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The meaning of Ghost in the Shell
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Spica



Joined: 25 Nov 2005
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PostPosted: Thu Feb 09, 2006 9:42 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

As for identity, I think who we are is closely tied to the matter we are made of, or at least the matter that out brain is made of. If you were to die and a copy of your brain were exactly replicated, down to the last molecule (including neural connections and the memories and aspects of personality that they entail) would that brain really be you or just a copy? I am inclined to beleave that it would be a copy (granted a very good copy with the same memories and personality), and in order to really be you, the reconstructed you would have to be made of the same matter that you were origionally composed of.

I beleave that the important mental events relating to personal identity are personality, the naturally occuring, enduring aspects of how we typically think and behave (and which dictates the kinds of interests a person gravitates to if given the chance and how pleasant or obnoxious an individual is to be around), and our memory, which stores the past experience that have nurtured us. Modern psychology suggests that who we are is a function of both nature and nurture Razz .
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Lightice



Joined: 24 Nov 2005
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PostPosted: Fri Feb 10, 2006 1:38 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Spica wrote:
I would think that being a woman would most certainly be worse when you are being acousted by thugs. They would see you as being an easy target, someone not worthy of their fear and theirfore respect, they may even rape you. A tall, powerful looking man is much less likely to be mugged, and more likely to scare away muggers than any woman.


The statistics tell me, that men get mugged more often than women, even though they are generally less afraid of it. For whatever reason, men get beaten up and even killed on the street much more often than women - possibly it's because so many of us aren't very good at talking their way out of trouble. Women, on the other hand are more at risk in their own home, with men they already know.

Spica wrote:
As for death, I myself am terrified of it. I'm a very strict materialist and I believe that there is no meaning without life. I have taken it as one of my personal goals in life to thwart death's icy grasp for as long as possible, no matter what the cost.


I largely agree with you, here. Death is certainly the worst thing that can happen to a human being, although extreme amounts of pain do cloud the judgement other way round. Still, it has been said that fearing death is the first step in surrendering to it. I do fear death, but I wish I didn't have to. Perhaps if/when it becomes clear, that I don't need to experience it, first-hand...

Spica wrote:
As for identity, I think who we are is closely tied to the matter we are made of, or at least the matter that out brain is made of. If you were to die and a copy of your brain were exactly replicated, down to the last molecule (including neural connections and the memories and aspects of personality that they entail) would that brain really be you or just a copy? I am inclined to beleave that it would be a copy (granted a very good copy with the same memories and personality), and in order to really be you, the reconstructed you would have to be made of the same matter that you were origionally composed of.


But what matter are we really "originally" composed of? I don't have a single cell, a single atom, even, that I had when I was born. The particles in human body are constantly changing. Some cells don't last a week and even the longest living ones only go onfor few years. After that, the body just pushes them out. Even your brain cells are renewed in this manner. There is no unchanging "core" for a human being - both our body and our identity are in a constant state of flux. Only the general shape of both remains the same.

Still, you have some point in what you are saying. If you die now and the perfect copy is manufactured a hundred years later, you've missed a hundred years worth of flux - you're identical to the you that was a hundred years ago. As such, your identity is not perfectly continuous. However, coma patients are in a somewhat similar state and they are considered to be the same person when waking up, even if brain damage has altered their personality or caused them amnesia. Indeed, a coma patient who'd wake up ten years after loosing consiousness and with total amnesia would only have his DNA in common with the person who he was before the coma.

As such, the best way to keep your identity fully intact is to keep your consiousness continuous. While replacing your brain with nanocomputers (something I intend to do if it'll be possible in my lifetime), do it gradually - if your consiousness stays intact throughout the entire process, then there is no doubt that the product at the end of the line is still you. If your consiousness lapses or important data is lost during the transit, the matter is more difficult, but hardly impossible to deal with - remember the coma patient.
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Gillsing



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PostPosted: Fri Feb 10, 2006 5:51 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Spica wrote:
I would think that being a woman would most certainly be worse when you are being acousted by thugs. They would see you as being an easy target, someone not worthy of their fear and theirfore respect, they may even rape you. A tall, powerful looking man is much less likely to be mugged, and more likely to scare away muggers than any woman.

Not being worthy enough to fear can also be "not worthy enough to fight", in case the thug is looking for a fight rather than easy prey. If women are possessions, do thugs fight them or do they fight their 'owners'? Men who consider themselves superior to women might also not feel the need to react with force to a woman's complaints, while similar complaints from another man might be taken as a serious challenge to authority or even as a serious threat which must be defended against.

