Closer to Nature than You Think

Zachariah Boyle

"Preserving your software . . . that was all that really counted!"

In their simplistic existence, Boppers (even though they are collections of wires and resisters) might be closer to nature than we are. Like animals, they act instinctively and without thought, living only to pass on their genes (well, sort of). The emotions and actions that hide the instincts that we humans possess are stripped bare in a return to the beginnings -- to the fortified soup that spawned us and gave way to species and class (similar to the crawling wasteland of AI that birthed the Boppers). Of course, in the absurd world that Software presents, it's a little hilarious (if not depressing, too). Using the part of Software that Laura Lee cited:

"I want to have sex." "I'm glad," Annie said. "So do I." "SEX routine now activated," the voice said. "OUT," Cobb said. "It's out?" Annie asked. "I thought you wanted to." Cobb felt his pants tightening in front. "I do, I do." (p. 134)

Some people wonder if it would be painful to be a human trapped within an animal's body. A human intellect and thoughts, but having an instinctive portion of your frame and brain that took over during certain moments, leaving the human part to resume control during quiet moments. Torture? Perhaps. It is for poor Cobb, who is constantly fighting a war within between the powers of the software and his own remaining human half. A painful life for these ghosts of humanity, as it were.

Most of the time, a human embodiement of a gene is threatening. The combined lack of intellect and emotion and the constant animal drive to procreate at any cost, pressed into a human form, is downright disturbing. For example, in the popular sci-fi film Species the alien-woman was a threat to humanity -- a violent alien bound into the form of a promiscuous, attractive woman (whew).

However, the boppers also engage in "sexual reproduction", with female and male boppers working together to create a new bopper, each contributing from their stash of hardware. Mutation also occurs.

Dating, foreplay, etc. are dropped away as raw (and human) emotions are displayed by the robots. Sex for the boppers is a means of passing on software in a mutual, productive mingling of forms. Animaline. Genes and chromosones. The result is a combination, mix of the two softwares/genes. Mutual survival.

However, in Software this is just a sad combination -- a pity for Cobb. The boppers live to pass on their software. The actions that humans have that cover blind instinct are stripped bare but never fully gone for the Misties and Cobbs out there.

What does this mean? Boppers, perhaps, embody the return to nature. However, in the absurd world that Rucker creates, they are a sad parody, a hysterical hilarity like the replicants of Blade Runner. but all the less threatening.

[To other discussions of Rudy Rucker's - Ware trilogy (Software, Wetware, and Freeware) by members of English 111, Cyberspace and Critical Theory, Spring 1998.]