The Moth Chase

Elevating the Art of Procrastanalysis – Academics wasting time on pop culture

Why Can’t We Copy You?

with 3 comments

Another great episode!  Last week I focused on the relationship between mono- and polytheism in the show.  I enjoyed last night how, without dropping that theme, Caprica directed our attention to another developing subject for reflection: the soul/body, or rather, the chip/robot connection.  Having lost Zoe’s avatar in a data mishap, Daniel somehow – without knowing it – preserves her essence in the U-87 robot.  It seems that when the avatar information fused with the robot body, a moment of uniqueness occurred; a fusion that couldn’t be undone.  Though the avatar (the info+body) was lost, the info itself found a new body.  And, much to the scientists’ surprise, that information could not be transferred to any other subsequent body.  Hence Daniel’s questions, “why can’t we copy you?”  Because uniqueness can’t be copied.

This is intriguing on (at least) two levels.  First, these robots are certainly going to reach consciousness…perhaps form a classic sci fi robot army.  I seem to remember that from friends talking about BSG (which I haven’t seen), Travis mentioned it in the comments on last week’s post, and they’re certainly hinting that direction.  I loved the little interactions between Daniel and Serge that indicated a deeper relationship than I have with my toaster or even dvr, paired with Daniel and Amanda’s  joking about Serge’s desire for the U-87.  There’s already space in this human imagination for at least a hinting towards sentience in their robot servants.  But this first step towards consciousness is just a computer mind become aware of itself in a vacuum distinct from the body.  U-87 alone doesn’t think, therefore it is.  Self-possession and self-awareness are not located in the mind alone.  Rather, self-consciousness comes to be precisely at this fusing of the mind or soul or essential information with the body.  The implication of this is that personhood, unique personhood, happens right at the mind-body connection.

The nature of this unique connection was heightened in the flashing between Zoe and U-87.  At moments, they took on the characteristics of an infant discovering the limits and capacities of its body and mind as the two grow and develop together in sync.  Mind-body fusion of a fully grown mind and a complete body is a different thing.  The confusion looks similar, but the components are different – epitomized perfectly in Zoe’s accidental snapping off of the mean scientist’s finger; a result of self-protective instinct, but nevertheless by accident.  It’s confusing enough to have the emotions, the body, and one’s intellect develop in pace with each other during adolescence.  Without this pacing together, Zoe’s more thrown together existence causes sadness; a listlessness that reveals itself in her shy and loaded question of Lacy, “do I look like a boy?”.

The second thing I found intriguing about this mind-body unique connection was the debate it immediately sparked.  While the one sweet scientist celebrates the uniqueness of this fusion, Daniel quips his need for 100,000 of them.  Completely missing the uniqueness of his own daughter, Daniel’s desire is to manufacture, manufacture, manufacture.  The tension between the one and the many in Caprica seems not only to be played out in the battle of religious persuasions, but also here in the creation of life.  Already we have an intermingling of religion, economics, technology and life.  And in this mix, the significance of gender is not overlooked.  Whereas Zoe mourns her boy-like appearance, the sweet scientist boy recognizes her femininity, continually referring to her as her, much to his meaner counterpart’s chagrin.  Whether we are to interpret this as perpetuating the idea that one’s gender is core to one’s personhood, I don’t yet know.  But the theme is certainly unfolding nicely!

On this one vs. many question, we had the lovely reveal of Clarice Willow’s polygamous family.  This ain’t no Big Love, either.  This polygamy involves numerous women and men; an interesting spin on that theme that again heightens the role of gender.  Fans of Big Love have noted that they feel increased acceptability of polygamy.  What holds us back is the sexism of its one man/multiple women structure.  Perhaps the Willow family – named for one of its female members – will offer to us a more gender-equitable version of this alternative family practice to ponder?

I’m also left wondering what the link is between monotheism and polygamy.  Is Clarice’s whole family monotheist like her?  Or is that her own little secret?  And as the theme of mono- vs. polytheism develops, we certainly can’t overlook the Trinity created between Zoe, her avatar and the U-87.  We have a one, who copies herself and then becomes re-embodied – all living in some awkward, and certainly painful, unity together.  Ok, so not the most orthodox Christian theology, but definitely playing with some of that faith’s themes.

