Inventing the Self

Almost Human

November 20th, 2013 · Comments Off on Almost Human

There is this new show on television, Almost Human, which is about a cop who has a partner who is a robot. Although the robot is artificial, it exhibits human behaviors. In many instances, the robot seems more human than the partner.  In one particular episode they were kidnapping women and grafting their skin onto robots who were made to be prostitutes. There was one robot prostitute that assisted the cops in finding the guys responsible for this. In the end she had to be deactivated because it was illegal for robots to have human DNA. The robot cop asked to be with her and he watched her as she “died.”

After watching this episode my husband and I started talking about the possibility of having a robot wife. Keep in mind that the robots were extremely beautiful and exhibited all the right emotions. He then joked that it would probably be better than a real woman. But on the serious side, he stated that there would be no real connection or intimacy which is what make relationships worth having.

In Sherry Turkle’s book she talks about the idea of having robots as companions. She spoke with a graduate student who felt that if a robot could give her the “illusion” of happiness, then she would welcome it (8). I found it to be a little disturbing that someone would trade in a human for a robot in order to avoid the emotional rollercoaster that a relationship can sometimes bring. I understand how devastating a broken heart can be but, what about the wonderful surprises that a relationship with thinking and feeling human being brings.

On the other hand, when Turkle spoke about Miriam, the elderly lady in a nursing home, I sympathized with her. I felt comfort in the fact that she has something to comfort her. There are a lot of elderly people who are tossed aside by children and other family members, or who just have no one. In this case, I think that robots as companions are a great idea.

When it comes to artificial life and technology, I feel that it has its place. I feel that it is beneficial but I agree with Turkle’s idea that it cannot replace true human connection. All the human experiences that we have are a part of the learning process and completely avoiding them will stunt our growth.

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Miller/Viegener

November 5th, 2013 · 3 Comments

When I read autobiographies, I often try to find a connection to the character. I try to figure out in what ways is this individual or the situations that they have faced similar to my own autobiography. In Matias Viegener’s book, it was difficult to find anything that I felt connected to.

The only theme in Viegener’s book that was familiar was love. When he wrote “At the time, everything about you was about me too. I couldn’t keep them separated. When you weren’t feeling well, I felt it too. If you were angry at me, I was angry at me too.” I think almost everyone knows the feeling of being deeply in love.

Miller states that “identification can also mean the desire to rediscover yourself across the body or under the skin of other selves, people who are nothing—seem nothing—like yourself, to time travel, to get away, to take a much needed vacation from….you” (13). In this way I can see the identification in disidentification. Although I did not have any of the same experiences as Viegener, I found his book very intriguing. I wanted to know more about the “you” he was referring to and the relationship between him and “you.”
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Hearing Voices

October 23rd, 2013 · 2 Comments

Agnes’s Jacket was one of the most fascinating things that I have read all semester. I have always associated hearing voices with Schizophrenia. I have never thought to separate it. In reading Agnes’s Jacket and Watching….Ted Talk I has lead me to really consider the idea of multiple selves. In both the article and the video it was mentioned that the voices were separate from the self and that the primary self has to be able to control or work with the voices in some way.

 

I was also fascinated by how “normal” these people seemed once they gained control of their voices. When placed in the hospital, the voice hearers, mentioned in the article and video, seemed to decline. Once they were removed from an environment of the hospital and used a more unorthodox approach they were able to thrive. They were able to live a functional life. This is because for voice hearers, here voices were trying to tell them something or became away for the self to cope with traumatic events.

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Fun Home

October 8th, 2013 · 5 Comments

Alison Bechdel’s Fun house brought me back to the conversation we had in class about multiple selves. Not everyone agreed with McAdams’ theory that we have many different imagoes and these imagoes appear at different times in our lives. McAdams also believed that our imagoes “are often embodies in external role models and other significant persons in our adult lives” (123). The character of the father in Bechdel’s autobiographical narrative was representative of McAdam’s theory in that she presented him as having multiple identities. Bechdel question her own identity in connection with her father’s. After his death, she began to feel that she may have taken on her father’s homosexual “imagoe.”

