being to draw experience from, thought fails to exist. Lyotard explains here that thought requires analogical reference to the physical being which presents the sentient “human” thought rather than the circuit logic that can be performed on a binary computer system. Logic can exist as a set of rules rooted in reality, but sentient thought can only proceed when there is being to draw experience from, when there is a system in which thought can reflexively build on itself as it develops. It requires a system as diverse and rooted in the physical state as a fine tuned biological organism such as ourselves to reach beyond logic and rules and gain the ultimate goal of thought that can operate and change as the environment that creates that thought changes.

In essence, Lyotard explains in this particular paragraph that in order to create an immortal expansion of our thought that will survive the test of time beyond the early reaches of our own doomed existence; we must create a system rooted in a physical being that can draw on the experiences of that being. Only then will any artificial intelligence be able to immortalize the power of human thought rather than creating a record of logical outputs forever mimicking the past. Is this really a technically conclusion on the nature of thought though? Does this give a simple answer that can be overcome to achieve immortality in the form of artificial beings with true human intellect? I don’t believe it does, but instead it returns to Lyotard’s philosophical realm; a realm dominated by the lack of answers and technical conclusions. Thus the reason surfaces as to why Lyotard presents this idea in such a complex and deeply confusing manner. Philosophical questions, by his definition, are those that do not draw conclusions, but instead provoke thought which may lead to further questions. The nature of thought really can’t be summed up simply as an entity which is dependent on a physical state to draw experience from. The nature of sentient thought reaches far beyond this simple understanding and paradoxically requires far more understanding than any technical conclusion can provide. In the complexity of his philosophical understanding of thought, does Lyotard actually conclude anything? Or does he simply lead us to the reality that human thought can never truly be explained in a technical form suitable for replication into the immortal realm of artificial intelligence?

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

The Monster and Gender - option 2

“To that which without gendered difference would only be a neutral experience of the space-time of perceptions and thoughts, an experience in which this feeling of incompleteness would be lacking as unhappiness, but only an experience producing a simple and pure cognitive aesthetic, to this neutrality gendered difference adds the suffering of abandonment because it brings to neutrality what no field of vision of thought can include, mainly a demand” (Lyotard 21).

“You must create a female for me, with whom I can live in the interchange of those sympathies necessary for my being” (Shelley 147).

In “Can Thought go on without a Body?” Lyotard evaluates different traits that machines will need to have in order to continue thought after the demise of humans, one of which is awareness of gender differences. He argues that without recognition of the gender it lacks, a machine will not be able to have true thought. In Frankenstein, Frankenstein’s life is destroyed due to the revenge that his monster seeks on him when he refuses to accept his wish. Frankenstein consistently regrets the moment that he gave him life, but was this really where he went wrong? If read in the context of Lyotard, his true mistake was not giving him life, but rather, giving him gender.

When Frankenstein’s monster enters the world, he is met with nothing but hatred from humans, especially his creator. He is truly distraught by this, which we see especially well as he watches the DeLacey family. He is literally outside and looking in, wanting only to be included and accepted into their family and life - he tells Frankenstein, “to see their sweet looks directed towards me with affection was the utmost limit of my ambition” (Shelley 134). He is not granted this wish, and so he continues on to find his maker and demand a female companion. The common thread here is that the monster is looking for something that is missing – someone to share the world with. He wants to be accepted by someone, or something. He says that he needs someone with whom he can “exchange the sympathies necessary for my being”, tying the suffering in his life to his existence in general.

Lyotard, too, writes of the bond between suffering and existence – “Thinking and suffering overlap” (18). He argues that if everything was perfectly fine and nothing was lacking then there would be no reason for thinking. Gender, then, gives us this feeling of lacking something - we lack the other gender, and this brings about desire. The monster desires to be accepted. He desires a female companion. According to Lyotard, the monster owes this feeling to gender difference. Lyotard makes the differentiation between how something without gender would interpret a lack of something and how something with gender would – an “experience producing a simple and pure cognitive aesthetic” versus a “suffering of abandonment” (Lyotard 21). Were the monster to not have gender, then, he would not feel this abandonment by Frankenstein and humans as he does. As these feelings are what lead him to his request for a mate and ultimately the revenge that he seeks on Frankenstein, the reason for them is really the cause of Frankenstein’s demise.

Frankenstein is not bothered by the monster’s mere existence – he originally dreams of a world in which a new species practically worships him as its god. Were the monster able to be a mere “machine” that Frankenstein could control he would have no problem with it – he is only brought to his tragic end by the monster’s retribution, which is caused by his thought and suffering. When reading Frankenstein, it’s easy to wonder why such a superior being would care about having a companion. Lyotard’s analysis of gender shows us how this can be. The monster does not see the world as an “experience producing a simple and pure cognitive aesthetic”. He has gender, and therefore faces “suffering without abandonment” (Lyotard 21). Frankenstein didn’t make a mistake when he created the monster – he made a mistake by allowing him to feel this lack.

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Assignment for Next Thursday (Group #1)

There are 3 - yes, 3 options here. Please clearly indicate which one you're doing.

