A lot of what futuristic depictions of man seem to be concerned with is the idea of the mobile or transferable conscious. In Battlestar Galactica we see it in the Cylons who are unable to die because they are theoretically “transferred” or “downloaded” back to a new body. in Dark City we saw a twist on this in that the individual thoughts/memories/conceptions could be extracted from one individual human and inserted into another individuals brain. These similarities brought to my mind various other versions of the future human’s brain being a separate and moldable entity from the body. We often discuss in class how these representations of change in the future usually are depicted in a negative light. However, Dark City brought to my mind the alternative depiction of memory alteration in Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, in which there is the capacity to have individual bad memories, or even entire memories of people, erased from the brain. While ultimately this has negative consequences, the implications are a little more broadly diverse: what if you could delete the memory of a bad ex? Or inject the memory of a happy childhood into someone with a traumatic or abusive history? How does that effect the idea that we have an essential personality or character that makes us “us”? I can’t imagine how modern psychiatry and therapy would utilize these techniques in a way that would not drastically alter how we consider the individual. I imagine that the idea of modifying past thoughts would take on the same politically charged atmosphere as medicating children for depression or ADD, because while these techniques could conceivably benefit an individual (for example erasing the memory of a traumatic rape) allowing them to live more full lives with less psychological distress, like medication affecting brain chemicals, would interfering with the natural process of memory not change the concept of identity?
An alternative way that the manipulation of the brain as an entity could be construed as positive is seen in the way in which Cylons don’t die in BSG. While on one hand, the show seems to be suggesting that the very fact that cylons do not die is what makes them non-human, it also seems to be playing with our goals as a race. Because doesn’t science ultimately seem to be focused on infinitely expanding the duration of human life. Here is another question: If, instead of producing robots, which then produced the human-like cylons who are immortal, the humans on the show were able to insert a mechanical component into a traditional individuals brain that would enable immortality, would those individuals be seen as robots? Or is it not simply the nature of the cylons, but the process by which they came into existence, which disturbs the humans of BSG?