Thugs who might consider themselves 'cool guys' might feel that beating up a woman just isn't 'cool', and I could imagine that the opinion of a woman might also count for something, so a woman might be able to tell them to quit beating someone up. Several women could probably exert quite a lot of peer pressure in such a situation. This is speculation though, because I haven't been in a violent situation as an adult.

Spica wrote:
I'm a very strict materialist and I believe that there is no meaning without life.

I don't think that there is meaning even when there is life. Life just is, and it grows wherever it can, just because it can, and not for any particular reason. For me death would not rob my life of meaning, even when I agree with philosophical materialism.

About the identity stuff, I think that a perfect copy would probably feel like the original unless told otherwise by those who made the copy. Other people would certainly consider the copy having same identity unless knowing otherwise, in which case they could choose for themselves. I see identity more as a social thing, and as such it is created by the person in question and the people around that person. As long as people can't tell the differences, things will pretty much be the same I'd say.
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simon's ghost



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PostPosted: Fri Feb 10, 2006 6:28 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

let's not forget about all the countless women who are abused but never officially file a complaint to the police, therefore escaping statistics.
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sonic
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PostPosted: Sun Feb 12, 2006 9:42 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Quote:
As for the topic of this thread, I don't have a set opinion of what GitS is about. One guess is that it is about how technology changes not only our world, but also ourselves.


That's an interesting reply... I guess I'd say I had more a set of "set opinions" about it. Funny you should mention technology and it changing ourselves- I just finished watching Boogiepop Phantom for the first time today, and I really liked the way it was exploring outer change reflecting inner change, and all the little stories around that. Weird stuff. I also really like what you said about MMI, gillsing. I guess that whole thing about not merging with, but creating digital life is an important part to point out. But I also thought that perhaps she created it so that she and humanity could merge with it as it evolved further if it so decided (i.e. if it wanted to take humanity with it and not leave it behind), thus broadening the limits beyond the human gene pool, and that this process could perhaps just continue on until some unknown event? Hmm...
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Spica



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PostPosted: Thu Feb 16, 2006 10:08 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Quote:
But what matter are we really "originally" composed of? I don't have a single cell, a single atom, even, that I had when I was born. The particles in human body are constantly changing. Some cells don't last a week and even the longest living ones only go onfor few years. After that, the body just pushes them out. Even your brain cells are renewed in this manner. There is no unchanging "core" for a human being - both our body and our identity are in a constant state of flux. Only the general shape of both remains the same.


Actually, under normal circumstances, a human never has any more neurons than he has at birth, and neurons never divide to renew themselves. As you age and grow, the number of neural connections, not the neurons themselves, increase with knowledge, experience and function. Any increase in brain matter is simply a result of an increase of the amount of mass taken up by the axons that form the neural connections, and the glial cells that support the nervous system. Humans actually loose nerve cells as they mature. When the brain is forming, the founder cells create more neurons than are needed, and, once neuron formation is complete, the unused neurons experience apoptosis (programed cell death). Another wave of connection elimination occurs during adolescence when neurons or the neuronal connections that were never used, or only used rarely, are eliminated and the remaining neural connections are reinforced.

I'd also like to point out that this discussion about whether men or women are more likely to be attacked is off topic.
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Lightice



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PostPosted: Fri Feb 17, 2006 1:48 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Spica wrote:

Actually, under normal circumstances, a human never has any more neurons than he has at birth, and neurons never divide to renew themselves. As you age and grow, the number of neural connections, not the neurons themselves, increase with knowledge, experience and function. Any increase in brain matter is simply a result of an increase of the amount of mass taken up by the axons that form the neural connections, and the glial cells that support the nervous system. Humans actually loose nerve cells as they mature. When the brain is forming, the founder cells create more neurons than are needed, and, once neuron formation is complete, the unused neurons experience apoptosis (programed cell death). Another wave of connection elimination occurs during adolescence when neurons or the neuronal connections that were never used, or only used rarely, are eliminated and the remaining neural connections are reinforced.


That is actually only partially true - it was taught to be so, back in the 80's, but new information has been gained, since. The neural cells renew and new are formed, just as other cells in human body, although in much slower pace than any others, but their growth slows down and eventually ceases at the old age. A new brain is more capable of learning, because it doesn't have so many neural connections to uphold, but old brain isn't incapable of new learning, either.

In any case, the atoms in human body (and everywhere else) also shift and in about ten years' time all the atoms in your body have completely changed.
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Spica



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PostPosted: Thu Feb 23, 2006 7:00 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

I said "under normal circumstances," adults can regrow PNS cells almost as easily as other cells, and new CNS cells can be formed, but the neural connections of the cells that they replace are lost forever.