#1) Find a difficult passage in Lyotard's essay and explain it. By difficult, I mean that it should be one of the more difficult passages in the essay, such that you really don't understand it at all at first. By explain, I mean you should analyze it it in detail to explain the sentence (or phrase, or paragraph) both by itself and in context. You may need to look some things up, maybe in an unabridged dictionary or a dictionary of philosophy. Finally, once you understand it you should explain (or justify) why it's so hard. Why does he need to make a sentence (or paragraph, or phrase) so difficult? What is the value of difficulty here? Don't answer simplistically -- for instance, by claiming that "difficulty makes us think harder."

#2) Use some aspect of Lyotard's essay, as represented by one or more quotes, (re)interpret some aspect of Frankenstein, as represented by one or more quotes. You should argue both that we can and should read Frankenstein differently because we have read Lyotard.

3) Lyotard's essay/story, which I excerpted from his great (and frustrating) book The Inhuman is interested in what some thinkers (e.g, Katherine Hayles in her book How We Became Posthuman) have called "the Posthuman" - the idea that our current technological endeavors will lead to a sentient existence, which, while continuous with ours, can no longer properly be called "human." Making use of Lyotard, if only to define some aspect of the inhuman/posthuman, discuss ways in which Shelley anticipates or prefigures "the Posthuman." You should at least briefly discuss/define what the terms "human" and "posthuman" mean to you.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Man and Machine

Cyborg’s are a part of our imagination found in fiction but to us they are not apparent because of their dual nature: both human and machine, with the human nature blinding us from their exsistence. Another place we find cyborgs is in medicine with the “coupling of man and machine.” A great example of the cyborg nature in modern medicine is in the building blocks of life, DNA. Endless lines of code creating a human being, all of this code stemming from reproduction that seems so basic at first glance, but under the microscope so complex and mechanistic. Cyborg sex itself restores the beauty of basic nature lacking the male or female aspect of more sophisticated organisms. This shows Haraway’s feminist nature. The inability to differentiate between sexes is ideal for her since it would inevitably lead to a fair and just society, atleast along the lines of sex.

Modern production is the essence of cyborgality. Taylorism and more specifically Fordism (developed by Henry Ford) is a management ideology that enables a complex device to be created by breaking it down into very small parts and dividing the labor amongst a large number of people. A great example of Fordism is an assembly line. Mechanistic by nature, these two methods of management ideology both rely on a systematic approach towards labor maximizing the productivity while morphing the individual worker into a machine. Both Taylorism and Fordism are widely criticizised for  their removal of inviduality and also creation of poor work environments mainly due to  management and workers rarely are striving for the same thing, with management striving for productivity and workers for humane working conditions and workers rights.

            Modern war as we know is even more mechanistic than when Haraway wrote her manifesto. Everyday new technologies are created removing more and more humans from the line of fire to be replaced by machines.

In the final two sentences Haraway describes the thesis of the first part of her essay. Arguing that there is little difference between what the human brain can imagine and the reality that follows. Coupling our reality with the imagination, quite similar to the coupling of man with machine in a cyborg.

The closing sentence refers to Michael Foucault ideas on biopolitics. Biopolitics is centered around the idea that governments have many methods to control the people living within their boundaries and the abilities of humans to control one another is only but a glimpse of the cyborg control onto other cyborg beings because of their human-machine duality. Leading me to question what Haraway means by this. My thought is that the machine nature of a cyborg would cause the cyborg politics to be very cold and naturally selective, and the human area of the cyborg that would stem from the everlasting search for new ways to gain power, politically, socially, and economically. A true marrige of man and machine.

76.35% Evil

Victor Frankenstein is ultimately 76.35% evil. In order to judge a man’s character, you must first fully understand his story. In Frankenstein’s case, it is a miserable blight of bad decisions, dead relatives, and, in the end, a futile search for the ‘evil’ that by his own discord had plagued him for years. Fortunately for us, it’s impossible to fully understand a man’s story without having been that man, and even having been that man it is a task left to decades of reflection and behavioral modification. The outcome of which is inevitably acceptance of death or sudden death, in which case it seems inane to discuss the trivial characteristics associated with good or evil. Additionally, categorizing an object into either the category good or evil means that the percent occurrence of the two must add up to 100%. Can any human, with such complexities, be deemed either 100% evil or 100% good? However, I digress: Nothing, not I or any other living (or supernatural) being, has the right to decide whether or not a man is good or evil. And so, I turn to, which provides the human definition of ‘good’ (adjective) in 41 easy-to-choose-from uses. I will also include the five definitions provided for ‘evil’ (adjective). In this way, will decide the character of Victor Frankenstein.


For simplicity’s sake, I will simply list these 46 definitions, adding a plus sign (+) to those that do apply to our dear Victor, and a minus sign (-) to those that do not apply. Five definitions seemed irrelevant, two only semi-applicable, and one especially relevant which are designated with question marks (?), ½’s, and pluses (++) respectively. I will provide no reasoning, yours and mine would surely differ and you are free to disagree. If you do disagree, I encourage you to add up your pluses and minuses and compare our ideas of right and wrong. (Remember to add minuses from the ‘good’ list with pluses from the ‘bad’ list to get an accurate good to evil proportion.)

