Caroline Kunkel Journal 10

One thing I found particularly interesting this week was seeing how people developed the things we learned in class to make the posters. It was particularly interesting seeing that no two groups did the same thing, and although two groups had the same topic their approaches were so completely different that there was practically no overlap at all. It was also very cool to see how greatly people’s other classes influenced the topics of their posters.

In addition to the posters we saw this week, I thought our short discussion of the book was interesting. Talking about the narration and what the style itself tells us was something fascinating to me since I had never thought of what the narration tells beyond the story itself.

Caroline Kunkel Journal 9

From watching the film in class this week, one of the things I found most remarkable that people tend to overlook is how big of a role memory plays in our identity. When people broach the subject of not knowing himself to Lenard, his initial response is always that he knows who he is, just that he can’t remember anything after the accident. And yet, at the end of the film, when Teddy broaches the subject of Lenard being a killer, he is appalled, and actually decides to trick himself into killing teddy to get revenge. This is interesting, because while Lenard knows himself has he was however long ago when he had his accident, he does not know who he has developed into, as evident during the final scene when Teddy accuses him of being a killer. This is a perfect demonstration of the fact that everyone is influenced and changed by each of their experiences, and while we may think we know ourselves at one point in time, that knowledge is fleeting as they continue to grow and develop as a person.

Caroline Kunkel Journal 8

One of the things that interested me about our discussion this week was in the memory section, when the idea of neural implants was brought up. I found this particularly interesting, because the subject of the ethics of neural implants was something that was heavily discussed in one of my classes last semester. While some people may joke that their memories are so bad that if there was ever a neural implant available to improve memory they would be among the first to sign up, however such an implant, even such a simple one, has the potential to cause a great deal of conflict. First of all, the implants would likely be expensive, and only those who could afford them could have them, thus creating an even greater disparity between classes, or different models or upgrades could be purchased at an additional cost, again separating those who could afford it from those who could not. Additionally, many parents, wishing the best for their children, would inevitably wish to get one for their children, particularly those who have a particularly difficult time remembering things, to give them an edge in the classroom and on standardised tests, however this would create an unfair advantage for the students with implants, which would most likely lead to them being shunned and even eventually segregated from the implant-free students.

In addition to the divisions such an implant would create, there would be even more problems, such as the fact that there would likely be people performing illegal upgrades to people’s implants to give them a secret edge or some other ability/advantage. What’s more, this could likely lead to upgrades having bugs or even the ability to be hijacked to strip people of their free will. Another ethical concern with implants is that weaponised implants would most likely be developed. This is not only a dilemma by altering the brains of soldiers in battle, but also due to the fact that they would have a great deal of difficulty reassimilating to society. This is a particular issue given that currently many veterans end up being homeless or suffering from other extreme issues related to not being able to come back to society after what they had experienced, which would only be made worse if their brains had been drastically altered or weaponised due to an implant. One other problem with the idea of neural implants is that in order for them to properly assimilate to the brain, they would not be able to be removed, therefore if parents gave a child an implant without discussing it with them, the child would be required to live with that implant for the rest of their lives, and the same rings true for soldiers of anyone else. Thinking about implants as being like mind-altering tattoos, since many people get tattoos and later regret them, I can only imagine how people would react to such implants, regardless of whether or not they were supposed to just provide a little boost to their memory.

Caroline Kunkel Journal 7

One of the things I found most interesting about this week was our discussion of the GI and the implications of having one in our society. When thinking about the GI the first thing that it reminded me of was not the web or Wikipedia, but instead the Multivac from Asimov’s short stories. The parallels are astonishing in the way that they both contain information about practically everything, and while GI doesn’t provide answers in the same way that the Multivac does, they are both a fundamental structure around which the societies are based, and without them the worlds upon which they are based would fall into chaos. And while the GI does not provide obvious, clear answers to questions in the same way that the Multivac does, its plethora of information and the manner in which people may access it to gain new information is a way of allowing the individual to make an informed decision about their question based on the provided information.