There’s certainly more to track, here, which for now I’ll just mention so we can watch how it develops.  This theme of guilt is fascinating.  I was amazed at how quickly William Adama learned to wield his new tool of twisting the emotions of guilt and shame to his own use.  And did the Adama’s dinner table remind anyone else of a Jewish seder meal?  With the candles and the challah-like bread and the grandmother’s desire to re-enact Tauron traditions to keep them alive, I couldn’t help but think of that sacred meal from our world.

I’ll sign off for now – BSG fans, I’d love your comments! Please let me know what I’m missing from not having watched BSG!


Written by themothchase

January 30, 2010 at 10:17 am

3 Responses

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  1. You wrote about Daniel’s questions, “why can’t we copy you?” Because uniqueness can’t be copied.

    I found that interesting because in the pilot, that’s central to the argument between Joseph Adama & Daniel Graystone, when Daniel first introduces Joseph to the virtual version of Zoe. Joseph says “you can’t copy a soul,” Daniel counters with a saying that if you can’t distinguish one thing from another, then they aren’t different. Well, Joseph obviously is still tempted enough to see his daughter again that he “permits” Daniel to create a copy of his own daughter… but to me, his first impulse was the right one: no matter how close a copy, his own daughter is still dead; the real Zoe, also, is still dead.

    Does that mean that Zoe 2 isn’t real? No, I don’t think so: she’s a self-aware, sentient being, if not a living (biological, metabolizing) being in the sense that her original is. But she is a Self, & from the moment of her creation was distinguishable as a separate Self from her original, simply by the fact of their separation, which leads to different experience, hence making her unique even before she was fused with the whatchamajiggy stolen mind processor unit in the Cylon prototype.

    So to some extent I disagree that it took fusing with the Cylon body to make Zoe-copy self-aware — if that’s what you meant here:

    Self-possession and self-awareness are not located in the mind alone. Rather, self-consciousness comes to be precisely at this fusing of the mind or soul or essential information with the body. The implication of this is that personhood, unique personhood, happens right at the mind-body connection.

    Because I think the Zoe copy was self-aware before… but with a self-awareness that was mediated largely through the experiences of other people (whoever she came into contact with in the virtual world of the V-club). With the body, for the first time she can sense the world on her own. But even so, it’s still incomplete — she has the senses of sight & hearing, clearly has the sense of “mind” to be able to think… seems to have inherited the sense of body from her creator the real Zoe, such that she seemed to feel pretty vulnerable at her treatment by the male techs who were transporting her. But she doesn’t have real sensate feelings of touch, of smell, etc.

    And I think that’s a lot of what drives the Cylons in Battlestar Galactica: the drive to feel, to sense biologically — which is a lot of where full human emotion comes from. I guess that’s part answer to your question of “what am I missing from not having seen BG?” Over the full course of BG, you eventually get a fairly decent understanding of the Cylon drive to “become biological.” In terms of your discussion here, too, there’s lotsa stuff in BG to address the issues of “unique” vs. “copies.” If you have unlimited bodies of the same model of Cylon, can there be individuation? Can a Cylon be “persons”? That question is asked over & over again in BG — & that question was asked in this episode between those two male techs. I think the insensitive one even said something like, “it’s just a tool. It’s not a person.”

    But of course we know that she is one.

    My speculation is that the problem of making “copies” into other Cylon robot bodies will in the end be solved not by Daniel, but by this virtual Zoe — if only as a means by which she can ultimately escape from his control.

    I’m very much enjoying your posts on “Caprica.” I plan on writing about it somewhat on my own blog, but I also have to keep a focus on my own writing… but you can count on me following you through the season & commenting. Thanks for doing this!


    February 1, 2010 at 8:52 pm

  2. By the way, you commented about Serge’s relationship with Daniel — you might be interested in following Serge on Twitter @SergeGraystone. Another good Caprica-related Twitter feed is @CapricaSeven — that’s Jane Espenson, who writes/produces (& has also written &/or produces for both Battlestar Galactica & Buffy the Vampire Slayer, to name but a couple). You can find some other Caprica folks (included at least a couple of its actors) in the “following” lists of either of these two.


    February 1, 2010 at 9:06 pm

  3. HA! You said toaster! (this is funny to any BSG watcher).


    February 1, 2010 at 9:21 pm

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