My proportion will be determined by taken the average of the percentage of good and evil in each of the aforementioned categories.

Good= 52.7%

TBA 1. morally excellent; virtuous; righteous; pious: a good man.
+ 2. satisfactory in quality, quantity, or degree: a good teacher; good health.
+ 3. of high quality; excellent.
+ 4. right; proper; fit: It is good that you are here. His credentials are good.
- 5. well-behaved: a good child.
- 6. kind, beneficent, or friendly: to do a good deed.
+ 7. honorable or worthy; in good standing: a good name.
+ 8. educated and refined: She has a good background.
+ 9. financially sound or safe: His credit is good.
+ 10. genuine; not counterfeit: a good quarter.
- 11. sound or valid: good judgment; good reasons.
- 12. reliable; dependable; responsible: good advice.
- 13. healthful; beneficial: Fresh fruit is good for you.
- 14. in excellent condition; healthy: good teeth.
- 15. not spoiled or tainted; edible; palatable: The meat was still good after three months in the freezer.
- 16. favorable; propitious: good news.
½ + 17. cheerful; optimistic; amiable: in good spirits.
- 18. free of distress or pain; comfortable: to feel good after surgery.
- 19. agreeable; pleasant: Have a good time.
? 20. attractive; handsome: She has a good figure.
? 21. (of the complexion) smooth; free from blemish.
- 22. close or intimate; warm: She's a good friend of mine.
+ 23. sufficient or ample: a good supply.
+ 24. advantageous; satisfactory for the purpose: a good day for fishing.
+ 25. competent or skillful; clever: a good manager; good at arithmetic.
+ 26. skillfully or expertly done: a really good job; a good play.
+ 27. conforming to rules of grammar, usage, etc.; correct: good English.
½+ 28. socially proper: good manners.
+ 29. remaining available to one: Don't throw good money after bad.
+ 30. comparatively new or of relatively fine quality: Don't play in the mud in your good clothes.
? 31. best or most dressy: He wore his good suit to the office today.
++ 32. full: a good day's journey away.
- 33. fairly large or great: a good amount.
- 34. free from precipitation or cloudiness: good weather.
- 35. Medicine/Medical. (of a patient's condition) having stable and normal vital signs, being conscious and comfortable, and having excellent appetite, mobility, etc.
+ 36. fertile; rich: good soil.
- 37. loyal: a good Democrat.
- 38. (of a return or service in tennis, squash, handball, etc.) landing within the limits of a court or section of a court.
? 39. Horse Racing. (of the surface of a track) drying after a rain so as to be still slightly sticky: This horse runs best on a good track.
? 40. (of meat, esp. beef) noting or pertaining to the specific grade below “choice,” containing more lean muscle and less edible fat than “prime” or “choice.”
+ 41. favorably regarded (used as an epithet for a ship, town, etc.): the good ship Syrena

Evil= 100%

TBA 1. morally wrong or bad; immoral; wicked: evil deeds; an evil life.
+ 2. harmful; injurious: evil laws.
+ 3. characterized or accompanied by misfortune or suffering; unfortunate; disastrous: to be fallen on evil days.
+ 4. due to actual or imputed bad conduct or character: an evil reputation.
+ 5. marked by anger, irritability, irascibility, etc.: He is known for his evil disposition.


As you can easily calculate, (100% evil + 52.7% good) / 2 ultimately makes Victor Frankenstein 76.35% evil and 23.65% good. Far be it for me to rely on mathematics or the Internet to determine a man’s character, but by all human means, subjectivity would certainly affect the outcome.

Brendan Shay - Blog 1 (Option 1) Protecting the Future

As the never-ending pursuit to advance society continues, collectively we must also come to an awareness of the necessity to respect boundaries and the need for caution. Mary Shelly’s Frankenstein compliments the ideas of Bill Joy in his persuasive article “Why the future doesn’t need us”. Frankenstein, considered one of the first science fiction novel ever written, presents the reader with a reality which on the exterior seems farfetched however, upon closer consideration may actually represent a truth about the world we live in today. Mary Shelly does an excellent job of constructing a timeless novel warning against the “over reaching” of modern man during the industrial revolution. The underlying message, presented as Victor’s creation in the novel, must be taken strongly into consideration as the main theme Shelly hoped to construct; the scary realization that misguided technology may not only lead to unwarranted creations but disastrous consequences.


Advances in technology are taking place often and going unnoticed by the general public or brushed aside simply as a fleeting impression to most people. These may not be as fictitious as creating human life, as Victor Frankenstein did but that is not the point. That is the argument Mary Shelly presents the readers with in her time period while Bill Joy presents his persuasive argument to us today in a somewhat similar time period in terms of advancement, showing us dangerous that are very real and very serious. 