Also, if neurons replicated and self renewed as you claim that they do, your pre-existing neural connections would be lost or distorted with each division. The brain is a very precisely ordered piece of matter and the constant flux created by cell division would inhibit its function.
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Lightice



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PostPosted: Fri Feb 24, 2006 1:31 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Spica wrote:
I said "under normal circumstances," adults can regrow PNS cells almost as easily as other cells, and new CNS cells can be formed, but the neural connections of the cells that they replace are lost forever.


I am not an expert in neurology, but as I understand, a single neural connection doesn't equal any single learned thing. Other neural connections keep the learned matter in memory and new connections are born, all the time.

Quote:
Also, if neurons replicated and self renewed as you claim that they do, your pre-existing neural connections would be lost or distorted with each division. The brain is a very precisely ordered piece of matter and the constant flux created by cell division would inhibit its function.


I only know, that under modern medical knowledge, it doesn't appear, that any individual cells could live for the whole human life. You must remember, that the renewal of the cells is a very gradual process. New neural connections are born as old ones die and as memories are reinforced, they will replicate the old connections. No one can claim full knowledge of how this happens, but this is the explanation I recieved for a similar question.
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Spica



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PostPosted: Fri Feb 24, 2006 12:49 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

I all I know is that everywhere I have checked (Neuroscience textbooks, other books on Neuroscience, my Psychology Professors' lectures, and online sources) has said that neurons never renew.
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Lightice



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PostPosted: Fri Feb 24, 2006 1:13 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Spica wrote:
I all I know is that everywhere I have checked (Neuroscience textbooks, other books on Neuroscience, my Psychology Professors' lectures, and online sources) has said that neurons never renew.


So it was taught, even in the last decade - I was wrong when I talked about 80's. It was only in the late 90's that new facts were learned. With science you must remember that information gets updated as new discoveries are made.
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Spica



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PostPosted: Thu Mar 02, 2006 9:51 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Its still taught even in this decade. I'm still in college you know.

I am fully aware that science gets updated as new discoveries are made. I am also aware that new theories can be found to be innacurate, or only accurate under certain circumstances.

I would like to know your source for this information.
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Spica



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PostPosted: Thu Mar 02, 2006 10:03 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

I forgot to mention that there is one part of the brain where the neurons do self renew under normal circumstances, and that brain regien is the olafactory bulbs.
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Lightice



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PostPosted: Fri Mar 03, 2006 2:29 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

I tried to find an article in Wikipedia of the matter, but I failed to find anything to support either of the theories. My information came from a science magazine, some years ago (certainly after 2000, but I don't remember the exact date), which discussed of the new discoveries of neural sciences. I also made a question on the subject to my psychology teacher of the time (I was still in high-school) and was verified that the neural cells of the brain indeed renew, although the rate was unknown.

More recently I read another article, describing the renewation of human body and it quite clearly stated, that all particles of a human body change in the course of ten years, or so and no-one over that age has a single particle left from their birth.
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AlphonseVanWorden



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PostPosted: Sun Mar 05, 2006 9:10 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Re: The back-and-forth between Spica and Lightice:

I think the following links might be useful- or at least interesting- when discussing neurons, etc.

http://www.hhmi.org/research/investigators/anderson.html
http://www.eurekalert.org/pub_releases/2004-02/uoc--ufa021704.php
http://www.eurekalert.org/pub_releases/2000-02/HMS-Dstb-2302100.php

And, a little heavier reading:
http://www.jneurosci.org/cgi/content/full/21/18/7153

I think Spica meant what Spica said, that under normal conditions, connections are/can be lost without hope of "naturally" restoring them (or the connections can be damaged beyond restoration; I suppose one could put it that way).

To quote from another site:
"Neural stem cells may hold the key for treating many diseases of the central nervous system. These include Parkinson's disease, Huntington's disease, Epilepsy, Alzheimer's disease and strokes. Many of these diseases are neurodegenerative disorders that are caused by groups of cells either dying, or beginning to malfunction. These disorders are difficult to treat because generally, once neurons die, the function they previously performed is permanently lost. Because of this, treatments for these diseases involve relieving symptoms of pain or discomfort, but cannot bring patients back to the health of a normal individual...

