Week 4: Redefining the Human – A Recap

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Week 4: Redefining the Human – A Recap

 

This is a recap for the fourth week of E-Learning and Digital Cultures MOOC.

 

The Films

 

«Robbie» – http://vimeo.com/40524878#at=0

Robbie the Robot presents itself – or himself – to us, telling us his story. But it does better than just presenting his path: despite the fact he has a robotic voice, we feel moved by his journey. Everything in it, from the bits that were told to the language used, seems to indicate that Robbie has a conscience of his own, that has…humanity. He is not organic and even with the most advanced prosthetics, our core, our CPU – the brain – is organic in matter. Beyond the organic matter one has a soul [personal opinion]. The robot chose to believe in religion and therefore accepts the existence of such concept but that may be where one can see his flaw – the programming. The strong (as in touching) and effective language used by Robbie to describe his ‘feelings’, limits him so much as it liberates him. The imagination he claims to use to envision a ‘fantasy land’ – without humans by the way – lets in a glimpse of his programming restraint: “(…) it was planet Earth that still captured my heart. I would try and visualize what Earth looked like but nothing ever looked the same so I eventually gave up.”. His ‘simulation software’ could not go far (unlike us), abstract from the real [data] and just wander off so he gave up and stop wasting CPU cycles and resources. His comparison of death to sleeping is also a giveaway of the non-human that rules Robbie. Humans for the most part fear death. Also, if he accepted religion like he claims (it was probably a statistical probability of acceptability of his ‘humanness’) he would believe in the soul or spirit outside the physical body and not contemplate the end like a mere slumber. Using words and play around with their meanings and rearrange them in probable meaningful ways to real people, does not grant Robbie humanity.

 

«Gumdrop» – http://youtu.be/A7sjoI5QjBY

Gumdrop is a very light take on posthumanism. In this future people and robots share the same place in the world, there appears to be no distinction. Now Gumdrop differs very much from Robbie. First of she is made of a malleable alloy that gives her mouth movements that resemble people’s. Then she uses her fingers to count, is afraid of things and laughs at others, appreciates movies and images and they made her feel like she one day could be an actress – this coming from a vacuum cleaner robot! She’s also not into drugs, nudity and she can act. If this is all previously written code – as a basis at least – it is brilliant; also, could it have been written by a human or another superior machine? She’s one of the most convincing robots (humans still made of flesh and bone) that fiction has produced.

 

«True Skin» – http://vimeo.com/51138699

“True Skin” resonates with “Blade Runner” and the videogame “Deus Ex: Human Revolution” and with Week 3 Steve Fuller’s ‘Modern Artifice’. This future has both the dystopian and the utopian, the enhanced transhumans and the organic people living side by side – even though not without conflict and prejudice in cyberpunk Bangkok. The heightened reality the enhanced people live in comes with costs and consequences, most of them to the physical body. However, it is in the enhanced body that a company has its business – backing up memories and implanting them in a newer robotic ‘self’. This relies on the concept that memories and mind can be extracted and replanted, that they are somewhat physical in nature, lying somewhere in the brain and that is what makes you you. But if that’s so, what of people that have amnesia or memory loss impairments? Is their self lost forever in the worst cases? Or is it all recoverable? If manipulating memories is possible, can you ‘reset’ a [bad] person?

 

«Avatar Days» – http://youtu.be/d9TEdGbvtnc

Avatars, namely the ones in role playing games, reveal something about their creators/users. Whether it is their fears, desires, wishes or even subconscious needs, their avatar ends up reflecting that. This said, the avatars carry in them the human individualities of their makers but limited to what is available (hair colors, fabrics, accessories, weapons and so on). Usually they are used as an escapism from the real life, as expressions of repressed qualities of one’s personality and outlets for assorted feelings. The price paid is often high when the line is blurred and there are very few distinctions from the person and the character(s), when the virtual dominates and consumes the real, taking over like an addiction. Nonetheless the avatar is never robotized, it always has humanity [good and/or bad] forever immortalized in itself and its virtual realm.

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