Relation To Class Themes
The Girl Who Was Plugged In and Neuromancer
This directly relates to Tiptree's The Girl Who Was Plugged In concerning the idea of living vicariously through a second face. Ishiguro himself comments on the idea: "If I could have one at the university, and one at ATR, I would just do all my work from a hot-springs resort." If this technology were to advance to what we see in The Girl Who Was Plugged In, what does this mean for our society and its relationship with this technology?
In Neuromancer, we see a similar idea of the second self, but this time it takes form by way of a digital self over the net. This is relatable to the concerns that we are seeing today with social networking sites such as Facebook. Is the freedom of a digital space a threat to secure, well-defined personal identity?
Selections From Sherry Turkle
Turkle asks her audience repeatedly through her pieces to consider the concept of emotional reactions between humans and technological beings such as robots. Robots such as the Geminoid could redefine how people could experience emotional relationships. For example, can you imagine being close friends with, or even dating, the android shell of a remote pilot? Where is the line drawn between the person you are interacting with and their robotic shell when it comes to personal, emotional interactions? Could someone feasibly express love and emotional attachment to a piloted android rather than the organic body that the person inhabits? Could you cry on a robot's shoulder and feel comfort, simply because it is being piloted by a real person? In the movie "Surrogates", this idea of robot shells being control by humans is brought up.
He, She, and It
Although Geminoid HI-1 is not self-sentient and functions only as it is piloted, connections can still be drawn to the android Yod and his curious existence detailed in He, She, and It. Could a growth in this android technology, which mainly focuses on creating copies oh existing humans, eventually lead to androids who are copies with no originals? If they can become sentient like Yod, could they eventually be considered human, or will the lack of organic origin always stand as a barrier between androids and humans?
The Benefits and Drawbacks
The questions these authors ask us to consider bring up several points that both support and reject this idea of the second self. In both The Girl Who Was Plugged In and Neuromancer, the audience gets to see both the benefits and drawbacks of having a second self. Additionally, Sherry Turkle has written pieces that both support the idea of technology as a source of experimentation and personal growth (in her earlier works), and condemn it as a threat that damages human interaction (in her later works).
Technology like this could allow those physically disabled to overcome the barrier of their own bodies and experience a life they otherwise never could have.
We may be able to replace soldiers or workers who labor in extremely hazardous conditions with these remote pilots, preserving the benefit of on-site human capability and ingenuity without endangering lives.
Would living through a second self change the way that person behaves? In other words, would he or she still be the same person?
A growing reliance on this avatar-esque technology could make it so that one day you may not be able to tell the difference between an actual human being versus a remotely-piloted android. This opens up crime potential (as identity can be concealed through use of a non-organic robot) as well as an increase in potential recklessness (as only the robot will "die" by way of remote pilot, leaving the pilot himself unscathed). It also opens the door to more disturbing possibilities, such as someone committing murders by way of robotic pilot, or crossing genders by piloting a differently gendered robot.
Relation To Outside Works
A movie that came out in 2009, Surrogates takes place in the near future during a time where many humans have switched to using "surrogates," remotely-piloted robotic bodies that look and feel real. This has caused society to embrace personal pleasures with little regard for individual safety or social limitation. This gives the pilots a dangerous boldness, causing surrogate users to make rash and dangerous decisions they otherwise never would have made. It appears there are very few consequences for such actions until an actual homicide is committed on surrogate users. Surrogates warns us of the dangers of feeling invincible by way of technology, and how it may change core aspects of our personality.
The Matrix explores the idea of a digital world. Albeit this world is forced upon the human race (as humans are being harvested for power by an A.I. that has taken over the planet). Regardless, since there are users that have broken free, this idea of having an almost super-powered second self in a digital free space directly correlates to many of our themes from Sherry Turkle's pieces as well as the use of the net that we see in Neuromancer, and even Lise's conversion to a computer program in The Winter Market.
Avatar explores a similar idea to that presented in The Girl Who Was Plugged In, except rather than piloting an android or other robotic stand-in, users pilot an organic puppet, a mindless body genetically engineered with a cross between human and alien DNA. Not only does the main character have emotional reactions and even falls in love with a native, he ultimately has his mind fully translocated into the organic puppet permanently. This brings up a curious distinction between how we may consider remotely-piloted shells good or bad. Does a shell with an organic origin make it more "real" or acceptable than a shell with robotic origin?