"If neural stem cells could be implanted into the adult brain and successfully differentiate into neurons, these new neurons would provide the same inputs and outputs as the diseased neurons. In a sense the patient relearns the lost abilities. As the neural stem cells make more connections and become more and more integrated into the brain, the person will see increased improvement in their skills."
http://www.macalester.edu/psychology/whathap/ubnrp/stemcells/Clinical1.html

Notice that the above-linked site used "generally" and that Spica stated "under normal conditions." Both positions imply a kind of status quo, i.e. a general rule, the existence of a condition that is "normal" and "natural." "These disorders are difficult to treat..." Why? "[B]ecause generally, once neurons die, the function they previously performed is permanently lost." If the sort of research mentioned in the links goes forward, if it pans out, and if the production and/or use of such technologies isn't banned due to religious, ethical, and/or political reasons, the rules will change (for those who can afford it, at least), and the change will raise a number of interesting philosophical issues. (Even if the research fails or the implementation of related technologies is stifled, the questions have been raised- in many significant ways- by the inquiry itself. But the philosophical issues become more pronounced when something passes from speculation to research to discovery to implementation.)

To frame these questions, or to rework the problems into seemingly simple questions: What happens when significant damage to a person's brain is "fixed" and s/he can "relearn" skills or other things that were "lost" due to neurodegeneration? Is there a lost "self" that is relearned as well? Or is the self something different from this? Is the self a fixed thing, or is it fluid? Do we mean something like software when we speak of a "self"? And if we can repair ourselves- our brains, our nervous systems, our bodies- what does that mean about our notion of humanity?

Similar problems arise when we think of artificial intelligence and cyborgs; in fact, a lot of folks would argue that we are already- and in some ways, have always been- cyborgs, insofar as our existences seem bound up with our technology. Even if we disregard the idea of machines as something necessary to humans, as something so essentially "human" as to be part of humanity's definition/way of thinking of itself (and I'm using "machine" in a broad sense, as some theorists do, i.e. I'm using it as synonymous with "technology" in the sense of tools, etc.), the "human" and "self" questions become increasingly complicated when we switch from looking at these concepts on a cellular or organic level to a discussion of altering bodies by modifying the organism through implanting devices or substitute parts linked directly with the organism's nervous system and/or brain. (When I can remove my arm and choose another, buffer model- purchased from some corporation, or acquired illegally- or when a new arm is given to me as part of a government job, what does the concept of "my arm" mean?) And when we throw in the idea of a prosthetic body or a cyberbrain, we wade in deeper.

We might think of Kim in the second film. He's chosen to be a doll, and he is also- in a pretty scary way- connected to his house. His brain is linked to the mansion's security cameras; he can "remember"- access and replay- what happened downstairs, although he wasn't "physically" there and doesn't have to get up, stroll across the room, and press PLAY on a VCR. (Again, that notion of memory as record, and that blurring of what we are and what a machine is.) And the place itself is like some externalized and extremely perverse fantasy- complete with creepy little doll/maid, a gigantic music box, the "dinner party", and Kim lording over it like a wealthy 19th Century Decadent who's wandered into a tricked-out version of a Grahame Greene thriller. Or like an emaciated Sydney Greenstreet... The sequence in Kim's mansion makes me think of Peter Riviera, the twisted fellow who can project memories and fantasies into other people's minds in William Gibson's debut novel. The scenery- his messed-up childhood- that he leaves for Molly to wander through...

Kim has "become" a doll, hence his ironic "will" and the contemptuous humor he shows to Togusa and Batou. But of course, he's not "really" a doll, insofar as his "doll body" has a "ghost"- his- inside it. And one has to wonder- with Batou- at what point does a "thing" become "alive", and what point does a person who's "alive" (in the sense of being organic, or in a humanist sense) cease to be "human" in any meaningful way?

Kim wanted to be this way; he embraces his situation with irony. In fact, his existence in his chosen form is a manifestation of irony; one could say his sense of irony is written all over him. What would one call Kim? A person? A "person"? A machine? A person-in-a-machine-that-looks-like-a-doll-and-is-connected-to-his-house?

What does it mean to our sense of self when our bodies don't have to be our bodies anymore?

