Journal 12

This week, there was an interesting contrast in course material to Ishiguro’s Buried Giant. We watched an episode of Black Mirror that followed a couple and how they were affected by having a device that granted them perfect memory. Having a total-recall type memory is something that we dream about, however this episode highlighted the dark side of having infallible memory. Although the protagonist of the episode ended up finding out the truth about his wife’s affair, he ultimately had changed into an entirely different, violent person and ended up severely unhappy, thus leading him to gouge out his perfect memory device. Black Mirror is a show that often highlights what can go wrong with the exponential pace technology races at and its effects on human nature, and this episode definitely displayed all of that and more. Compared to Ishiguro’s Buried Giant where the characters have a very poor memory, both the episode and the story make me content to have a perfectly imperfect memory; not too perfect, not to forgettable. After reading through most of Buried Giant and watching the episode of Black Mirror, our imperfect memory is really what attributes a lot to human nature. Perhaps the main character of the Black Mirror episode could have lived a happier life had he not dug relentlessly into his memory archive, although he would have lived under the phrase “ignorance is bliss”.

Journal 11

This week, we saw many groups’ presentations, and all of them were very insightful in how today’s world functions and the problems that arise surrounding technology, politics and the environment. The two presentations that stood out to me were the presentations about Amazon and online privacy and about the possible need to relocate to Mars. Both issues differ on the probable size of the issue, one being about our internet privacy and the other being about the literal future of our entire race. An interesting concept that was brought up about the relocation presentation was the question of who gets to go to Mars? Would it be like applying to be a sperm donor, where those that were the most healthy, fit, etc. be selected? Or would applications be open to the general public? It raises many moral and ethical problems surrounding the presentation, and definitely may become reality in the near future as resources begin to be consumed at a frantic pace. The presentation about online shopping and internet privacy was very interesting because of the relevance it has to today’s world surrounding technology. People have conspiracies of governments being able to tap into laptop and cellphone cameras, monitoring our every move as if we were living in 1984 (the book, not the year of course). It also asks the question, can we trust corporations as the pace of technology increases exponentially each year? Will we have to resort to taking our electronic privacy into our own hands? Is it even a possibility?

Journal 7

One of the interesting things about this week’s classes, specifically Thursday’s was the ideas of privacy, survivorship and self. The graph used to describe the path of our lives and how it oscillates as we reach our desired selves was very interesting. It makes sense that our path to what we desire is not straight, and I do believe that removing things like privacy takes away from what makes us, us. By removing privacy and inputting our information into a common network like GI in “Stars in my Pocket Like Grains of Sand” makes us like a unit that can be computed or slotted. Dating sites are an example of this; we input all the information we are willing into a website and let an algorithm compute compatibility for the best possible mate, which also occurs in “Stars” with Rat Korga and Marq Dyeth. We don’t learn anything by being perfectly matched with anyone, we learn through failures with other partners, and through those failures we grow, we become who we really are. By inputting all of one’s information into a database, the line to what we truly desire becomes straight, and almost meaningless if we can predict everything about ourselves.

The different types of categories for the questions we would ask survivors was also very interesting. We discussed ethnographic, ontological and philosophical questions. One of the questions I would have asked a survivor was “do you believe there is a reason that you survived?”, which I believe would have yielded a very interesting answer, especially if the survivor believed preservation of him and what made him was very significant. Everyone on Velm was fascinated by Rat Korga’s survival and it would have been very interesting to see what his answer may have been had he been asked this question.

Journal 6

One of the major theme’s in this week’s classes is the future and robotics. In the first episode of “Humans”, we see common problems that may arise with the integration of human-like robots in a futuristic society. A family experiences tension over a robot’s influence over the children. In another scenario, a man is attached to a robot resembling a father-son relationship based on memories. Consciousness among robots is seen as a sort of a “disease” needed to be eradicated by roboticists. What’s very interesting to me is that Asimov’s three laws for robots could easily be grounds for creating advanced robots in the future; science fiction no longer becomes fiction as depicted by the first episode of “Humans”. The topic of specieism also comes into play when thinking about the potential relationships humans and robots may share in the distant future. Is it right to grant a life form the ability to fathom freedom without ever granting it freedom? Why would we create robots similar to us when we fear greatly if they become too similar? Similar to The Bicentennial Man, “Humans” also shares the idea that man is uncomfortable with it not being the top species on Earth. Robots and androids can be made to come close, but the minute they cross over us and become indistinguishable, or equal, we suddenly become afraid. Perhaps it is a pride issue, that we are experiencing somewhat of an identity crisis, as if our entire existence, who we are, our happiness and memories, can be crafted out of metals and circuits. It almost seems selfish that the human characters in these stories seem like they believe that sentience and true consciousness should only belong to humans, as if we were born with that right.