Despite Mary Shelly’s Frankenstein being considered a science fiction novel, it cannot be overlooked as farfetched ideas or taken simply for what it is. The fact is without proper consideration regarding new technology who knows what may result in the future. This idea is complimented in Bill Joy’s persuasive essay, “Why the future doesn’t need us”. Joy spends huge portions of his essay describing potential downfalls to the human race by the potential out-of-control production of robots or other artificial intelligence. If this may be in the near future or not we cannot be sure but the argument Joy adamantly persuades holds strong no matter the time period. Without proper regulation or concern for long term consequences things have a natural way of getting out of hand.  “The new Pandora’s boxes of genetics, nanotechnology, and robotics are almost open, yet we seem hardly to have noticed. Ideas can’t be put back into a box”. This haunting quote from Joy describes the concern that should be noted by more and more people. With proper upfront thinking before simply impulsively acting would prevent any unwarranted shock from new ideas or inventions. Technology is not bad and this is not what Joy intended to argue. However, this “technical arrogance” can overcome people and a blind eye plagues far too many people when the realization of what they can do with their mind overshadows rational judgment. 

Is Frankenstein a symbolic foreshadowing of the future if we are not careful? We cannot be sure of this unless action is taken to safeguard ourselves from disaster. Protective barriers or proper safety measures are essential in the further study of genetics, robotics or nuclear weapons. Joy writes, “Another idea is to erect a series of shields to defend against each of the dangerous technologies”, this may seem general but the effort must start somewhere and can’t be shrugged off as something for the future.  A very interesting part of Joy’s essay described a childhood memory when he told of his grandmothers opposition to the overuse of antibiotics not because she was an “enemy of progress” but because of the fears of the uncertainly of such things. Now this isn’t an argument against antibiotics or any advancement for that matter but rather a question of when is enough? Can we not work to simplify things we already have instead of complicating our lives with things we do not have. Why focus on such complex things without even fully understanding simpler things or even us as a species. We will always instinctively have the urge to know according to Aristotle and this makes sense. We should always be curious and strive for new things to better society. However, what seems the more important virtue in our time is humility, having the awareness of our order of life and the importance of respecting that knowledge by protecting ourselves from good intentions gone awry. 

The hardest part to this problem is coming to an agreement as a people of both what we want and what we need for the future and only then reaching an idea of how to best go along doing this in a safe and logical way. Coming to an understanding of this would put much more certainty towards what lies ahead in the future and much less danger to the unknown.  

Cyborgs- Biological Determinism -Nathaniel Bacon

"Biological-determinist ideology is only one position opened up in scientific culture for arguing the meanings of human animality. There is much room for radical political people to contest the meanings of the breached boundary. The cyborg appears in myth precisely where the boundary between human and animal is transgressed. Far from signaling a walling off of people from other living beings, cyborgs signal disturbingly and pleasurably tight coupling. Bestiality has a new status in this cycle of marriage exchange."

This paragraph is but one of the many deep and complex paragraphs found within Donna Haraway's A Cyborg Manifesto. It provides reason for why Haraway can, or tries, to make her political-fictional analysis concerning cyborgs by explaining one of the three breakdowns, this one concerning the breakdown between human and animal.

In the very first sentence Haraway uses biological-determinist ideology to equate humans and animals. Biological determinism, defined by the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy, says that DNA predetermines how any given organism turns out. In other words, the genes of a human determine how a person will react and develop, the surrounding environment having no influence on said person. This indeed reduces a human to that of an animal, preprogrammed, instinctive, and a lack of uniqueness if humans indeed cannot be influenced by surroundings.

She then goes on to show the relationship between cyborgs and humans/animals. She first states that cyborgs appear wherever the distinction between humans and animals has be "transgressed", or breached. The symbolic representation of cyborgs is not the complete separation or isolation of human and animal, rather it is the union of the two, the two being made one. It is the "disturbingly and pleasurably tight coupling".

The distinction between human and animal is broken even more in Haraway's comment on bestiality. Bestiality is sex between human and animal. In many cultures this act is looked down upon and even scorned. But, in the argument being made, it gains a new status, a higher status, a status accepted by all. If indeed the distinction between human and animal is completely lost, then the intimate relations between human and animal, animal and animal, and human and human are all essentially the same, and so they could all be considered bestiality.

However, one could also argue that Haraway contradicts herself. In this paragraph and her preceding paragraph she is making the argument for the equating of humans and animals. If she is to be taken seriously and believed, then such an argument, such an idea, is meant to be accepted as normal by the reader. However, she says that the "cyborgs signal disturbingly….tight coupling". Her use of the word 'disturbingly' gives the connotation that there is something wrong or unsettling with the idea of there being no distinction between humans and animals.

Like most of her entire essay, this paragraph is not easily grasped, even after having read it several times. This might seem unnecessary, making everything so hard to understand, but she is reaching towards a lofty goal. Trying to convincingly make the argument that we are all cyborgs is no small task, and the defense of which can only be just as hard and complex to understand.