Consider the Villiers de l'Isle-Adam quotation used in the film: "If our gods and hopes are nothing but scientific phenomena, then it can be said our love is scientific as well." (L'Eve Future: A wonderful book. The quotation made me laugh. Anyone read any other Villiers, Axel or Cruel Stories? Great, whacked-out stuff.) And place those words against the plight of the weeping child Batou finds inside the "factory". Using children's ghosts to make dolls more life-like: Production and pandering to the tastes of some sections of the marketplace. "Make it seem more real..." Prostitution or sexual servitude as simulation. "Make me believe this situation is real." Like the fellow in "Cash Eye" with the doll fetish... only worse. When nothing is true, when absolutes are abolished, when we think of the world in terms of matter and the world as a clockwork, that which can be done, is done; if it's technologically possible, and can be sold, it will be sold. Some might claim that in a completely mechanistic and purely materialistic world value judgments have no place. People make laws, others break them. Some folks help others, some hurt others. (Remember that Sade incorporated La Mettrie's materialist "man-as-machine" philosophy into his own work, and recall that in Sade's world, power, pleasure, cunning are everything. Without recourse to God or abstraction, where is the basis for morality, Sade asks? And if we choose to keep up appearances, there's always the black market, or the secret use of force.) Efforts to stop a given behavior in such a world are merely games of cat-and-mouse, and one could well argue that the more sophisticated a system is, the more holes there are for the mice to dive into- unless someone discovered a way to make people conform, to manufacture consent. But then, resistence to wrong decisions and the desire to make changes to an existing order would be eliminated as well.

Think about the Major's comments about "those who have voice". The dolls, she says, wouldn't have wanted to become human. But the Major's no longer quite human, and many people in the film's world want to become machines, or more like machines, and that's part of Batou's issue with Capital-S-Self-identity. Is he human, in a meaningful way? Would he want to become something like the Major? Is he becoming something like Kim? And what about the child who didn't want to become a doll, and the dolls themselves, and the dolls with children's ghosts embedded within the mechanisms? And what about Kim? "What is my relationship to this world?" And the recurring notion- humans reproduce themselves or make images of themselves or project themselves into/onto things. Dolls, pets, children. Humans have children. Do we view the children as human? Are the children born fully human? Do they become human- fully human, as "human" is generally understood- at some point? Is "humanity" a potential, or a construct?

The quotes from Psalms, Paradise Lost, Confucius make more sense in this context. So does the vocal on the soundtrack. ("The heart of solace having withered..." "Flowers grieve and fall/ In the everlasting darkness of grief/Inert in shells, praying to Gods for the reincarnation...""Flowers in bloom pray to Gods/Lamenting over their being in this world of life.") And so does the Major's butt-kicking after she takes over one of the gynoid bodies. (Think of the Major as the famous Kusanagi sword, killing enemies with wind and fire.) Counterargument to Kim, to Locus Solus, to the world that makes such things possible. But such a world also allows the Major to exist as "guardian angel..."

It's narrative justice (although, as with all justice, the crime must occur before justice can be meted out), and it's a heck of a pay-off to the story. But the film's action, its narrative, doesn't directly answer the questions that Oshii raises. Think of Togusa's kid with the doll, and Batou with Gabriel, and Gabriel's expression and reaction. That look. The cinematic equivalent of "Whaaa?"

I laughed. I groaned. I went, "Aww, Gabriel." I was creeped out. All at once.

And pets. What does it "mean" to have a pet? Can one love a pet in the same way one loves a person? Does the pet have a unique essence? If so, what is that essence? And if one clones a pet, is it the "same" pet? Do animals have/deserve rights?

Does loving something make you more human?

This sounds like intellectual wankery, the kind of stuff stoners have late-night rambling talks about. But when pushed to these kinds of limits, when this kind of thought-experiment is performed in a work of fiction, we might well start to wonder if we know what we mean when we talk about "uniqueness" and "identity" and "rights" and "being human", and how well some of these notions work in the world we live in- and how well such notions will hold up in the future. I think it's a pretty serious set of questions. What do we mean when we say someone is human? Fully-functional? Self-aware? What is our relationship to our environment? To others? To ourselves, our bodies? What is the Capital-S Self? Does it exist?

And it's when we come to that Capital-S Self point that I'd ask some things of Gillsing: "About the identity stuff, I think that a perfect copy would probably feel like the original unless told otherwise by those who made the copy. Other people would certainly consider the copy having same identity unless knowing otherwise, in which case they could choose for themselves. I see identity more as a social thing, and as such it is created by the person in question and the people around that person. As long as people can't tell the differences, things will pretty much be the same I'd say."

If identity is constructed by the person and by the people around the person, wouldn't there be multiple identities? For example, I might think I'm a swell person. A friend might think- well, any number of things about me. My parents might see my identity in other ways. And people online would be thinking of me in terms of a medium that provides its own brand of distancing. (All of this has been discussed before, both here and elsewhere, by others whose brilliance outshines my modest glow.) But if people meet a copy of me, and discover that it is a copy of me, they might behave differently toward the copy than they would toward me. Unless they think the copy is, say, as sainted a soul or as wretched a person as I am, and decide to keep responding the way they usually respond. But then again, even if they think I'm a nifty fellow or a cruel dude, they might think the "new me" can be influenced- corrupted or redeemed, according to their opinion. (Improved in the desired direction, maybe?) All without telling the copy. But the copy might notice differences in behavior and start to find the situation dubious. ("Huh, this person avoided me like the plague, now I'm being treated okay- even got a free lunch or five out of it- and now I'm getting self-help books from the person. What's up with that?") And boy, the copy's thinking about himself would be thrown for a loop if he learned that I was the original. ("I'm a... whaaa? You bought me lunch to lead me to personal betterment? Because... you think you can make me better than... the old me was...ouch, head exploding...")

