Smith’s presentation on Cindy Jackson and all of her plastic surgeries seemed strangely familiar to me – I felt that this presentation and Cindy Jackson’s responses to her surgeries reminded me very much of Stone Gods and the emphasis on beauty and outward appearance that we saw in that novel. Continue reading
Five or Six weeks into the course, Hayles’ opening comment that first-wave cybernetics conveys that “boundaries of the human subject are constructed rather than given” (84). In Never Let Me Go the characters had completely conformed to the strangling society that they couldn’t escape from; in The Stone Gods the boundaries that Billie saw as defining what a human was were constantly being questioned by the reader as simple constructions that were prevalent in society; and in Oryx and Crake, Snowman seems bound to the humanity that has been built around him. Continue reading
In class on Thursday we noted how both Oryx and Crake as well as The Stone Gods depict a future in which life is dominated by oppressive corporations who destroy the environment. There seemed some consensus that these dystopian worlds were a somewhat exaggerated product of literary imagination, that things most likely would not get that bad. I argue that modern American society is already as bad as the portrayal seen in those works. Continue reading
One of the most cliché phrases in our society is that ‘children are our future’. Walt Disney is quoted as saying that “Children are our greatest natural resource.” In the three books we’ve read for this class, the idea has been turned and twisted in the post apocalyptic societies presented. In Never Let Me Go it’s obvious to see how children are exploited. The same can be said for Stone Gods, where the blatant sexualizing of children by a society of pedophiles strips them of a childhood. Even Minority Report included stealing a child away from their childhood for the greater good. Oryx and Crake is no different. It’s seen clearly in the instance of Oryx in her chilling account as her time as a child prostitute, but it can also be seen in the accounts of Crake and Snowman.
I find it so interesting that the “father of cybernetics” struggled with the same issues about the posthuman that we have been discussing and unpacking in our class. On one hand Weiner envisioned “powerful new ways to equate humans and machines,” yet he “also struggled to envision the cybernetic machine in the image of a humanistic self.” I often feel similarly conflicted when we are discussing the boundaries between human and machine and what “human” rights they would be entitled to if a superhuman was intergrated into our society. Hayles lays out the standard values of liberal humanism to be “a coherent, rational self, the right of that self to autonomy and freedom, and a sense of agency linked with a belief in enlightened interest,” yet many of the authors and scientists she discusses question those same rights in relation to the cyborg. Continue reading
One of the most compelling aspects of The Stone Gods by Jeannette Winterson for me was the concept of the fascination with the abnormal erotic. We can see lots of evidence for this concept today-beastiality, S&M, pedophilia, surgically enhanced breasts. Continue reading
In Damasio’s chapter on the nature of consciousness he brings up a very interesting idea that human consciousness evolved to such an advanced state because it better enabled us to survive and reproduce. As a bridge between “inner life regulation and image making” higher level consciousness is the essential component that makes an object (be it biological or synthetic) human. Thus, according to Damasio’s explanation of consciousness, Spike should indeed be considered human, as her consciousness arises from her recognition of inevitable demise and her determined drive to prolong life. Continue reading
An idea we have discussed in class is that sometimes androids (in this case Spike) can appear to be “more human” than most actual humans (including those who appear in the first part of The Stone Gods as genetically altered monsters), and in turn this can beg the question of what it means to be human. Throughout the novel, Billie insists that Spike’s system is limbic, not neural (and therefore cannot experience emotions), and usually Spike wisely retorts that the definition of humanity is constantly changing, and if this is so what really is human? Are “genetically fixed” people any more human than synthetically created ones? I interpreted these conversations as suggesting that (at least part of) the reason why humans are again and again so destructive is that we value our own form and way of life above that of other forms. Continue reading
Throughout Stone Gods, we view the development of Spike as a character that must learn to be human. While reading the Damasio chapter, I originally found it interesting but did not see a solid connection with Stone Gods. However, as Spike progresses from a character that is only capable of viewing human emotions through their physiological signals to a human-like character that is changed by her consciousness, the connection becomes more prominent.
So far in this class we have talked a lot about what our technology may do to us in the future, most specifically in terms of robots and the post-human. We see a lot of this, obviously, in The Stone Gods through Spike’s character and through MORE’s idea of using robots to make decisions because humans have shown they aren’t capable of making the right decisions. And in that world (based on what I read and on what was portrayed), I can’t say I would really argue. In a world where decisions can be made either by an incredibly intelligent and capable robot or the human race, whose primary concern is when genetic fixing should occur,….I might go with the robot. Continue reading