Frankenstien Not a Nice Guy- Josh Bowman

It is difficult to define evil. As a society, it is easier to find examples of evil people than it is to define the force itself. Ted Bundy, the Zodiac Killer, John Wayne Gacy and many more, are all considered in our society to be evil and to be sociopaths. In today’s culture, word sociopath is almost synonymous with evil, someone who acts without regard for others and cannot foresee the consequences of his actions. So is the case with Victor Frankenstein. He was not only wicked, but was a full-blown sociopath. Victor fits a majority of the seven diagnostic criteria outlined by the DSM-IV-TR (Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders), although only 3 are necessary for a diagnosis for the following purposes: “failure to conform to social norms,” “reckless disregard for safety of self or others,” and “lack of remorse, indifferent to or rationalizing having hurt, mistreated, or stolen from another.”(Tami Port). From the time Victor Frankenstein began studying the books of Agrippa, he became not only evil but also a sociopath.

Frankenstein admitted that he never had many friends, a fact that yields to his nonconformity. He was obsessed with books of the occult, which despite his father telling him that they were “sad trash,” he still delved into (Shelley 40). “The raising of ghosts or devils was a promise liberally accorded…[to] the fulfillment of which I most eagerly sought.” Frankenstein said that he often tried to raise the dead as a child (Shelley 42). Now that young Victor believed every word of these books as law and studied them as such, did he think of what might happen to himself or anyone around him if a demon did spawn? Of course not. He had no concern for the adverse effects of his actions. While recounting his tale Victor finds himself totally blameless for his fate. According to him, his father should have explained to him why the book was bad, his guardian angel should have done a better job, and he was even narcissistic enough to think that the combined forces of destiny conspired against him (Shelley 41-43). Never did he blame himself for his insatiable need for knowledge and glory.

When Victor matured and the veil of childhood was lifted, his sociopathy could no longer be considered childish actions. At Ingolstadt he still related to the professors that he had studied the schools of the occult, “I replied carelessly; and, partly in contempt, the alchemists which I had studied.” Even in conversation he found himself unable to conform to the norm (Shelley 47). Once again Frankenstein found himself friendless. Sure he had associates, but no friends to speak of, and he took no time to take care of his own health, so dedicated was he to his sick ambitions. He occupied his time with grave robbing and experimentation on rotting flesh, “a churchyard was to me merely the receptacle of bodies…I was led to examine the cause and progress of this decay” (Shelley 53). This is hardly normal behavior breaking again and again the taboos of typical society. Echoing the days of his youth he nefariously attempted to raise the dead. Not through an incantation, but by the work of his own hands and “modern” technology, Frankenstein was completely blind to any repercussions. All he saw was a challenge and glory for himself nothing beyond that (Shelley 54). When Victor actually succeeded in raising his monster he, instead of facing up to his creation, ran. When the monster left he was so unable to think that what he did was wrong, his body could not handle it and he fell ill.

Frankenstein rationalized all the travesties that befell him as acts of the monster, even when he returned to Geneva and William was killed. “I had turned loose into the world a depraved wretch whose delight was in carnage and misery” (Shelley 78). Frankenstein proceeded to spend the night out in the rain without concern for his own well being. He recognized that he created the monster, but blamed the creature itself above all other things. His rage for the monster was unequaled; it was responsible for what happened to William, it was responsible for what happened to poor Justine, and yet again, in his own mind, Frankenstein was blameless but for his creations acts. Not once did he apologize for his actions; he only suffered because of them.

Victor was the abomination, not his creation. He was raised in polite society and still turned into the sociopathic villain of the story—his creation never new anything else. Frankenstein could not live with the social norms in his society, could not think of the safety of himself or others in his fervor, and could not put the blame where it belonged—on himself. Victor Frankenstein truly was a sociopath, and therefore, he was truly evil.

Port, Tami. "What Is Antisocial Personality Disorder?" Symptoms, Diagnosis & Prognosis of APD, ASPD, and Psychopathy. 17 Aug. 2007. 20 Jan. 2009 .

Shelley, Mary Wollstonecraft. Frankenstein : Or, the Modern Prometheus. Ed. Maurice Hindle. New York: Penguin Books, Limited, 2003.