Outside of his home, Bechdel’s father was a teacher, family man who took his wife and children to church, and a funeral director. In his personal life, he was obsessive decorator, a closet homosexual, a dictator, and a pedophile. The father lived his roles so well that Bechdel only learned that he was homosexual after she revealed her homosexuality to her mother.

Once Bechdel became aware of her father’s homosexuality, she then began to examine moments that were missed, like her father’s relationship with the babysitter. She then began to examine how her homosexuality was connected to her father’s homosexuality. She began to see her sexuality as a mirror image of her father’s sexuality; the more feminine her father became, the more masculine she became.

 

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Alva Noe

September 24th, 2013 · 2 Comments

 

Noe asks “are you your brain?” If we are not our brain, then our consciousness should live on once our brain dies. In the video Alva Noe stated that the “brain is a part of a dynamic network, brain, body, environment, that allows us to achieve consciousness.” Although I agree with Noe’s theory that that our body and environment help form who we are, I do not agree that consciousness is not located in the brain. I believe that his argument is flawed because he gives no real scientific evidence that supports his theory. To me, his argument is a lot like believing in GOD, you have to have blind faith.

Where Damasio’s argument that consciousness is in our brain left me intrigued and wanting to look more into his research of how different regions of the brain controlled different parts of us, Noe’s argument left me with questions that his argument could not answer. Why are psychiatric drugs able to alter or moods and personalities? Why are some people not always able to control our moods and behaviors? Why can a “normal” functioning adult begin functioning at the level of a child after a brain injury?

However, I believe that Noe has a valid point when he says that in order to make headway in research on what consciousness is scientist need to expand beyond the brain.  Expanding the research may give more insight into the mystery that is our consciousness.

 

 

 

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Siri Hustvedt’s “The Shaking Woman” and grandmother

September 10th, 2013 · 2 Comments

 

I grew up in a very religious family, my grandparents who I lived with for a few years and who I spent most of weekends with are Pentecostal Christians and my mother is a Jehovah Witness. In my grandparents church I was told that I would go to hell and burn in fire if I didn’t ask Jesus to “save” us and my mother believed that I would simply die and turn into dirt if I did not get baptized. I was in church/Kingdom Hall at least 4 times a week, sometimes sleeping over.  Because of my strong religious influenced, into adulthood I believed that my actions were controlled by the devil and that I needed to be “saved” by Jesus and the holy ghost will cast the devil out of my . I will then become a Righteous being and my spirit would float up to heavens once I died. When my grandmother was diagnosed with Alzheimer, my entire belief system about who my core self will always be was challenged. My strong independent grandmother became a walking corpse in just a few years. She spent the majority of her days staring into space. My grandfather in his frustration told me “this is not the person I married. I don’t know who she is.” Siri Hustvedt’s The Shaking Woman only raised more question in regards to whom or what “I” am.

In The Shaking Woman Siri Hustvedt elicit thoughts about what it means to be human and how we perceive ourselves.  While my grandmother lost cognitive control, Hustvedt lost control over her body. She believed that this loss of control was due to hysteria, a Conversion disorder, which occurred because she did not grieve her father’s death. This caused a duality in her and like the statement that my grandfather made in reference to his wife; Hustvedt’s shaking body became separate from which she was. She states that “the shaking woman is certainly not anyone with a name. She is a speechless alien who appears only during speeches (47).” Hustvedt was not the shaking woman and this woman was not my grandmother although she occupied my grandmother’s body.

Another study that Hustvedt explored was that “the very interesting act of inscribing the words I remember generates memories (62-63).” The simple act of writing can generate memory. She presented case studies in which two subjects lost the ability to recall memory in speech but were able to write what happened even when they were unable to read their own writings; this lead to Hustvedt wondering if she suffered from systemic disconnection (68). This makes me think of my grandmother’s own memory loss and wonder if she will one day regain them. There are moments where my grandmother seems to return to her body when she looks at me and say “I haven’t seen you in a while pretty girl.” Then I feel like she remembers me and my grandmother has returned. Will she always be able to look at me and have these moments of clarity?

When I think of who I am, I wonder if I will always be a lucid rational being. Will emotional trauma or physical trauma cause any radical changes in my personality? Can anyone ever truly figure out who we are as humans? What ultimately control our behavior? Is it our brains? Is it God? Is it our unconscious? Is it the Devil?

 

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