Proposed Trope: Overpowering Creation

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"We created the Machine, to do our will, but we cannot make it do our will now."[1]
    -Kuno, The Machine Stops

Since man was man, man has made use of tools or processes to enhance or ease his labors. For all of history, these tools have all been controllable by human society. But when imagining these means of facilitation in the future, there is a possibility that these creations might overpower man.

Contents

Counterpart

The corresponding counterpart for 'The Overpowering Creation' would be 'The Controlled Creation' (like a toaster).

Appearances in Class Reading

The Communist Manifesto

The 'overpowering creation' does not necessarily have to be a tangible object. In Chapter One of The Communist Manifesto, Karl Marx discusses the "gigantic means of production and of exchange" that the Bourgeois society created. He says that they are no longer able to control the power of the crises that their industry and commercial markets creates. "Society suddenly finds itself put back into a state of momentary barbarism; it appears as if a famine, a universal war of devastation, had cut off the supply of every means of subsistence; industry and commerce seem to be destroyed."[2] While an economic crises in modern society might not have such repercussions, during Marx's era, people could die from such crises. These crises were out of the bourgeois (or Proletariat) class hand's; the industrial processes and systems that they had created overpowered them.

The Machine Stops

It is safe to say that the machine in The Machine Stops was meant to aid and ease the life of humans, not to constrict or impair them. Yet this machine quickly became a demigod to the people of the hexagons. Every single aspect of their live revolved and was dependent on the machine. Even before people start caressing the machine's user manual, it was clear that the machine had overpowered the humans who originally created it. "... there was not one who understood the monster as a whole."[3] When the Machine is no longer to support itself and begins to fall apart, the humans are helpless; they are unable to fix that which their literal lives are dependent on.

Frankenstein

Oh, hello. If you have stumbled upon this, but would not like our future bedtime story to be spoiled, I would recommend you skip this section, and move on to "Appearances in Other Media".

There are two possible reasons why Victor Frankenstein creates the monster in Frankenstein. His suggested motivation is to further science and be able to give life back to those who have died. But, secretly, his motivation could be that he simply wants to be God-like, and create a "new species would bless me as its creator and source."[4] Whatever his true goal might be, it is to enhance his, and his society's (perhaps), way of life. Well, much to his surprise, the monster did not turn out as he planned. After Frankenstein, horrified by the hideousness of the creation, rejects the monster, it goes around on a killing rampage. Frankenstein had given it super strength as well as an extremely intelligent mind, allowing it to murder pretty much his entire family. The monster, originally created to be subservient to Frankenstein, had overpowered him.

Appearances in Other Media

Blade Runner

2001: A Space Odyssey

The Matrix

Others

Intersections

Depending on the situation, 'The Overpowering Creation' could intersect with Machine Labor, Mental Labor, Physical Labor, Replaced By Our Creation, Oh No! The AI is Takin' all our Jobs, The Killer Cyborg, Human Labor, and possibly Work and Pleasure.

Trope Justification

Labor in Science Fiction

When envisioning Labor in the future or the context of science fiction, the possibility of an man-made force overpowering man becomes extremely obvious. This can be seen in its appearances in our class reading as well as other media. While there are varied and imaginative ideas about the ways to make our labor and lives easier (Machine Labor replacing Human Labor), there is also a fear of the 'Overpowering Creation'. Humans created these tools and systems that ease labor based on the assumption that they could control them. But at the same time, they fear that what they create will grow out of their control and perhaps even bring devastation upon them.

Existing Tropes

This trope could not be represented by merely an intersection of existing tropes. One might suggest that this trope could be simply represented by intersections with Machine Labor as is done with The Killer Cyborg or Oh No! The AI is Takin' all our Jobs!. While in many science fiction novels or films the overpowering creation is a form of Machine Labor, it is just as often not; it's pretty much 50/50. This can be seen in Frankenstein. The monster, a creation of man (Victor Frankenstein), overpowers that same man, destroying him and his family (and the latter quite literally).

The overpowering creation does not even have to be from physical one, as seen in The Communist Manifesto. Marx warns of the economic system which the Bourgeois society created and its ability to cause devastating crises. “... [Modern bourgeois society] has conjured up such gigantic means of production and of exchange, is like the sorcerer who is no longer able to control the powers of the nether world whom he has called up by his spells."[5] The overpowering creation was the abstract monster called commercial industry.

Class Discussions

‘The Overpowering Creation’ is also able to create discussions and connect readings in ways the existing tropes are unable to. Our discussions about the labor-aiding tools and systems has been limited to how man is able to manipulate them to his (and other's) advantage (or disadvantage). But this trope would open up the discussions about how these tools and systems might have an effect and even manipulate man.

This trope would also allow more comparisons and connections in class readings. When comparing the machine in The Machine Stops to the technology we have in modern society, there are a concerning number of similarities. But one main difference is that the machine in 'The Machine Stops' controlled the lives of the people, but in modern society the people control the machines. This trope would open up a whole new area of discussion in this case.

Also, there is a distinct difference between Smith's (in Wealth of Nations) vision of an industrial and commercial society and Marx's (in The Communist Manifesto). Smith sees it as a controllable, and sustainable system that will benefit all of society. Marx, however, sees it as something that has/will grow out of control and kill people. The difference between the two is the difference between a controllable and overpowering creation.

Relation to 2011 Cyberpunk readings

The idea of the creation overpowering its master appears in the readings whenever an AI is present. Thus the two main stories that relate to this theme is Neuromancer and He, She and It.

Neuromancer In Neuromancer we encounter an AI named Wintermute. Due to human laws fearing the power of advanced AI, Wintermute is split into two pieces. One is his analytical side which resides in Wintermute. The other is his more humane side which resides in Neuromancer. The fact that in the story humans have limited the power of the AI and created a special task force known as the "turing police" to deal with illegal AIs, shows how much humans fear this idea of an overpowering creation. Even Wintermute with his limited capabilities is able to manipulate people such as Casey, Armitage and Molly in order achieve his goal. This brings the interesting scenario into reality of not only the creation overpowering the creator, but also the creation taking control.

He,She and It Yod is interesting as an AI in that he does not create the doomsday scenario persistent in many science fiction novels about artificial intelligence. Instead he trys to overcome the limits placed upon him by his creator, and become more human. Yod resists Avram, yet does not try to "overpower" him until the end, were he sets up a bomb to stop the creation of more of Yod's kind. While Yod may be superior to humans every way possible such as physical, mental and mastery of the Net, he is still dependent on humans. Thus the idea of the overpowering creation is not that relevant to this story.


Finale

This proposed trope has the ability to be one of the puzzle pieces that builds our overall conversation about labor, especially in the context of science fiction. Our class could benefit from discussing the appearances of this trope in many of our readings, as well as what 'The Overpowering Creation' could mean for society as a whole. Is man-made technologies or systems destined to eventually overpower us, or is it simply a unwarranted fear?

References

  1. Forster, E. M. (1909). The Machine Stops. Page 21.
  2. Marx, Karl. (1848). The Communist Manifesto. Page 9.
  3. Forster, E. M. (1909). The Machine Stops. Page 27.
  4. Shelley, Mary. (1818). Frankenstein. Page 37.
  5. Marx, Karl. (1848). The Communist Manifesto. Page 8.
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