Questions for Gillsing: Is identity- as discussed above- always and in all ways constructed? And if a person's identity is constructed, doesn't it have to be constructed after the fact- i.e., first, something comes into being, then it develops/is given an identity? Or does the way something comes into being- a body, an organism, etc.- have something to do with its identity? If that's the case, mightn't the copy's "identity" have a lot to do with its status as a copy?

But of course, we're talking about memory, too. So how does memory function in relation to identity? Is an amnesiac "the same person" s/he was before suffering from amnesia?

And if the copy is a copy that shares my memories up to the point of its creation or my demise, does "being a copy of" necessarily mean "being identical with", when we're discussing organisms?

And is there some essential "me-ness" to me?

Or would we go to the extreme of Baudrillard's simulacra/"copy without an original", the whole "now there are no maps, nor territories, but maps still must come before territories" thing, to the extent that the "original" identity is constructed by people whose identities are constructed by people whose identities are constructed... and so on, till the notion of identity becomes referential to the point of infinite regress?

One has the original organism or body, and one has the person's memories, and the person's identity. How are these related? As Gillspring has said, identity- or a certain type of identity- is constructed in a variety of different ways- through social interactions, by thinking about oneself in relation to fill-in-the-blank, etc. A person's memory... is that constructed by others, or in relation/reaction to one's experience of others? Do memories change over time? Can something that gives me pleasure one day- let's say Tuesday- cause me to weep, years later? And does that process of thinking about the memory change the memory in some subtle or even fundamental way? And how does memory relate to identity?

I'm not sure I'd say that identity equals memory. I tend to think the two are closely related, or that one is a subset (or subroutine?) of the other, but I don't think the two are identical- pun intended. But someone might convince me otherwise.

And memories, I think, influence how we respond to others, how we construct "their" identities, and how we perceive ourselves in relation to others.

And wouldn't the copy have an additional "unknown" identity if no one knew it was a copy? That is to say, wouldn't a copy have an identity as a copy, by definition, if not in practice?

I know it sounds as if such an identity might not make much difference on a day-to-day basis. But it might be of some political, legal, and ethical importance if the copy was "outted"- and this would, of course, depend upon the social climate.

I guess what I'm saying is, the original-versus-copy question is something I can't directly address until I know the copy's proposed ontological and legal status, what social conditions are like when copies come about, etc. In other words, how will people view a copy if they know it's a copy, will they consider it a thing or a being, and why might they have those views, and what would be some possible results of those views? Until that sort of information's provided- until I have a context into which I can place the notion and examine it- I have to ask the sorts of questions I'm asking, and make the sorts of points I make.

So, I'm kinda with you on this, Gillspring... It shouldn't matter, at least on a practical, day-to-day level. If it walks like a duck, and quacks like a duck... But the vagueness of the term "identity", the "might" and "only if" ("it might matter only if someone knew it was a copy" seemed to be your position), and the way the identities of both original and copy haven't been clearly defined or described give me pause, simply because I wonder whether or not the conclusions necessarily follow from the premises, and what the conclusions would mean when put into practice. It sounds sort of like, "Well, this is true, until somebody discovers it's not, then stuff might go horribly wrong"- which doesn't tell me a lot about identity, which I think is the basic question. And at what point does choice come into identity, or into reaction?

"They could choose the copy's identity for themselves..." Are we saying that people other than the copy could choose the copy's identity, no harm, no foul, no implications? Or might this lead to something less innocent than a difference of philosophical opinion? Would this shape the copy's legal/moral rights in relation to those of the original? Could those rights be taken away, even though the copy is "identical" to the original, simply because people decide the copy, although identical to the original in every respect, doesn't have the same identity as the original and therefore doesn't have the same rights? That seems... arbitrary. And while I'll grant that laws tend toward the arbitrary on a certain level, an effort is made- in some countries- to put them into some kind of consistent form. The copy has the same identity as the original, until it's discovered to be a copy, in which case everything becomes a matter of perception, of choice. The copy has the same rights as the original, until people decide it doesn't have the sort of identity that would allow it to have those rights, i.e. until people decide that it's not the original, and so its rights aren't necessarily the same as the original's. This could lead to some nastiness if we extend the argument to other aspects of identity, e.g. citizenship. If the copy is developed offshore and enters the country thinking it is a U.S. citizen, is it a citizen of the U.S., if the original was a citizen of the U.S.? Or would the copy have to be deported, as it wasn't "born" on U.S. soil and, in this example, crossed the border into the U.S. thinking it was a U.S. citizen? Would it fall under the same laws that cover animals smuggled into the country? Would the action constitute entering the country under an assumed identity?

