Cyborgs can be discussed as the symbols of the contemporary world in which boundaries between humans and machines are destroyed to respond to the needs of the informational society where technologies play the key role. Furthermore, in this world, the singularity is challenged because cyborgs are not unique as humans, but they are as functional and promiscuous as machines.
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Ghost in the Shell (1995) is the anime created by Mamoru Oshii which is based on Masamune Shirow’s manga. Ghost in the Shell is the story about Motoko Kusanagi, a female cyborg, who lives in the world of cyborgs and works as the security agent.
In spite of the fact that the majority of the agents in Motoko Kusanagi’s Shell Squad are cyborgs, the heroine thinks a lot about the question of her identity as the cyborg, human, and woman.
Thus, in Ghost in the Shell, the boundaries are breached because human brains can be hidden in the manufactured bodies to produce such a new form as a cyborg which cannot reproduce, but it can survive in the world of informational technologies, and the singularity is challenged because replicants are also possible in this world; furthermore, in the post-human future, not only cyborgs can be met but also virtual minds.
Cyborgs as the specific form of the human evolution necessary to survive in the world of high technologies should be discussed with references to the idea of dehumanization and breaching boundaries. Referring to the plot of Ghost in the Shell, it is important to note that Motoko Kusanagi as any other cyborg in her world uses her human brain and soul, ‘ghost’, hidden in the ‘shell’ of the manufactured body, but this body is provided by the government.
Although Motoko Kusanagi’s body is produced to reflect her gender and sexual identity, it cannot even bleed as a human body. Moreover, Motoko Kusanagi’s nature of a cyborg is discussed in opposition to the Puppet Master who has no body, and he can be found only in the web of information (“Ghost in the Shell”).
Thus, if the human body is necessary to speak about the human identity, the era of cyborgs leads to dehumanization not only with references to transforming human bodies into machines but also with references to the possible survival in the informational webs (Graham 181-182). From this point, not only people are at risk to be changed into cyborgs but also Motoko Kusanagi is at risk to become a virtual mind, and this mind will be the only thing to connect her with a human.
The challenge to singularity is reflected in the anime with references to Motoko Kusanagi’s impossibility to conclude about her identity. The most vivid example to represent this issue is the situation when Motoko Kusanagi is depicted traveling down the canal, and she observes the replicant of herself.
Motoko Kusanagi understands that it is rather difficult to state differences between herself and her replicant, thus, it is rather difficult to focus on her identity as a cyborg. The character concentrates on thinking about her will, soul as the reflection of her human nature, and body as the reflection of her machine’s nature (“Ghost in the Shell”).
From this perspective, Motoko Kusanagi is not unique as a human because she can be replicated. Moreover, she cannot be sure that she is unique because of her will due to the fact that her body is provided by the government, and she cannot state whether her brain is controlled by the authorities.
The example of Motoko Kusanagi illustrates the idea that cyborgs have problems with their personal identities because of their mixed nature, and these transformations as adaptations can be rather threatening to people (Haraway xv).
In the post-human future, cyborgs can become the part of the reality because of the demands for adapting to the changing world and to the accentuated focus on the information technologies. As a result, cybernetic organisms as the mixed forms can be also transformed, and the next stage of the human evolution can become the era of the virtual minds, as it can be observed with references to the character of the Puppet Master.
That is why, it is also necessary to answer the question about the necessity of the human body because this container for the human mind can be replaced in the future with not only shells but also informational webs. From this point, the importance of questions of gender and sex for determining the identity can be replaced with the importance of the role of information and technologies to determine species (Graham 183-184).
Following the example of Mamoru Oshii’s Ghost in the Shell, it is possible to state that the filmmakers choose to discuss the stories about cyborgs because these mixed organisms can respond to the demands of the actively developed informational society, but it is also important to pay attention to the fact that the discussed transformations are rather risky for humans.
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The present period of the human development is characterized by the focus on the idea of cyborgization and dehumanization. However, the next stage of this process can be the shift to the virtual mind because the embodied identity can be replaced with the bodyless identity.
Ghost in the Shell. 1995. Web. <https://www.imdb.com/title/tt0113568/>.
Graham, Elaine. “The End of the ‘Human’?” Representations of the Post/Human. Ed. Elaine Graham. New Brunswick, NJ: Rutgers University Press, 2002. 176-199. Print.
Haraway, Donna. “Cyborgs and Symbionts: Living Together in the New World Order”. The Cyborg Handbook. Ed. Chris Hables Gray. UK: Routledge, 1995. xi-xx. Print.