I didn’t go to the theater to see the new release of Ghost in the Shell, nor will I. My abstention has nothing to do with the white-washing boycotts involving casting a Caucasian actress into an Asian role (though, there is a metric ton written about it online, if you care to partake). Rather, my economic voting merely involves not pandering to Hollywood for gutting and monetizing a masterful, philosophical manga/anime as a dumbed-down, lowest common denominator cash grab. I’ve watched Ghost in the Shell anime for the past 25 years (including spin-offs such as the re-write Ghost in the Shell: The New Movie that came out in 2015 also as an anime, and Ghost in the Shell 2 – Innocence anime that came out in 2004).
The original Ghost in the Shell goes into deep questions regarding artificial intelligence, technology, ethics and morals, and racism as a growing problem as society develops into the 21st century and beyond. The answers to these questions are left to time as much as the audience, and I’ve noticed my thoughts on the movie(s) change over time as I see technology develop as well as corporate and governmental adaptation and control over it.
Part of the issue is that human existence is no longer limited to the human body, and thus an individual’s existence no longer ends when the body dies. This has been the case for some time. Ever since we could store data, we have transferred memories to computer and digital storage. Thoughts, ideas, photographs, desires… it’s to the point now that people put account longevity clauses or terminations into their end of life wills: Twitter, Facebook and other online accounts, etc. This extension of the human mind is currently at stake with government and corporate invasion of privacy with cloud storage, browsing history, encryption, et al. Do a person’s rights end with their human body, or their existence? Do their final wishes laid out in a legal last will and testament allow for continuance of digital existence in online or digital storage?
If we can’t even answer these questions and get them right, how are we as a society to govern and control artificial intelligence?
The short of it is this: we as a society aren’t ready for AI. Sure, baby monitoring systems or cars with advanced safety features are beneficial. But the human influence over AI, if the government, daily news broadcasts of violence and crime, and weekly scandal of corporations are any indication, would prove to be a tainted seed the likes of which programming could not overcome. We aren’t civilized enough yet as a civilization to create artificial life.
But none of that is going to stop the shareholders from pushing tech beyond our limits …
Featured image Laughing Man logo copyright Bandai Entertainment and Manga Entertainment from Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex, designed by Paul Nicholson after reading The Laughing Man by J. D. Salinger, using a quote from The Catcher in the Rye (also by J. D. Salinger)… did I cover everybody?!?