I realize I've moved your argument beyond your intended point, and created a specific example from your comments. But I did so to look at the argument's implications. I can't say I agree with you until we look at the question at some length, or with specific examples, say, from the show. We might want to consider the Puppet Master's seeking political asylum in a similar light...

It seems to me that we use the term "identity"- when speaking of humans, at least- to describe a kind of value based on similarities and differences. "I am <of this ethnic group>." "I am <of this sexual orientation>." "I am <of this gender>." "I am <from this nation>." These are all identities, and are in no small part matters of social and self-identification.

(One can imagine that people of a given ethnicity didn't contemplate the notion of other ethnicities until they came into contact with different ethnic groups. Then the idea of difference between ethnicities became part of discussion, of identification, of definition. Same thing applies to cultural practices, assumptions about gender, codification of sexual conduct, etc. "These people are... different from us." "You ain't from around here, are ya?")

Then there's another type of identity- and this might be a matter of levels or degrees- in which a person is a combination of various things. A composite identity, if you will. "This person is <of this race-social class- educational level- gender-sexual identity-nationality>." But even this shifts according to context, with some aspects being emphasized in certain contexts, disregarded or ignored in others. "I'm this thing, but I'm also that thing, and in this context, my being that thing is more important or relevant."

And you have other permutations, too. For example, there was a lot of discussion amongst American feminists back in the 1970s about what having an identity as a woman meant. (To be fair, this discussion didn't begin in that decade, it just became more heated at that point.) Is a middle-class white woman's situation- her identity- the same as that of a Latino or African-American woman of the same social class? Are there other issues and other histories that inform those identities? And what about women from other social backgrounds? And what about women in immigrant communities? Do issues of cultural identity and income and education enter into debates about, say, abortion and birth control? Is there some essential definition of "woman"- something beyond anatomical differences between man and woman- that crosses boundaries of race, class, community? Does one group speaking for another group have the effect of silencing the latter group? And how does individual identity fit into one's identity as a woman, i.e. are you part of the group "woman" first, or a being of and spokesperson for your own experience? Were all women oppressed in the same ways, without other factors influencing or informing the kinds of oppression? How did female homosexuality figure into the equation? And was there a single kind of feminism that could tackle these issues? The outcome of this was... well, you have lots of kinds of feminism, with different takes on the issues- and depending upon the issue in question. Some positions overlap, some don't. Some discussions are more informed by considerations of class and race, and others aren't. Some are labor-oriented, some focus more on education. Some focus primarily on legal rights. And some groups with pretty old-fashioned, pre-Liberation Movement, reactionary ideologies claim to be feminist and pro-woman, and probably think they are.

My point being, not only can we say that certain identities are constructed by us and by those around us, for us; we can say that a lot of identities are case-sensitive, i.e. who you are depends upon the situation. (And no, I'm not saying there isn't some unique sort of "you" in you. That's just... a different kind of identity, the experiencing/feeling/thinking subject, which has a certain connection to those other identities/functions. If you didn't have that sort of subjectivity in you, you'd be hard pressed to explain how the heck you're reading this post. As to how that subjectivity exists, how it came to be, how it works... well, folks are working on that.)

And, if we get to the point of having copies, we'll generate other sets of identities- copy/not copy, those who have access to making copies/those who don't, etc. (Think of what Shirow said about the divide between technological haves and technological have-nots.) And again, in some contexts, one or two values might matter, while in other contexts, the same values wouldn't matter. ("Well, I upgraded my copy, I wanna have blue eyes when I come back..." versus "Copies for the people!" versus "It's unnatural!")

But what happens with the copy that knows it's a copy and tries to "pass" as the original? Or if the copy suddenly discovers it's a copy, and that causes difficulties for the copy (an "identity crisis")? Or if someone "outted" an original as a copy?

And what if copying oneself became so prevalent that no one even paused, that it didn't even matter? Would that change how we think of ourselves- of our identities- as human beings?