Asimov’s other story “That Last Question” was also one of my favorite reads from this week. Upon reading this short story, one can really experience the extent of Asimov stretching his imagination to trillions of year in the future. “The Last Question” breaks down the universe’s relationship with man and man’s constant pursuit of energy. Once, it was coal and fossil fuels. Fastforward billions of years in the future and man has learned to harness energy of the stars, however they are harnessing energy faster than the universe is expanding. What is so strange and incredibly fascinating about this story is the last words uttered by the Multivac: “Let there be light!”. For someone who is viewed as one of the greatest science fiction writers in history, I would never have expected a religious theme or element to be the backbone of one of Asimov’s stories. It seems as though the Multivac created something similar to the Big Bang after man had ceased to exist.

The story also reminds me of a potential theory I have come to somewhat believe may be true: the heat death of the universe theory. As we know, energy cannot disappear, only be converted into different forms. If one were to sit in a room with logs, paper and some matches and create a fire, all the energy stored in the logs and paper would be converted into heat. After some time, however, the heat will fade and the energy be converted into an almost irretrievable, useless form. Trillions and trillions of years into the future our universe’s stars will dwarf and run out, as Asimov describes in “The Last Question”. All energy will be converted into somewhat of the irretrievable form aforementioned. Another aspect of the heat death universe I have thought about may be that the Big Bang is caused by gravity alone. Gravity in our universe is thought to be alien, something not from our dimension. It is like tendrils moving through all possible objects in space at once as it bends space and time. Every single object in space has a gravitational pull, from the largest plane to the smallest rock. Gravity does not need energy to move forces. So, when the heat death of the universe comes, gravity will take affect and over an unfathomable amount of time, all mass present in space will pull together into one mass. In this one mass lies all the energy lost into useless forms, and maybe, if we put aside some logic, this big lump of mass compresses into something like the big bang and the massive amalgamation of energy expels the mass of matter in all directions, creating a new universe. This of course seems like an improbable explanation for the birth of universes but is one I have been thinking about for quite some time, especially now after having read Asimov’s “The Last Question”.

Journal 9

This week we had watched the movie Memento, which in my personal opinion was an absolutely fantastic movie. The cinematography was beautiful and the acting was very well-done. Perhaps my favorite part of the movie was how the director made the audience feel just as lost as the main character Leonard through telling the story in reverse. The first few scenes of the movie portray Teddy as a suspicious character and Natalie as a helpful one, but as the movie goes on their motives and true selves are revealed to be opposite. You can’t help but feel sorry for Leonard as the movie ends, as he is forced to chase his John G. endlessly, even after he got his true revenge. No matter what emotion or realization Leonard has, nothing will ever stick and the audience can really empathize with the frustration of his condition. I was surprised to hear many of the terms used throughout the movie such as conditioning as I am currently taking a psychology course. Much of the movie was spot on in their terminology as Leonard described his condition and ways in which Sammy Jankis tried to alleviate his symptoms. The movie also could potentially have been based on a real life case of a man unable to form new memories, which I have also studied in my psychology class. Very similarly, the man could remember his own name and things from decades ago, but not what he ate for breakfast. Ultimately we learn the truth very early in the movie when Leonard states “how can someone heal when they don’t have a sense of time?”. Overall, the movie was extremely good and chock full of motifs and themes throughout.

Going back to our discussion of sensory memory, short-term memory and long-term memory, an interesting fact I learned in my psychology class is that although it is true that memory is located in the hippocampus and has a lot of activity in the prefrontal cortex, memory is not actually located in a specific part of the brain. Rather, it works more like a congenial system with interconnecting areas. The movie sort of portrays this accurately by having Leonard’s injury be near the temple/front part of his head. The movie also shows how memory does work like a computer. An input is encoded (sensory memory) and stored for later use (short-term and long-term memory) in something like a hard drive. In Leonard’s case, Leonard’s injury could be no different than if a computer’s hardware was damaged, drawing a similarity between our human brains and a computer.