Verius deus quam machina?

Greg Halenda, '08, The Cyborg Self, Brown University, Spring 2005

When do cyborgs become too powerful? While similarities between humans and AI technology has always been a common theme in the genre, what about a parallel similarity between an AI and God?

Take the Puppet-Master from Ghost in the Shell as an example. It can completely alter its victim's memories, making them believe they are totally different people than they actually are. It places them into an alternate sense of reality, and thus gains power to influence the thoughts and deeds of its victims. In this sense, the AI has gained a supernatural power.

Perhaps Orson Scott Card's Homecoming series [offsite materials] presents an even better example. Taking place in a post-apocalyptic future where the Earth has been destroyed by a nuclear winter, the remaining humans have fled to a new planet called Basilica. On this planet, an AI hovers above in a satellite network, protecting the human race by impeding technological development. This Oversoul gives man some technology (such as laser hunting rifles called pulses), but hasn't even allowed him to develop the wheel. Any time the Oversoul senses that man has thought of a new technology which would make him more able to wreak mass destruction once again, the Oversoul uses a psychic-like connection and modifies memories or influences the human to think of other things. This gives the Oversoul watchful role very similar to that of a supernatural being, and also great powers to fulfill that role And, once the Oversoul fuses with a human, it is able to give him supernatural powers, probably making it one of the most powerful AIs conceived in the genre.


Once a digital entity has the ability to modify our thoughts, memories, etc., are they still close to a human, or are they becoming all-powerful?

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Last modified 22 March 2005