When concerning one’s self with the future and the various possible outcomes of technology you open doors to questions that can not possibly be answered; such is the nature of the idea of future. This world would be a totally different place if people could peer into the future. What do you think Shelly would think about the present? What would she think of the modern weapons of war: tanks, war ships, jet planes, the atom bomb, are these the monsters she envisioned? Surely some people have greater insight than others but the future will always hold unforeseen outcomes, though the question begs to be raised; how much impact do people like Shelly and Joy who raise conjectures towards the unknown have on the passage of time. In other words would people have developed Shelley’s “monsters” is she hadn’t have opened the door to that path in the minds of the population? People, the complacent masses, are highly influential. Shelley simply planted the seed, an idea of industrial dangers, which grew ultimately into World War. On the other hand, these people are no more than intellects and authors, but, being famous, they have significant power to shape the ideas of popular culture. Although, personally, I like to gain my insight into a subject by experts in that field, and neither Shelley nor Joy have any real experience in the various subjects and disciplines they discuss. Paranoia is a product of fear which is a product of ignorance. Given Joy’s significant insight into the future world of computer programming and his contribution to date, I find it difficult to take his paranoia seriously. I hardly think Joy is ignorant in his field, but his overtly dystopian outlook towards the future points more to personal despair and depression and less to logical and coherent predictions. He, if any, should be aware of the massive and daunting infrastructure overhauls that would be necessary for any “intelligent” computer systems to be integrated into society and the shear amount of time that would be involved would act as a failsafe, unless we are, in fact, mere units of production in a system working towards a singular end; being efficient productivity. I personally refuse to believe that in all of the complex bureaucracy of our government, not to mention all of the other systems of society including religious and educational institutions as well as those of foreign states, not a single person is working toward the advancement of humanity and is apposed to the system whose legitimacy and value is determined by profit margins. The amount of time and subsequent tests in the network would act to evolve the integration as we learn more about the high technology around us we, by our nature, will influence that evolution. Additionally with knowledge comes change, and the knowledge garnered from supercomputer research would pressure the evolution of humanity as well as the evolution of technology. As with the natural world, mother nature, we act as evolutionary pressures on each other, introducing an “artificial” pressure would not act any differently. Humanity has influenced the development of the internet just as the internet has shaped many of our childhoods. I’d like to think the countless hours of data farming, rather harvesting, has made someone’s life a little better, whether it be the album or program anyone of you may have downloaded from me, because I know everyone here enjoys harvesting data like I do. Conversely I’d like to thank you for you may have been the seeder I was looking forJ. Anyhow, I hope that illustrated my point, that however intelligent computers get in the future, they have a very real grounded basis in humanity, likewise in the future, we will have a very real base virtual reality. Humanity acts as an intermediary between mother nature and “mother” (if you will), artificial intelligence. Computers can be integrated into us and introduced into nature and vice versa because we are integrated into both systems. Although we are also in the position to destroy both systems, but however righteous and legitimate Joy’s and Shelly’s concerns about the future may be, the things that they oppose and the systems which frighten them are only being reinforced, and gain power from the paranoia of its constituents. If, in fact, the societal systems in motion during Shelly’s and our time are working against the advancement of humanity as a whole, and the implementations of the technology of the times are progressing towards a frightening destructive end, feeding into the problem by popularizing paranoia the population will reach a state of complacency. Introducing personal fears to others creates a state of panic where-in those very systems that Joy and Shelly oppose with their fear would be rightfully initiated in hopes to settle the population.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Scott Lavoritano Group 2 option 4

“The ubiquity and invisibility of cyborgs is precisely why these sunshine-belt machines are so deadly. They are as hard to see politically as materially. They are about consciousness - or its simulation.5 They are floating signifiers moving in pickup trucks across Europe, blocked more effectively by the witch-weavings of the displaced and so unnatural Greenham women, who read the cyborg webs of power so very well, than by the militant labor of older masculinist politics, whose natural constituency needs defense jobs.”

In the first sentence Haraway says that the cyborgs are everywhere but nobody knows it, ubiquitous and invisible. This is clearly an attribute that could make something dangerous. She says they are hard to see politically and materially, to me this means both the response and effect they have on society as well as their physical presence. I think it is important to discuss what Haraway means by ‘cyborg.’ To me she is talking about machines that are gaining a grip on society, almost to the point where they have a mind of their own.

How can somebody ‘need’ something when it did not exist 5 or 10 years ago? How is it possible that people depend so much on these objects that were created so recently? Haraway claims that these cyborgs are about consciousness or the stimulation of it. By this she means that they relate to the human mind and have the ability to influence it.

In the next phrase she makes a spiritual feministic claim. She says that these cyborgs or more effectively blocked, or as I see it, comprehended by weavings from a woman in Greenham than by the physical efforts of a man in the military. This is to say that the cyborgs cannot be stopped with military power or force, but by understanding and self control of an individual. When she speaks of the witch-weavings she clearly does not mean literally blocked but more blocked by a state of mind. While the soldier, incapable of this state of mine, is at the mercy of the cyborg. Whether it be a camera, website or even some new piece of military equipment.

I think an important part of this paragraph is when she says that they are hard to see politically and materially. While the things I mentioned can clearly be seen in material, that is not the cyborg, the cyborg lives in the use or the desire to use the object. The more difficult part to understand is why they cannot be seen politically, or why their effect on society would not influence leaders and their decisions. I think this is because they choose to be ignorant to the trends that begin to appear in the public and the cyborgs that begin to take over their people.

This paragraph is important to the essay because it really displays what the author means by cyborg and why she feels them a threat. As a reader, once I analyzed the paragraph, it helped me understand the paper as a whole.

