Benjamin Rosenbaum

Comments on "Matrifocal Pillow Talk, and an Anti-Extropian Toolbox"

On the 'embodied' front, I feel that a lot of classic SF buys in to the mind/body split very strongly, and there are a ton of ways that plays out in the canon. Growing up, I bought in to the mind-body split, too, and it wasn't until I was in my twenties, I think, that I even realized that it was a thing I was buying in to and that buying in to it was a choice. I could speculate about why the whole Campbell/Asimov strain wants to believe in identity divorced from the physical... but it's a much wider cultural (and theological) strain than that. Frankly, it's a real problem for me with reading Gandhi, who was certainly not a geek.

Recently, when I've read attempts deal with the issue directly, to have people (vaddevah dat means) interact with something that really does have a mind/body split, that grew up bodiless or many-bodied or whatnot, it has seemed unsatisfying. It hasn't worked for me. Perhaps that's my crankiness with the issue more than the text.


Posted by Vardibidian at April 12, 2016 08:49 PM

So, I mean, I think the mind and the body are logically distinct phenomena, but that the mind is an epiphenomenon of the body. The mind arises from the body in its environment, the way that the USA arises from an area of land coupled with a set of ongoing social practices of humans.

I'm not down with Platonic dualism -- which I think infects, to its detriment, all this nerd-rapture extropianism -- but nor am I totally comfortable with a default dismissive "eh, all this funky cyborg stuff is never going to happen" attitude which is also common, and which has its roots in another kind of essentialism ("we are only what we look like just now").

I think we never get rid of the body -- its messiness, its limits, its abjectness, its fluidity, its compromised complicity in death and transformation, the way in which it makes a mockery of our will, our ambition, our self-concept. I also think that bodies can look like anything... and that bodies are going to get very weird indeed.

I thought Leckie did a fine job of it. And the novel I just finished is full of people growing up many-bodied. I'll be curious to see what you think of it, if and when.

Posted by Benjamin Rosenbaum at April 12, 2016 11:05 PM

I thought the Leckie trilogy was good, but I was never convinced by the Ship being Ship... that didn't bother me, really, in part because her confinement to her body was such a big part of her character when we met her—there was certainly no mind-body split there. It is explicit that her current character is molded by her bodily experience in that body, and then explicit that her character is molded by her bodily experience in many bodies, and then on top of that, her character is molded by her bodily experience in the Ship, the last of which didn't really work for me. And in the end, the character of the Station really didn't work for me, and was a big problem for me with the plot of the third book, and looking back, that may have been why. Hm.

Look forward to reading the novel, and I will certainly attempt to tell you what I think of it, if and when.


Posted by Vardibidian at April 13, 2016 01:40 AM

Well, and going back to the heady days of 2006, here, I still think that the answer to 'If Lions Could Speak' can be carefully crafted using the other three tools: what is less interesting than attempting to duplicate humanity is the ongoing evolution of systems which are humanity-tropic. Intelligence (vaddevah dat means, with apologies to V) may come softly onto the scene long after we've grown accustomed to interacting with computers and each other via systems that need to model us to satisfy our requests.

Posted by Dan P at April 18, 2016 07:04 PM

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