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SPACE IS THE PLACE Technological animism in “Ghost in the Shell” #edcmooc NOVEMBER 11, 2013 BY ANDREADELPILI

By: Andrea Contreras The story of anime and manga Ghost in the Shell presents a future in which machines and men have joined, to the point that the line between them is blurred. Some people have replaced their organic parts by mechanical parts, becoming cyborgs. It has been developed even a technological breakthrough: the cyberbrain (a mechanical casing for the human brain that allows mental interface with Internet and other networks) In this process of “cyberization” the feature that validates a living being as a human with rights is the existence of the Ghost (soul), which is an attribute of the brain that allows men to generate self-awareness, emotions, individuality and all aspects that can be described as the personality of an individual. The Ghost can be partially or completely removed from the brain and transferred to implants or machinery; the individual is still recognized as such while this element remains intact.

However, this is a dystopian future because there are technological crimes. Indeed, the protagonist is the Major Motoko Kusanagi, a cyborg in charge of covert operations in Section 9, which specializes in this type of crimes. The main theme of the story is the persecution of the Puppet Master, a criminal who hacks the Ghosts, taking control of the mind of the person. As the story progresses, we discover something disturbing: this criminal is an artificial intelligence project that has gained autonomy and has fled in search of a human body and identity. This is the high point of technological animism, the ghost in the machine that makes us doubt our nature. We’re not the only ones who have a soul or consciousness, what makes us special, what makes us different from other living beings? This issue is further complicated when the Puppet Master demands asylum as a sentient creature, arguing that its selfpreserving programming is no different than DNA. It wants to preserve itself and pass on its ideas as any biological creature would, but instead of make copies of itself with the same weaknesses and flaws, it wishes to merge with the Major. Kusanagi accepts and joins with the Puppet Master, forming a completely new entity that exists without physical boundaries and propagates through the Net. The technological imperative of Ghost in the Shell can be seen, particularly, in this phrase of one of its protagonists: “If a man realizes that technology is within his reach, certainly he takes advantage of it; is something almost instinctive. Look at us, we are the vanguard, controlled metabolism, brain computerized, cybernetic bodies. Not long ago this was science fiction . So ‌ what does it matter that we can not

survive without a high level maintenance? Who are we to complain?”


Animismo tecnológico en Ghost in the Shell Por: Andrea Contreras La historia del anime y manga Ghost in the Shell nos presenta un futuro en el cual las máquinas y los hombres se han unido, a tal punto, que la línea que los separa es difusa. Algunas personas han reemplazado sus partes orgánicas por partes mecánicas, convirtiéndose en cyborgs. Se ha desarrollado, incluso, un avance tecnológico importante: el cibercerebro (una carcasa mecánica para el cerebro humano que permite una interfaz mental con Internet y otras redes) En este proceso de “cibernetización” la característica que valida a un ser vivo como humano con derechos es la existencia de su Ghost (alma), el cual es un atributo del cerebro que le permite al hombre generar autoconsciencia, emociones, individualidad y todos los aspectos que pueden ser calificados como la personalidad de un individuo. El Ghost puede ser removido parcial o totalmente del cerebro y trasladado a implantes o maquinaria; el individuo sigue siendo reconocido como tal mientras este elemento permanezca intacto.

Sin embargo, este futuro es distópico, ya que hay presencia de crímenes tecnológicos. Precisamente, la protagonista es la Mayor Motoko Kusanagi, una cyborg a cargo de las operaciones encubiertas de la Sección 9, la cual se especializa en dicho tipo de crímenes. El tema principal de la historia es la persecusión del Puppet Master, un criminal que hackea los Ghosts, tomando el control de la mente de la persona. A medida que avanza la historia, descubrimos algo perturbador: este criminal es un proyecto de inteligencia artifical del Gobierno que ha cobrado autonomía y se ha fugado en búsqueda de un cuerpo e identidad humanas. Este es el punto cumbre del animismo tecnológico, el fantasma en la máquina que nos hace dudar sobre nuestra naturaleza. Ya no somos los únicos que tenemos alma o conciencia, ¿qué nos hace especiales, qué nos diferencia del resto de los seres vivos? Esta cuestión se complica aún más cuando el Puppet Master demanda asilo como una criatura sensible, argumentando que su programación de autoconservación no es diferente del ADN. Quiere preservarse a sí mismo y transmitir sus ideas como cualquier criatura biológica lo haría, pero en lugar de hacer copias de sí mismo con las mismas debilidades y defectos, desea unirse con la Mayor. Kusanagi acepta y se une con el Puppet Master, formando una entidad completamente nueva que existe sin límites físicos y se propaga a través de la Red. El imperativo tecnológico de Ghost in the Shell puede apreciarse, particularmente, en esta frase de uno de sus protagonistas: “Si un hombre se da cuenta de que la tecnología está a su alcance sin duda la aprovecha, es algo casi instintivo. Fíjate en nosotros, somos la vanguardia, metabolismos controlados, cerebros informatizados, cuerpos cibernéticos. No hace mucho esto era ciencia ficción. Así que…¿qué importa que no podamos sobrevivir sin un mantenimiento de alto nivel? ¿Quiénes somos nosotros para quejarnos?” About these ads

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4 thoughts on “Technological animism in “Ghost in the Shell” #edcmooc” Hamish Macleod says: November 11, 2013 at 2:50 pm Many thanks for the reminder of this film. I was introduced to it years ago by a student on a course that I led on psychology and information technology. He felt that it would be a good stimulus for our thinking about psychology and artificial intelligence. As you say here, it plays very evocatively with the matter of the boundary between the human and the machine, and dualism that this boundary is often held to imply. Reply

andreadelpili says: November 12, 2013 at 4:47 pm Thank you for your comment! Cheers. Reply

Jeremy Knox says: November 13, 2013 at 10:25 am Agreed, excellent film, and one that may have particular relevance in block 2: ‘being human’. I wonder though, while it presents a much more complex relationship between humans and technology than one might perceive in technological determinism,

animism seems to preserve a humanist take on agency and ‘life’. The idea of the ‘ghost’ is such an important part of the film, but it’s a way of humanising the inanimate by granting it a kind of ethereal spirit. Preserving ‘ghosts’ within human beings also seems to be a way of maintaining a core and ‘true’ humanness after the body has been revealed to be just as machinic as the technology. Reply

andreadelpili says: November 13, 2013 at 7:06 pm To approach technological determinism with an animated example I was between 2 options, this film and another anime series called Evangelion. I decided the last one is a much more clear example of what means to being human in a very tecnological society. I’ll try to write something about it and apply the concepts we are studying. Reply

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