Rucker, Immortality, and Shallowness
Firstly, I'd like to give Steve Cook a huge pat on the back/cephscope/teledildo for his essay. It brings up points and issues that are central both to the class and, one could argue, to human development in centuries to come. Luckily, Cook hasn't limited his discussion of the topics that I too will shortly broach on to their treatment in Rucker's Software, which I agree too often takes the easy way out. Rucker's treatment of alternative consciousness and immortality in particular, were shallow enough to dilute some genuine good hard thought by Cook and Jake George in his essay " Immortality--Where do I Sign? "
Individual/ individualized intelligence and existence are given interesting treatment in the first part of Cook's essay. His discussion of the subjectivist prejudice implicit in making the Boppers villains certainly does well to point out Software's shortcomings ( and, indirectly, Rucker's), but leaves a few things out. It is fine to criticize Rucker's lack of imagination in his dealings with the possibility of other types of consciousness, but we can't really blame him for his favoritism concerning it. On the whole, we humans seem to like the way we humans live a whole bunch better than we like the way anything else does. Even a discussion of what is, as Cook puts it "evolutionarily successful", doesn't seem to work, in that our standards in such matters cannot help but be completely overrun by our anthropomorphic assumptions. Take, for example, the human conceptions of evolution. Paraphrasing terribly, our understanding of evolution can be boiled down to a sentence: that which survives was better. Of course, any student of quantum physics could point out how ludicrous such a claim is, given that each instant the very bodies that we accredit with evolutionarily-gained toughness are being destroyed and recombined in a impossibly rapid hubbub of subatomic matter. The only thing that survives is energy. Naturally, we do not think in such terms, or rather, we don't usually think in such terms. We can all agree that Rucker's book is usual, why should the discussion of it doesn't have to be?
immortality in his essay. Certainly, the allure of being able to break big things or change the way one looks would present anyone with fun for a little while, but should our conceptions of the eternal end there? Consider the idea touched on by Scott Barnes in his book Kaleidoscope Century in which true immortality is attained, not by overdeveloped human beings with copper inlaid throughout their bodies (as Rucker would have us believe) but by memes, ideas that inhabit complex structures (brains, identities, and psyches, etc.) and exist there. Given the choice, I'd rather the life span of religion, self-preservation, of even greed to Cobb's hardware any day.
[To other discussions of Rudy Rucker's - Ware trilogy (Software, Wetware, and Freeware) by members of English 111, Cyberspace and Critical Theory, Spring 1998.]