Many works of science fiction repeatedly portray a “post-human” world where the concepts of “human” and “humanity” have undergone a radical transformation, so that “what is human” needs to be redefined. However, posthumanism is also more than a redefinition of the human; it is an “anti-anthropocentric” proposition that emphasizes non-human agents in the world. Writers, directors, critics, and theorists have tried hard to portray such a posthuman world, but it always ends up in humanism, or transhumanism and transhumanism, which refers to “human enhancement” through technology. The latter are merely a variant of the former, and they can still be ultimately subsumed under a kind of anthropo/superhuman centrism. As Nietzsche put it, “man is compelled to think, to analyze, from their own standpoint and perspective, but not beyond it.” The difficulty in depicting a truly posthuman world lies in the limits of our own consciousness and imagination as human beings.

Networking is taking us to an extreme degree of disembodiment of the biological body from consciousness, which can fundamentally change our definition of what it means to be human. The “ghost” refers to the consciousness and spirit, which exists in the “shell” that is, in the body. in How We Became Posthuman, Hayles identifies detachment from the biological matrix as a posthuman element. Hayles proposes that posthumans view the body as a primitive prosthesis, so it is natural and normal to replace, modify and extend it. In this perspective, the cyborg is the perfect posthuman paradigm. In What is Posthumanism, Wolfe focuses on the inevitable humanism that emerges from the posthumanist process and the autonomy and superiority of this idea. For Wolfe, the “tone” of Hayles’ How We Became Posthuman is to associate the posthuman with a disembodied triumph. Wolfe criticizes these “illusions of disembodiment and autonomy” as “inherited from humanism”, one must weaken the concept of the subject and abandon the privilege of the human being.” He argues that only by abandoning the concept of the human can speciesism be subverted and posthumanists become posthumanists. Wolfe tries to reimagine the concept of the subject as something that is not limited to human beings in order to answer what posthumanism is. He does not focus on what it is in history, but imagines what it might be if we no longer insist on maintaining human superiority.

In order to escape from human bondage, Oshii proposes a different way of transcending own limitations. Rather than focusing on own “disembodiment”, he sets up a spectrum of feelings around “innocence”, human and non-human feelings. The most perverse relationship occurs near the end of the film, when Bart empathizes with the mannequin as a mere “shell”. After rescuing the “consciousness” trapped in the mechanical dolls, he also realizes that the murdered inspector general has chosen to modify the ethical code to create a murder case in order to free the girls’ trapped consciousness and attract the attention of the police. At this point, Bart confronts the rescued girl, “Don’t you know what kind of chaos you’ve caused? I’m not just talking about humans… Haven’t you thought about the dolls that are forced to have souls?” This moment can be interpreted as a rebellion against “disembodiment”. Oshii seems to offer a new understanding of the unconscious body as an entity equal to human and non-human consciousness. In response to Bart’s questioning, the rescued girl replies resignedly, “I don’t want to become a human puppet!” , “If dolls could speak, they would also say I don’t want to be human.” This is a theory of existence that opposes the “subject as the core”.

Are emotions and feelings limited to human beings, organisms, and autonomous consciousness? Or do emotions and feelings also exist in human creatures? Oshii does not discuss only the subject in the posthuman era here, but puts the posthuman object and its relationship in this question as well. Or rather, in a truly posthuman perspective, there is no distinction between subject and object. The posthuman world is a world of systems rather than individuals. In Hayles’ Unfinished Work: From Cyborg to Cognisphere, Hayles presents a scenario beyond the cyber world she calls the cognisphere, which is a combination of “cogni-” and “-sphere”. In fact, it is very similar to the structure of the rhizome proposed by Deleuze in “A Thousand Plateaus”, which is a field without binary relations. It is not composed of individual organisms but a tightly connected complex system that keeps evolving. The “cognitive field”, like the world, is the embodiment and symbol of a dynamic stream of consciousness that arises between human, animal and mechanical. Its post-human subject is embedded in the “cognitive field” and cannot be separated from the information system. Innocence not only portrays this cognitive field in terms of characters and relationships, but it also generates a cultural cognitive field by means of references and references. It is a work in the style of Oshii, but it unfolds its content in a way that strongly dissolves the subjective consciousness of the “author”.

 

 

Reference:

Ghost in the Shell 2: Innocence. Dir. Oshii, Mamoru. Bandai Entertainment, 2004. Film.

Hayles, Nancy Katherine. How We Became Posthuman: Virtual Bodies in Cybernetics, Literature and Informatics. Chicago: Univ. of Chicago Press, 2010.

Hayles, Nancy Katherine. “Unfinished Work: From Cyborg to Cognisphere.” Theory, Culture & Society 23, no. 7-8 (2006): 159-66. https://doi.org/10.1177%2F0263276406069229