Cyborgs R Us: Jackson and the Professor

the-borgSome scientists are claiming that by 2050 people will be able to download their minds into a computer, just like Professor X129 in my novel Dryad. Personally, I think it’s a ridiculous idea, which is why I satirize it in the novel. But even if we look at today’s use of technology, we are already all too close to becoming cyborgs… or maybe we already are.

I’m not even talking about those few select individuals who have microchips implanted in their bodies. I’m talking about people like you and I. Our culture is becoming known as “cyborg culture” because of our intimate attachment to our devices such as computers, phones, and Google glasses. There are many people out there who admit that they literally could not function without their phones.

It sounds like an unhealthy relationship… And yet, optimistic bloggers proudly declare that we control technology and it does not control us? This is a huge generalization, but it is easy to see that the vast majority of people are controlled by technology on a daily basis. Those who refuse to use commonly accepted technology (the latest smartphone, the newest version of Microsoft Office) find themselves at a disadvantage, therefore everyone must jump on the technology bandwagon or be left behind.

Maybe this is why the predictions I make in my novel are in line with a pretty bleak view of the future…

Future Management

Roger_Taylor_Fun_In_SpaceRoger Taylor is well known as the drummer of legendary rock band Queen, but back in the 80’s he also released a solo album which reflected his own preoccupations with science fiction and the state of modern society. Even as early as the 1980s he was clued in to the dangers of technological “progress”:

Future Management

You won’t need nobody else but me…
You’ll find
I’m gonna invite you to try my machines
Program an offer you just can’t refuse
I’m gonna invite you to share all my dreams
You’ve got nothing to lose.

Recycle your thoughts

I’ll rewire your mind
I’ll punch in some new points of view
To make sure you find
You’ve got nothing to lose

You don’t need nobody else but me…

Someone from the 21st century might listen to this song and think, yes, this is a pretty accurate picture of today’s “management”. It could be the relentless technological upgrades you experience in the workplace or even as you go about your daily life, surrounded by machines, having to conform to the machines’ points of view, their “logic”. It sounds to me as if the speaker in this song are the machines themselves, trying to convince us that we don’t need other humans when machines are so much better and more perfect than people could ever be.

against the machine hidden luddite traditionJust think of the last time you tried to call your mobile phone provider and were led down telephone labyrinths in a vain attempt to talk to a human being.

It’s enough to infuriate the calmest person, yet most people don’t rebel against the machines. We have become used to them, and we accept things the way they are.

Nicols Fox, the author of Against the Machine puts it very well: “We are everything the machine is not: creatures of emotion and sensation with minds that are creative and imaginative… Generally people try bravely, even enthusiastically, to accommodate themselves [to machines]. They are not sure why they are consequently unhappy. They do not blame the machines, for we have convinced ourselves – or been convinced by advertising and promotion – of their marvelous natures and of our great need for them.”

However, in every society, there are those who rebel…

Jackson and the Professor

A 17th century pirate would not be very accepting of a machine-centered society. This is exactly what happens in my novel Dryad, when Jackson, a former slave and a French privateer suddenly finds himself in the distant future, where people no longer have physical bodies. There are only minds, housed in the hard drives of computers.

Suffice it to say, Jackson does not like this at all. He sees it for what it is, a form of slavery. Despite their differences, Jackson and the professor eventually do become friends… Maybe there’s hope that humans and machines can coexist in a healthy relationship?

Here is an excerpt from their conversation:

“Slavery has been abolished all over the world,” the professor replied, “But in a way, you could say every sentient living being, every computerized being, all are servants of the Great Sissy.”

“The Great Sissy? I like not the sound of that.”

“She is a benevolent ruler.”

“How did it come to pass that all the known world is subjugated by a woman?”

“It happened a long time ago. In the twenty-first century, Teddy Goldman was one of the most prominent leaders of the world. His values were physical fitness, improvement of the spirit, individual endeavour. But later in that century his cult began to lose followers, for war and pollution became too much a part of everyday life and people could barely sustain their physical bodies, much less keep physically fit and healthy. The Great Sissy offered them eternal life and freedom from their bodies.”

“And that is how you gained your present form?” Jackson asked.

“Yes.”

“How is this possible? How are you released from your body, yet alive?”

“My mind and everything it contained has been transferred to this machine. Of course, parts may malfunction and wear out, but theoretically, I could live forever.”

Jackson shook his head as if he had too many questions at once.

“Whither did your soul go?” he finally asked.

“Soul?”

“This is only your mind in the machine, so where is your soul?”

“I doubt very much that there is such a thing as a soul. It did not separate from my body and fly up to heaven when the download occurred, if that’s what you mean.”

“Maybe not,” Jackson insisted, “Maybe it is still inside this machine. Otherwise, how is it you are able to speak, think, and feel?”

“I do not feel,” the professor objected, “That is, I have sensors that detect light and sound and so on, but I do not feel emotions as humans do.”

Jackson accepted a tray with Jell-O and milk from a mechanical attendant who had just rolled into the room. Then he focused a penetrating gaze on the professor and said, “I don’t believe you.”

I hope you enjoyed the excerpt from Dryad. I leave you with this low budget video of Roger Taylor’s Future Management, complete with dummy imagery (I already talked about dummies in a previous post so I don’t know why they’re coming up again.) Do you suppose these mannequins represent those who blindly follow the lure of technology?

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4 thoughts on “Cyborgs R Us: Jackson and the Professor

  1. Loved your excerpt as well as your book, Sonya! Now, downloading a mind into a computer by 2050 is a scary subject. Have you seen the movie Transcendence? A lot of people didn’t like it. I’m not one of those people. It touched on moral themes regarding a mind download and what humanity’s responsibility for doing so. It was entertaining, but also very creepy, too!

  2. Very thought provoking Sonya. I must admit, I would be lost without my computer. I’ve grown so attached to being on the net, that I would be mentally traumatised if it was just taken away.
    I liked your excerpt from Dryad, very good indeed and it certainly makes one think, good job Sonya 🙂
    James.

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