Having thought some more about it, I don’t think we have anything to fear from technologically enhanced post-humans.
Totally. Nothing to fear.
Allegra takes a critical look at Ronald D Moore’s latest baby, Caprica, and comes up with some interesting questions. She asks whether we can be the same people if we upload all our memories to a mainframe. As far as I’m concerned, the simple answer is ‘no, of course you can’t’. Having the privilege of living in normally-functioning bodies, it’s very easy for us to forget just how much influence the biological functioning of our bodies has over our personalities.
Take a simple case: For the last few years, I’ve been taking citalopram, an anti-depressant which allows my brain to absorb more serotonin. This relatively simple change in the chemical make-up of my body has had a huge effect on my personality. It has nothing to do with anything I’ve learned, any experience I’ve had, anything I’ve realised. It’s just the change in my biology. That people get so caught up in their own minds that they either entirely forget or disregard their biology worries me. What worries me even more is the fact that, if I’d never had the need to take citalopram, I would never have realised it myself.
Caprica is kind of interesting. As Allegra says, it’s looking at ideas of personality and soul what you start digitally uploading people. It’s a slow burner, but it could turn into something good.
It’s impossible to escape the knowledge of where the show is going to end up, though: The Frankenstein complex. I mean, that’s the whole basis of the Caprica/Battlestar Galactica universe. It’s been almost 200 years, and people are still fixated on this idea. I suppose it’s so compelling to humanity because it combines our two biggest issues: Death and surviving it. We are immortal through our children, but what if they turn against us? (Or, to be more accurate, what if we turn them against us?)
As a writer, its continued popularity confuses me. It’s 200 years old, people! The far more interesting concept, as far as I’m concerned, is post-humanity. It’s more interesting because it’s more likely to be something we have to deal with one day. When do humans start being post-humans? Are the post-humans superior to humans, or just different? Will they feel an obligation to humanity? In the slow creep of technology, will humanity become extinct before anyone really realises it? Will a small minority of humans make the leap to post-humanity, and rule over humans because they’re faster, stronger and smarter? Given that the early adopters are probably going to be extremely rich people who think they’re too important to die, how do we stop them becoming our over-lords?
Caprica reminds me of Wild Palms. I saw Wild Palms when it aired on BBC2 in 1993 and I was 13. It had a monumental impact on my young spec-fic psyche. I’ve taken a risk and brought the DVD a couple of days ago.
Okay, so I know I’m rambling. The truth is that I’m writing at the moment and it’s hard going. The story involves a British army about a hundred years in the future laying siege to Bath. Financial problems have regressed the level of fighting back to about the mid-nineteenth century, only without the horses. It’s a fascinating concept (to me, at least), but I know nothing about the military. I don’t know how you strip an assault rifle or reload spent ammo casings. I don’t know how many people share a barracks room. I don’t know what kit you’re given when you sign up. I don’t know how the army expects you to polish your boots. So, whenever I sit down to try and write a scene I have to have about sixteen web pages open and scour through them for the details I need. Every few sentences I come across something I need to Google for, and I’ll lose half-an-hour because this information isn’t easily forthcoming. It feels kind of like trying to blacksmith with wax tools. I can’t simply fudge the details or hand-wave them, even if I know they’re going to get cut out in the edit. If I do that, the whole process of writing seems hollow and pointless. Given that the process of writing is basically my justification for using up the Earth’s resources, that’s kind of a big deal.
I’ll just keep looking forwards to the edit, where all technical details are (hopefully) consistent and believable and I can concentrate on the characters.