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Modified Group Assignments

Dan Green, Brendan Shay
John Whithead*, Nathaniel Bacon
Heather Friedberg, Scott Lavoritano
Krystal Heath, *Marika
Megan Schwemer, Tricia George
Chris Weiss, Bob
Amanda Kern, Josh Bowman
Kate*, Jason W.*

New assignments are indicated with an asterisk. If you're in group 1, but you just added the class, you also should do your paper for this week - but you should note when posting it that you're in group one, and you should only use the prompts for the first group. If you're in group 2, but newly assigned, just smoothly enter into group 2.

Email me, or add a comment here, if you have any questions.

Assignments for Thursday (

Option #1: The same as Option #1 last week.

Option #2: The same as Option #2 last week.

Option #3: Is Victor Frankenstein ultimately good or ultimately evil? If you decide that he's evil, explain when he crosses the line - when creating the monster? When abandoning the monster? When making a deal with the monster? If he's good, why do things end up so badly? The question may seem general, but you should make your paper very specific by focusing on - and quoting - precise moments in the text, and by being clear with your definitions (e.g. - what do good and evil mean for you, anyway?).

Option #4: Find a difficult passage in Haraway's essay and explain it. By difficult, I mean that it should be one of the more difficult passages in the essay, such that you really don't understand it at all at first. By explain, I mean you should analyze it it in detail to explain the sentence (or phrase, or paragraph) both by itself and in context. You may need to look some things up, maybe in an unabridged dictionary or a dictionary of philosophy; you may need to figure out who some philosopher or literary critic is as a starting point. Finally, once you understand it you should explain (or justify) why it's so hard. Why does she need to make a sentence (or paragraph, or phrase) so difficult?

Note: Since you've had the benefit of reading papers from last week, as well as commenting on them, expectations will certainly be higher this week, especially for options 1 & 2.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Blog #1

Amanda Kern
Narrative and Technology

In the works of both Shelley's Frankenstein and Bill Joy's essay "Why the future doesn't need us", the possible threats presented by technology take very similar forms. The fear of robotic, genetically engineered or cloned individuals existing among us is clearly expressed in both works, displaying the ongoing uneasy feelings held for technological advancements. Viewing new sciences and technologies as a threat to society is clearly not a new idea expressed in Bill Joy's essay, as Shelley's Frankenstein conveys the same fears centuries prior.

The scientific advancements taken place in Frankenstein are remarkable for that time, and allude to the horrific, deadly effects that innovation and technology is thought to eventually have on society. Whether Shelley was more concerned with the literal presence of nonhuman beings in society, or used the monster to represent the advancements of that time, it is clearly predicted that this creation would be the eventual downfall of humans.

Bill Joy's essay thoroughly investigates the most advanced technological aspects of the present: genetic engineering, nanoscale technologies, and robotics, among many. Similar to Shelley's fears, Joy predicts that these particular advancements will be the cause of disastrous events in the future. Always a popluar fictional plot, the thought of robots eventually taking over is a horrifying and somewhat common fear experienced by many. While technology remains quite far from allowing such occurances, scientific discoveries throughout the world have instead proven very to be very beneficial to society thus far.

In Shelley's time, novel scientific advancements had just begun to take place, and the unfamiliarity of such events sparked a widespread concern that remins present today. Though the looming threat of technology will certainly remain, one must be sure to consider the many positive aspects that have come from such innovations. To date, technological and scientific advancements have accomplished spectacular feats, many of which have the ability of helping people worldwide. Our world would be a very different place in the absence of such advancements, and to the wrongful predictions of Shelley and Joy, the continuous coexistence of humanity and technology has yet to be our downfall.

Fiction, Non-Fiction, or Somewhere in Between

What is science fiction? Today my first thought of sci-fi usually involves some combination of fast flying vehicles in outer space, crazy non human or super human characters, a couple of light sabers with a touch of fantasy or romance. It’s not real. At least not in the world I live. Both Shelley and Joy’s works have led me to believe something. That the science fiction section in libraries and bookstores should be located in close proximity to the science and technology area. This not only brings to light the possibilities of the science field against what has already been accomplished but also allows for the ease of transition. Technology is ever changing step by step, and at a rapid pace in our world. We, as normal citizens, enjoying the fruits of scientist’s labor, hardly notice these changes. We may simply become excited at the news of an upgrade to our latest gadget or momentarily intrigued by a breakthrough discovery in one of the sciences. Such events are normal. It is when science attempts to skip too many steps to get to the next stage of evolution that it becomes fiction. Even as reading the enlightenment of Victor in Shelley’s novel as he decides to take the natural sciences to twist death itself, I thought, ‘It’s the 18th century, people don’t even know what dying is yet and you’re already trying to reverse its results.’ I know the statement sounds silly but it proves a point. That fiction involves science outside or ahead of its time.

That being said, what makes Joy’s essay non-fiction and Shelley’s novel fiction? Joy does in fact spend a great portion of his essay discussing possible futures of the human race either being closely intertwined with that of robotic beings or becoming extinct at the hands of its own creation. Yet this is not fact. It is speculation. Joy makes convincing arguments, tossing theories around but supporting them with not only the existence of current sciences but suggesting a timeline. It is a rather broad timeline ranging from millions of years in the future to just over a decade in the future but it is a timeline. This is where speculation turns into believability. Believability combined with just enough truth places Joy’s arguments as an essay in the non-fiction genre. Why not Frankenstein?