Or do we mean something different when we say identity? Is there some simpler definition for identity when speaking about humans, some simpler definition that doesn't ignore the world's complexities?

Would the copy be me, if I know it's not? And if I'm not around, if I'm dead or otherwise...otherwise, and the copy's a "perfect copy" of what I was, might the copy be called "Me-plus", as in, Me (what I was) plus (whatever the copy will experience/become)?

Or Me-1, Me-2, Me-3....

An Army of Me...

Spica wrote, "As for identity, I think who we are is closely tied to the matter we are made of, or at least the matter that out brain is made of. If you were to die and a copy of your brain were exactly replicated, down to the last molecule (including neural connections and the memories and aspects of personality that they entail) would that brain really be you or just a copy? I am inclined to beleave that it would be a copy (granted a very good copy with the same memories and personality), and in order to really be you, the reconstructed you would have to be made of the same matter that you were origionally composed of." And I'm sorta agreeing with Spica, and sorta not. Still, I had a strong and positive reaction to that position. A copy would be a copy (that kind of follows, doesn't it?), so, sure, a copy of a brain is a copy of a brain, etc. I'm curious, though: How would this logic apply to an original brain that's repaired through the use of technology?

(You're a materialist, so let's face it- a brain is, after all, a part of a body. No need to say the self is tied mostly to the brain, as I'm sure you've seen pictures of brains in jars that aren't quite who they used to be. Wink And I think I saw a who-we-are tied to a brain tied to a body in a 1950s B-movie once... It wasn't pretty.)

How would it work if you're not copying, but repairing, a brain? If you managed to, say, grow back part of a person's brain that was destroyed by or damaged due to stroke, is the person "the same person" s/he was before the stroke? (I'm specifically thinking of long-term, currently-irreparable damage to memory.) Would the presence of new cells impact the person's "identity," if at all? If so, under what conditions? If someone could- and this is a wildly hypothetical situation- reinscribe the lost memories on the new parts of the brain, would the person still be an original? What makes the person in question, the person in question?

You'll notice that I'm asking both Gillspring and Spica about memory in relation to identity. I'm doing so because it's interesting, and because it comes up again and again in GitS.

It seems to me that the relationship between "identity" and "memory" becomes tricky here, unless defined or described. And the same applies to the Self/Ghost/Soul, whatever you call it, whatever you think it is.

I know cognitive scientists, A.I. researchers, neuropsychologists, and philosophers go round and round on this sort of thing. (I'm thinking of John Searle's arguments/debates with neuroscientists and A.I. researchers about the meaning of consciousness, software/hardware and processing/thinking confusions, etc.)

"Who are you? How are you (and I don't mean, "How's it going?"). And what is your relationship to...?"

And, speaking of relationships, systems, etc:

Consider the metaphor used in Innocence, cities as memory storage: "If the substance of life is information, transmitted through genes, then society and culture are essentially immense information transmission systems, and the city, a huge external memory storage device." You find the same idea in writings on emergence and self-organization. (If someone's unfamiliar with these concepts, s/he could find an introduction to the concept of cities as both user interface and memory storage in Chapter Three of Steven Johnson's "pop-sci" book Emergence; for a more complex and problematic approach, see Juval Portugali's Self-Organization and the City.)

One might remember the Major's discussion with the Laughing Man in the library in the final episode of SAC's first season, and consider Aramaki's comment about not having access to external memory. (Darn that Vertov reference...)

And all this stuff dovetails with the reproduction/replication/identity stuff. If we cease to be human, humans made their cities for... themselves, or for those who would come, someday? When those Romans and Egyptians left graffiti, they did it for themselves, to malign their foes and elevate their friends and brag about what happened on a certain lucky night or to say simply "I was here", but to us, an ancient bit of graffito becomes... a record.

The ruined urban centers of the show's second season work in a similar way- surplus human labor is "stored" there, in a metaphoric sense, and so are other things. One could consider the salvage operation with the nuclear material something analagous to data or memory retrieval...

One might want to compare the decimated and "newer" parts of Japan throughout SAC with Professor Vyjayanthi Rao's interpretation of urban space in the following essay: http://www.humanscape.org/Humanscape/2004/Feb/isentirecityarchive.php

Oh, well. Sorry this post is so long. It's probably hopelessly muddled, too. Still, I ask the questions in good faith and because I'm curious about other people's thoughts. Other people's thoughts, in fact, got me thinking... Wink[/i]
_________________
Such is the soul in the body: this world is like her little turf of grass, and the heaven o'er our heads, like her looking-glass, only gives us a miserable knowledge of the small compass of our prison. - Bosola, in John Webster's The Duchess of Malfi
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