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.


Josh Bowman said...

I thought your essay was very articulate, however as we discussed lacking in argument. Here are a couple of suggestions that id try to give your essay a solid direction.

First you need to pick a side and run with it. If your argument is Joy's fears are not new because Shelley among others has had them go with that. Make a strong thesis like "Joy's essay is routed in fears which have always been present as highlighted in Shelley's Frankenstein and have been unfounded" or even something more concise then that.

If that's the argument your going to make try basing it around why joys afraid this will happen, what about the human condition really makes him afraid the future will be so terrible. that way you can draw from what Shelley wrote and note the same unfounded motifs, for example how vague Shelley describes the process by which Frankenstein brings his monster to life, compared to the vague descriptions Joy uses of an end time scenario.

For me its way too complicated and way to much research to look into the technical aspect of Joys essay and what could theoretically go right or wrong, i think your idea of comparing Shelley's Frankenstein with Joys essay i sa great way to go about countering joys points. Look at what makes people scared of the future and go with that. Theoretically alot of things can go wrong as joy says, but theirs no need to be terrified of the future, because theoretically it could be awesome with jet packs. If you can argue that shelley and joy wrote their essays for the same reasons out of the same natural fear of the unknown, whose to say joys essay isnt a complete work of fiction?

I think you should take your last paragragh and use that as a place to really jump start your essay

Well i hope thats kinda helpful and i really hope thats the direction you were going with this. And if were going to be partners just know im absolutely terrible with punctuation, grammar, and spelling, as this contribution clearly illustrates so i kind of hope your good at it.

Amanda Kern said...

Beginning with the first action of technological advancement, humanity and technology will forever coexist. Accordingly, it is within human nature to investigate, question, and even fear the unknown future that scientific and technological exploration creates. Bill Joy's own fears of the results of current technological advancements are neither new nor of a serious concern, as similar predictions previously highlighted by Mary Shelley have yet to become a reality.

In the works of both Shelley and Joy, the possible threats presented by technology take very similar forms, as both effectively illustrate the concern of respecting the natural order of life. Living in the midst of the Industrial Revolution, Shelley clearly reflects her uncertainty toward the rapidly changing scientific and technological advancements of that time. She portrays this idea through the creation of a monster, that, when endowed with life, threatens the well-being of humans. Shelley uses this dangerous, unnatural creature as a representation of technology, portraying her belief that further technological advancements will lead to dreadful results on a larger scale.

Similar fears of the technological unknown persists hundreds of years later, as is clearly portrayed in Joy’s essay “Why the future doesn’t need us”. Joy investigates the possibility of silicon bodies and extended life spans in the future, and the willingness of humans to commit to such changes. While it can be argued such advancements can improve the quality of life for many, Joy expresses his concern for the lasting effects of this alteration of the human form. Though the works of Joy and Shelley were written centuries apart, both focus on the fear that technologies developed by humans will ultimately result in our own destruction. The similarity of their predictions is unquestionable; therefore, as Shelley’s fear has still yet to be proven true, it unlikely that Joy’s fears will become reality.

Not only do these works exaggerate the effects of technological advancements on humanity, but they also both fail to provide significant evidence that such developments are possible. Frankenstein’s creation of the monster is vaguely described, illustrating the high degree of unlikelihood that such procedures would be possible at that time. Despite the enormous advancements in the scientific and medical fields since Frankenstein’s time, the monster-creating process described by Shelley remains impractical and impossible today. Similarly, Joy’s proposed future of a society ruled by silicon-covered, bionic men greatly resembles a work of science fiction. The knowledge needed to create such beings is minimal at best, and the current demand for such outrageous advancements is virtually nonexistent. It can be logically predicted that the technological innovations needed to achieve such feats will be available in the distant future, if in the future at all.

As can be seen in their predictions of drastic scientific change, both Joy and Shelley misconstrue the speed and degree of which technological and scientific advancements actually proceed. They accordingly fear that technological advancements will soon be the demise of humanity; however, until Frankenstein’s monster makes an appearance in the scientific world, the human race need not concern themselves with Joy’s predictions.

Amanda Kern said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Adam Johns said...

Josh - Good response, although you don't want to be too reluctant to engage with the technical details of Joy if you're going to write an essay about him...

Amanda - Your first paragraph is improved, but your argument is still large and general (however - you have a clear argument, so that's good). Do you realize that you are implicitly claiming in the first sentence that humanity will endure forever? That's an interesting claim if you mean it, but dangerous as an aside.

Your argument - which, again, is improved - is extremely general and vague. Let's look at this passage for an example:

"Joy expresses his concern for the lasting effects of this alteration of the human form. Though the works of Joy and Shelley were written centuries apart, both focus on the fear that technologies developed by humans will ultimately result in our own destruction. The similarity of their predictions is unquestionable; therefore, as Shelley’s fear has still yet to be proven true, it unlikely that Joy’s fears will become reality."

Your first sentence arguably mischaracterizes Joy - you make out something which he mentions only in passing to be of central importance to his argument - which, in the second sentence, you correctly understand to really about human extinction. Then you argue that Joy and Shelley have similar fears. If we think about them broadly enough, that's true - but your "therefore" is totally unfounded. A similarly general argument would read: "In the nineteenth century, Americans were terribly afraid of a British invasion, for obviously legitimate reasons. Therefore, we should be terribly afraid of a British invasion." You make absolutely no attempt to pin down *why* Joy's argument is equivalent to Shelley's - you just state it.

Short version: you have an argument, but literally no evidence to support it.