Proposed Trope: Human Enough

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In science fiction, when machines built in our image are given sufficiently advanced artificial intelligence, they can reach the point where they are capable of displaying human emotions such as love or hatred. From then on it becomes increasingly more difficult to distinguish them from ourselves. Usually this causes a human backlash, but the argument will always be brought forth by someone (usually people whom have some connection to both parties) that they are Human Enough to be given human rights.


Relation to Cyberpunk

We have seen in many of our class readings that artificial intelligence is confused with reality. In some of the stories we have read that the line is blurred between what is human and what is an artificial intelligence machine. This theme of confusing humanity and technology is a large part of the Cyberpunk culture. As our lives become more and more surrounded by technology, we have to answer similar questions to what our authors pose in the novels we have read. It's a question that relates to a more base question of what truly defines humanity, and what our place in the universe is. Are we unique? Is there anything about us that's special? We face the problem of how cyborgs or artificial intelligence will be integrated into society.

Appearances in Class Readings (Spring 2011)

In essentially every class reading we have had this semester we have been introduced to a character that challenges our idea of humanity. These characters all have something in commoon when it comes to not fully being able to fit the category of being "human enough". They are often the central characters in the novels which makes one be able to draw the conclusion of being a key element in the cyberpunk genre.

  • The Winter Market: Lise tries to move more toward technology and escape humanity. We always question whether or not Lise is human or a piece of technology. There are examples that support both ideas. Lise's body is completely dependent on her exoskeleton aside from her own mind. Without the exoskeleton, she would definitely die as almost seen with Rubin's story about finding her. But at the same time, she has a brilliant mind with a talent for dreams, and when she transfer over to the net, Casey has a hard time deciding whether her transferred/programmed conscious is still Lise, still human.
  • Flesh Made Word: Russ builds an artificial intelligence program of his late wife, Carol. The simulated Carol manages all of Russ's electronics communication and interact so closely with Russ that it seems that he is now dependence and attached to his simulated wife.
  • Neuromancer: Molly has altered her body with mechanical parts. This draws the question is she human, or is she technology? It seems that Molly is a human because she still has human emotions although she replaced he body parts with technology.
  • Schismatrix: The theme of humanity is repeatedly brought up in the novel. The Shapers and the Mechinists have different methods of changing and enhancing their bodies and minds. The Shapers try to enhance humans with “organic” methods through genetic modification and specialized psychological training. The Mechanists, on the other hand, use technology to push the limits of humanity. Is this still human? The factions also define being human differently -- why is this?
  • He, She, and It: Piercy create the character Yod as cyborg that appear and acts human via programmed human characteristics. This raises the question: is he simply a machine or more? Also, during Yod's and Shira's relationship, Yod becomes depressed. He questions if he is "human enough" for Shira and when they are being sexual he brings this up to her. Shira tells him that he is (paraphrasing) human enough for her.

Appearances in Other Media

  • Blade Runner: The Replicants from Blade Runner regularly display human emotion. Rachel, one specific replicant, displays human emotion so perfectly the protagonist, a replicant hunter, has to ask 100 questions before her lack of life-experience gives her away as not being human. The movie hints at the protagonist himself being a replicant, although it is never explicitly stated.[1]
  • The Animatrix: In the prequel story that explains how the Matrix came about, a self-aware robot killed his owner in self defense, and subsequently was denied human rights in a case resembling Dred Scott v. Sandford. The machines rose up in protest and the humans declared war on them, chased them to their home city of Zero One, and drowned out the sun's rays using chemicals in an attempt to cut them off from solar power: this led to the machines enslaving humans for power in The Matrix. [2]
  • Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy: Although Marvin does not appear human, he has a very human personality--even to the point that he is severely depressed because nothing ever challenges or fulfills him. This is because he is 50,000 times smarter than the smartest human. Other machines in this series are known to display human emotions; in fact, it is one of the main selling points of the company that produces the majority of the robots in the series.[3]
  • Terminator 2: Judgement Day: The T-800 learns and shows remarkably human-like emotions (love, regret, pride) after its "learning switch" is turned on by the human resistance before being sent back to protect John Conner.[4]
  • A.I. Artificial Intelligence: The protagonist, David, of Spielberg's 2001 film was himself an android, but throughout the film the audience is nearly tricked into seeing him as a human. His "mother" forms a bond with him, as though surrendering to the fact that David is close enough to a human child to emotionally connect with him. In particular, the film questions how David's emotions -- those of a machine -- differ from a real human's feelings. By having humans reciprocate the love that David shows them, A.I. seems to suggest that human and machine emotions are in fact the same -- that the emotions programmed into David are near enough to real emotions to be treated as them by actual humans. [5]
  • The Surrogates: Set in the year 2054 in the fictional city of Central Georgia Metropolis, people have developed a new method of social interaction through the use of humanoid controlled vehicles, know as surrogates. This type of androids have made it possible for everyone to live with no inhibitions, in an idealized form of themselves from the safety of their homes. [6]
  • Avatar: The movie Avatar shows us a different type of possible interaction of machines and the humans consciousness. In the movie some selected people are controlling the body of the avatar that has grown with their DNA. When the human is connected to the avatars body their minds are absent from their own body. As soon as the avatar goes to sleep, the mind comes back to the human. In the movie, avatars controlled by human minds are seen as humans even though they are in a shape of something inhuman.
  • The Bicentennial Man: Isaac Asimov's short story "The Bicentennial Man" largely revolves around an android's exploration of what human society views as "human enough." The android, Andrew, attempts to become human over the course of two centuries after discovering his own human-like creativity. Andrew slowly begins emulating the behavior, appearance, and even biology of humans in an attempt to be considered "human." Eventually, Andrew realizes that "human enough" includes the ability to die, and so he orchestrates his own "natural" death on the two-hundredth anniversary of his construction.
  • Time of Eve: A short series of Anime OVAs (Original Video Animations) that depicts a future world where humanoid robots are commonplace, but must display a small halo above their heads to avoid confusion between man and machine. Time of Eve tells a story of a small cafe that disallows the usage of these halos - all patrons of the cafe are equals, be they man or machine. As the series progresses, the viewer learns the motivations and back stories of these robots/humans, the distinction between the emotions of the characters that are human and the characters that are robotic becoming so blurred that it becomes difficult to distinguish.

Comparisons to other pages

Page Explanation


  1. Blade Runner (1982) by Ridley Scott. Copyright Warner Bros.
  2. The Animatrix (2003) by The Wachowski Brothers, Koji Morimoto, Shinichiro Watanabe, Mahiro Maeda, Peter Chung, Andy Jones, Yoshiaki Kawajiri, Takeshi Koike. Copyright Warner.
  3. The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy (1978) by Douglas Adams. Copyright BBC.
  4. Terminator 2: Judgment Day (1991) by James Cameron. Copyright TriStar Pictures.
  5. Spielberg, Steven, Dir. A.I. Artificial Intelligence. Warner Bros. Pictures: 2001, Film.
  6. The Surrogates at the Comic Book DB
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