Why Can’t We Copy You?
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!