Shelley is in effect, making a similar argument to Joy. An argument accompanied by a vivid account of a young fictional scientist. She was simply lacking in the believability aspect, taking science far beyond that of an 18th century context. The argument is the key though. Shelley explores the consequence of scientific expansion as her character Victor toils over a lifeless body expecting to reverse the effects of death. He does this without any thought to its consequences, at least none of the negative ones. This is evident when his mindset changes and he realizes a little too late that what had become his life, his child was now simply a wretched monster in his eyes. One could “cough” that mistake up to youthful ignorance, but what he did next was completely irresponsible in terms of scientific exploration. He left his experiment to roam free. It was an uncontrolled experiment that would cost him dearly. When he had the chance to stop this mistake he didn’t take it and it inevitably destroyed him, mentally and emotionally. Joy expresses this same concern. That we could be blindly throwing ourselves into science and technology exploration that could very well be our demise.

With this information acknowledged, how can we not accept Shelley’s novel as more than just literature? Strip Shelley’s novel of sub plots and characters and we have Joy’s arguments and concerns 200 years early. Add the first self replicating robot to Joy’s essay and we have the 21st century Frankenstein. It is as if they are interchangeable yet we have the natural tendency to consider one work more seriously over the other. If by changing this mindset can we learn to appreciate information, warnings, and insights from all venues of literature?

Dan Green | Blog 1

      “Aristotle opened his Metaphysics with the simple statement: ‘All men by nature desire to know.’” The desire to know has led the world headfast into the 21st century at a rate that could be destructive to humanity. Many terrible things are anticipated in Shelley’s Frankenstein that have come to pass without acknowledgment or worry from the scientific and technological leaders of the today. The most dangerous thing, however, is the excessive hubris that is filling the minds of the brilliant.

      The first problem that hubris and the desire of unlimited knowledge create is a world of uncertainty. Shelley presents this position in the simple fact that Victor unknowingly doomed William with his obsession. As he states, his downfall began early in his life when he was exposed to a vast amount of knowledge without judgment. If he was taught this information, rather than educated himself there would be bounds, but nonetheless the knowledge paired with a youth’s imagination condemned his poor brother in the future. Also, another aspect of his personality, which is prevalent in today’s technology market, is the thought that this knowledge can do anything and failure is not an option, a form of hubris. Victor ultimately forfeited the chance to make his own decisions, because his actions will be based upon how his creation acts. Bill Joy agrees and notes this point by stating “what we do suggest is that the human race might easily permit itself to drift into a position of such dependence on the machines that it would have no practical choice but to accept all of the machines' decisions.” The technologically advanced needs to not ignore the lesson learnt by Victor and realize that all actions, even knowledge based experiments, may have repercussions that are out of their hands. If the message is looked over and taken with a grain of salt, the near future might look like a sci-fi movie where humans are the slaves of the creations.

  Pride is an essential part to many people’s characters in all walks of life. Pride alone is something that defines a person, but when pride is excessive disaster can strike and a person can be consumed. The thought of failure or being outdone is what dictates the marketplace of the 21st century and in the technology world can lead to colossal misfortunes. A scientist or inventor can easily be ostracized and consumed by the thought of the completion of a project. When this happens, they fall into the dark side and lose what is important which is the advancement of humanity and will often make mistakes that lead to suffering. Victor turned into a madman and created a monster, a monster that the very thought of such an existence is unimaginable to most. If the current industries follow in this path they will compete to the level which will be beyond human reach and bestow power to the machines. However to stop this transformation, companies must do what is best for humanity and less for themselves.

      A third lesson that can be learned from Frankenstein is that all things will eventually die off (inferior robots) or adapt (superior robots). This is revealed through the actions of his Daemon. At first, the creature walked awkwardly and could only grunt, but when we later catch up to the beast it has the ability to murder and frame an innocent person. Bill Joy states several examples of past text that all agree with this point. The one that I related to the most (because of the movie) was I, Robot where the very machines that we built to protect us evolve to enslave humans. Joy’s theory of how this happens is because “with each of these technologies, a sequence of small, individually sensible advances leads to an accumulation of great power and, concomitantly, great danger.” He warns us that eventually the evolution of machines will advance to the point of consciousness and the inevitable uprising of machines through nanotechnologies.

      The above are all events anticipated by Shelley’s Frankenstein which could have easily been eluded. Joy offers the alternative “to limit development of the technologies that are too dangerous, by limiting our pursuit of certain kinds of knowledge.” If this simple action would have been done by Ingolstadt, than all the foreseeable problems would have been avoided. Without supervision, Victor recklessly creates his monster because of inspiration from a bolt of lightning with no thought of repercussions. If the current path of the technology industry follows in his steps and doesn’t note his abominable outcome, then someone will eventually create a modern day “Frankenstein” that will be the downfall of humanity. In conclusion, “We are being propelled into this new century with no plan, no control, no brakes” but it is not too late to change.