Another interesting aspect of the GI is in the fact that it provides raw data, or knowledge, with which people can do whatever they chose. And while the GI system works well for the peoples in Delaney’s book, it could cause serious problems in our world today. One of the biggest reasons it would cause problems is that while it provides knowledge, most notably on other cultures, it does not provide any platform on which one might begin to understand the other cultures. Thus, while one might assume that the GI would lead to less conflict by facilitating a greater understanding of other cultures, it would have the potential to cause more conflicts. This is due to the fact that each person who obtains new knowledge does so with a bias which they formed throughout their life experiences, and thus the knowledge they acquire is biased. And because of this bias, any attempt to understand would be clouded by opinions and biases, and would thus never become pure understanding. This biased understanding is evident in some of the issues of today, particularly in people’s fears of Islam. Due to the commonality between many of the people who perform acts of terror, many Americans have become afraid of the Islamic religion, and are thus biased against a large portion of the world’s population. With this fear, many people chose to educate themselves on the religion, to a certain extent, and while the unbiased individual might see how accepting and peaceful the religion actually is, those biased individuals found information that was in keeping with their biases. And some people used this new biased understanding to justify acts of terror against innocent Muslims, being fuelled by their lack of understanding. Thus, while GI seems to work well in Delaney’s world, it would most likely lead to more chaos in our world due to the stark difference between knowledge and true understanding.

Caroline Kunkel Journal 6

One of the things that I found most interesting this week when we watched the first episode of Humans and during our following discussion was the two ways robots were seen. One of the ways we have seen robots represented, which we saw time and again throughout Humans as well as in Asimov’s The Bicentennial Man, to list a few, we saw robots as subhuman beings. In these two sources, the robots were treated as slaves and free labour, allowing humans to live in luxury. This treatment of robots was seen as particularly odd during Humans, when we see the interactions between Anita and the mother, who insists on treating Anita as another conscious being rather than as a robot. In addition to this, we saw in the treatment of Andrew in the Bicentennial Man which paralleled the treatment of slaves in the United States. What’s more, Andrew’s struggle to become human, while superficially different, paralleled the slaves’ struggle and fight for freedom and recognition as human beings by the US government.

In contrast to how the robots in Humans and The Bicentennial Man were treated, the Multivac in Asimov’s The Last Question and All the Troubles in the World is treated and presented to the readers as an almost God-like being of authority. This is evident first in the way in which the Multivac is able to see the deepest secrets and workings of everyone over the age of 18 to the point that it can detect lies it is told. This deep understanding of everyone seems to mirror how some people see God as an all-knowing being from whom you can hide nothing. This idea is furthered through the fact that everyone on earth is able to ask the Multivac anything they wish, and accept its answer without question. One thing I find to be rather interesting is that, like God, the Multivac knows about all of the troubles of the world, as the title of the story would suggest, and by knowing all of this terrible information, the Multivac wishes to die. This raises the question of whether or not Asimov is implying that God would wish to die as well, having all the knowledge that Multivac has. The parallels between God and the Multivac continue in The Last Question, when this machine, which evolves over time to finally become the cosmic AC, is linked to every person throughout the world, then throughout the galaxy, universe, and finally throughout the entire cosmos. In this story we see people time and again asking this being, which they have never seen or interacted with before, if there is a way to reverse entropy. This question and the manner in which it continuously comes back throughout time is reminiscent of how people ask the same questions of God time and again.

In addition to the seeming duality of robots throughout science fiction, there is a common commentary on women that occurs throughout the texts and television programmes mentioned above. In all of his texts, Asimov portrays women as being hysterical, frail beings which are subpar to men. For example, in All the Troubles in the World, the only female character is Mrs. Manners, who we see acting hysterically as her husband is being taken away. Beyond the way she acts, the fact that she is the only character not given a first name, being referred to only as Mrs. Manners, suggests that Asimov sees women as being lesser than men. We see similar portrayals of women in Asimov’s The Last Question when again, the only female characters are not only given silly names, perhaps so that they might not be taken as seriously, but are also depicted as having shrill, shrieking voices. This depiction of women as being lesser, hysterical beings is also seen in the mother character in the television programme Humans. The mother of the house is seen as being irrationally opposed to her family’s having a robot to help around the house, and when she sees the interactions between her youngest daughter and the robot Anita her behaviour boarders on hysterical when for forbids Anita to touch her and take care of her. All the while, the father of the house not only sees his wife’s concerns as being silly and irrational, but also matter-of-factly tells her that he needed Anita to take care of the house since the mother was not there, implying that he could not do the work because it is a woman’s job.