“The film’s weakness, however, lies within its use of the superfluous. Like other cyberpunk dystopias, 2049 heavily relies on Asian aesthetics to indicate the future. The neon kanji signs, the bustling Chinatown, Neander Wallace’s yukata, Joi’scheongsam. LAPD’s crime scene materials are labeled in English and Japanese. At some point, Los Angeles became a multicultural city, even more so than today, but where are its non-white citizens? I spotted maybe one or two Asians in passing when K was eating (a bento box!) in Chinatown. And have we ever seen a Replicant of color? If not, why is that? Whose future is this? Would non-white robot slaves be too on-the-nose, too uncomfortable for Hollywood to handle?”
“If the point of Blade Runner: 2049 is to examine what happens when clones/artificial intelligence gain sentience and the ability to reproduce, it’s already been explored much better by Ex Machina and Westworld. If the point of Blade Runner: 2049 is to suggest that it might be unpleasant to live in an environmental wasteland, let’s just say I have high hopes for Geostorm. If the point of Blade Runner: 2049 is to warn us that unregulated technology might be bad, it’s being done better right now by REAL LIFE and by Black Mirror in science fiction.”
Interestingly, despite our ever present doomsday fictions, the nature of the way we’ve portrayed the innumerable horsemen of the apocalypse has changed. In the past, the apocalypse was a single, cataclysmic event that could be stopped. From the machine armies of Terminator to the nuclear fallout in On the Beach, the apocalypse was always the result of a choice . But now, our end of the world stories tackle issues that are “broader and more diffuse,” which makes us “afraid but less able to point to a source of our fear,” Bures wrote.
See also: What we talk about when we talk about post-apocalyptic stories.
‘Chiang doesn’t keep a journal in which to jot down his ideas, and he doesn’t dedicate a set time of the day to think. Rather, “the stories I write are usually based on ideas that have been rattling around in my head for years,” he said. “I get plenty of ideas that I lose interest in almost immediately. It’s only when I keep returning to a particular idea again and again over a long period of time do I know that it’s something that might become a story.”
He continues, “Writing is very difficult for me, and so I write very slowly.” That delay is in part due to Chiang’s character development, thinking of how he can blend his stories with the right characters and then bringing together a number of threads.
His characters are capable of existing both on and outside the page, and while Chiang’s plots are clearly sci-fi oriented, nothing is unbelievable. “I’m sure there are readers who can’t suspend their disbelief when reading my work,” he wrote. “But I suppose I’m more interested in exploring philosophical questions, and I don’t think fanciful technology helps with that. When philosophers pose thought experiments, I tend to prefer the ones that don’t involve really outlandish premises.”
“Every studio passed, telling me they didn’t see this as a movie,” he continued. “That it was too smart, which I began to see as an excuse to pass on something that isn’t a franchise movie.” Heisserer negotiated for the literary rights for one year, and adapted Story of Your Life on spec until he was finally received the go-ahead in 2010. “It has been a slow crawl to get to where we see the movie released,” he said.
But even if Arrival smashes through the box office and awards season—and if advanced reviews are any indication, it will—Chiang doesn’t intend to forget his roots. He still has no desire to ever write a novel, which he first made clear in an email to Kim when the two initially spoke several years ago, writing: “I am not writing a novel. Just to let you know, I am a short story writer.”’
‘”Cyborg” is a loaded and attention-grabbing term, bearing associations from sci-fi novels and Hollywood, and whether it’s an entirely accurate label for these activities is up for debate. Some commentators broaden the definition to include anyone who uses artificial devices, such as computer screens or iPhones. Others prefer to narrow it. As early as 2003, in an article entitled “Cyborg morals, cyborg values, cyborg ethics,” Kevin Warwick, the professor who pioneered the cyborg movement in the academic sphere, described ‘cyborgs’ as being only those entities formed by a “human, machine brain/nervous system coupling”—essentially “a human whose nervous system is linked to a computer.”
Cyborgian implantation activities take place outside the clinic or hospital, as a sort of parallel to standardised medical experimentation. There is a keen desire to win over public support, which might explain the mob of journalists at the Dusseldorf event, who almost outnumbered the public. Österlund is clear: “We’re not going to work on sick people. That’s up to the medical industry,” he explains. “But we’re upgrading healthy people so that they can predict health issues. That’s definitely going to be the future.”
The concept of enhancement is what distinguishes cyborgism from other medical implantation, or from the ordinary fact of having to wear corrective glasses. This is not about therapeutics or repair, but about augmenting human senses beyond the norm. Despite the distinct gap between cyborg implants and clinical medicine, Cannon does think that they could fruitfully interact. “I think that a lot of time you have people in academia who are squeamish,” he accepts. “But as a result of medicine being the only people allowed to experiment, that has bound our hands and stymied research for a really long time. Well, we’re talking about being able to choose to participate in these experiments as perfectly healthy people and really investigate what’s possible. It allows us to move with an alacrity that science and medicine cannot in its current state.”
Legally, cyborgism falls into a nebulous category, neither regulated nor forbidden by law. In the UK, because the devices have no therapeutic value, doctors who carry out implant procedures potentially open themselves to legal risks, according to one GP, Dr Zoe Norris, who says most doctors would view the procedures as being purely cosmetic and therefore landing closer to the desks of their plastic surgeon colleagues. A spokeswoman for the British Association of Aesthetic Plastic Surgeons said that the organisation isn’t aware of a plastic surgeon implanting any such device. Nurses and technicians, she said, would be sufficiently well-equipped to carry out these fairly simple procedures, with only larger devices possibly requiring a surgeon. It therefore falls to the hands of tattoo and body modification artists to conduct the procedures or, in one case I heard of, a veterinarian (the grey-suited man who implanted Michael’s magnet at the fair was a tattoo artist). The UK’s House of Commons has produced a document that sets out the legislation, health guidance, consumer law and training relating to tattooing and body piercing—without mentioning chip implants or magnets in particular. The guidelines note that “contrary to popular belief, there is no formal minimum qualification for tattooists and body piercers.”’
[“BLA and GB Gabbler” (really just a pen name – singular) are the Editor and Narrator behind THE AUTOMATION, vol. 1 of the Circo del Herrero series. They are on facebook, twitter, tumblr, goodreads, and Vulcan’s shit list.]
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