Braidotti in the Shell – Technology Changing the Human

The integration of advanced technology into human society has been changing the way we view ourselves and live our lives for decades. Ghost in The Shell is one proposed natural conclusion to this direction of human development. Ghost in the Shell focuses very heavily on what it means to be human, with the android protagonist herself directly confronting the question of what even makes her human. In this world, humanity is more of a mental state than anything else; there is a grand distinction between body and soul, ghost and shell. The biological (or lack thereof) composition of the shell is irrelevant as long as the ghost is present. Furthermore, the quality of humanity is performed through how people treat each other. Matoko says that the only thing that makes her feel human is how she’s treated. Yet even this definition of humanity is challenged when a ghost emerges that was not of human origin. This mirroring of human and machine development raises uncertainty about the nature of what is human and if that is even important.

Braidotti’s text proposes new perspectives to inform human meditation on these questions of existence. In light of Braidotti’s push toward post-anthropocentrism, it seems that perhaps there is not much point in defining humanity at all. The society of Ghost in the Shell takes its first shaky steps into a post-anthropocentric future when the puppet master merges with Matoko. She becomes something more than human (if indeed she ever was human at any point during the movie). She has merged with technology to the point where human and technology are no longer distinguishable but have to come together to form something different and new.

This reflects Braidotti’s proposal of the new role of technology in our lives. “Technological apparatus is our new ‘milieu’ and this intimacy is far more complex and generative than the prosthetic, mechanical extension that modernity has made of it.” (83) Consider the mobile device for example. It enables us to do almost anything from anywhere. We run our lives through them, and we have come to regard them essentially as parts of our own bodies. The mobile device is an extension of our personal space. It is now socially expected to ask permission before handling someone’s mobile device and touching one without permission is considered rude.

Our society and culture have already changed a great deal with the introduction of technology. Humanity has struggled to define itself for thousands of years. Now that we have the ability to alter our “shells” and change the nature of our minds and bodies, we may be approaching a time where the question of “what is human” is no longer an important one. Rather the question could become, “what will we choose to be?”

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