That darn fictional panel…
I had something to say about it. The words didn’t properly form in my head until dinner on Wednesday, and by the end of the night, I’d completely forgotten. And reading some recent posts about ways in which we isolate ourselves with technology has made me remember again. Yay for communication.
Anyway, one of the things we explored was a spectrum of existence between human and machine. Among the characters portrayed, there were dolls, robots, cyborgs, a computer program made to resemble an interactive person, a real person that underwent programming, etc. We spanned a wide array of genres and settings, but something many of us had in common was a high degree of destructiveness. I see this as an indicator of a sense of apprehension on the part of the creators of our developing relationship with technology. And since the panel included many figures in pop culture, maybe it’s not just the creators but also society itself. That image of someone who’s part human and part machine is a powerful one. But all plots, action, and shiny futuristic gadgets aside, every fictional character we talked about was to some extent an abstraction of modern man.
Last month, I had the misfortune of getting my personal laptop hacked. It became extremely slow, my task bar locked itself up at start-up, and the hacker had posted dirty pictures all over my desktop. I knew I had to reinstall my computer, and at the time, I didn’t know if it would work. As a result, I was worried sick. A person outside of this strongly technological culture may have thought it was just a piece of equipment which I could eat sleep and drink without. But I felt angry and violated, because my computer is an extention of me. It contains memories, art, personal information, terrible fanfiction… things that I wouldn’t completely feel like myself without. So while I was trying to fix it, I felt a strong sense of isolation that someone who lived a hundred years ago surely wouldn’t have understood. Several of my friends who had lost their cell phones or broken their MP3 players experienced a similar feeling. Without our technology, we feel handicapped and incomplete.
So, I think we already have a symbiotic relationship with technology. It just doesn’t usually manifest in as visually strong of a manner as, say, a bionic arm, or a face that’s partially metallic. In a sense, it has handicapped us- I can’t even remember the last time I did long division without a calculator- but with our tools, we’re capable of things our great-grandparents couldn’t even dream of. In the process, I think it has altered our human identities. And to me, that’s kind of unsettling.
But then I start playing my MMOs, and I get over it.