Constructs of Humanity

Daniel Parke

"...artificially resurrected under the auspices of the real, in a world of simulation..." [Simulation and Simulacra, 8]*

  • (A) the flatline
  • (B) the past ==>

    "The confinement of the scientific object is equal to the confinement of the mad and the dead." [Simulation and Simulacra, 9]

    Perhaps McCoy Pauley, mentor to Case before the events of Neuromancer and disturbing buddy-in-a-box during, went into death unwillingly, reluctantly... but we know that his resurrection was planned, or at least, expected (origin). We also know that his afterlife was not worth hanging around for when he asked Case to erase him.

    What we do not know is why Sense/Net had "Paid him mega, you bet your ass" to make a recording of Dixie. Neither do we know the technology they used, any theories behind it, or all of its limitations, but those are not central here. Why would Sense! /Net pay for the recording of human mind and once they had it store it in a sub basement unused?

    Baudrillard speaks of the museumification-prone nature of post modern culture, but what he gets at goes far beyond the idea of museums as a physical or virtual structure, and to me the idea he develops is far more reminiscent of cages for a zoo, pe! destals for hero worship, pits for stoning. Like the intense preservation of mummies that were doing fine on their own and the duplication of the Lascaux caves for low-impact appreciation, the Flatline construct is a static duplication of a once dynamic mind, a duplication that is a flawed simulation of the real model. Dixie not only becomes aware of his own artificiality but also realizes his that his existance as such is undesirable. He loathes himself because part of him realizes that he is not the real McCoy (sorry, couldn't resist).

    "It is possible that the memory of the original grottoes is itself stamped in the minds of future generations, but from now on there is no longer any difference: the duplication suffices to render both artificial. [Simulation and Simulacra, 9]

    We do not know what it was like for the real McCoy Pauley to be recorded, but it seems that duplication did nothing to make him artificial physically. The effect it seems to have on those who knew both Dixies (e.g. Case) is a alteration of their memory of the man as a whole. Case's promise to pull the plug on the construct seems to be made with sadness and out of respect for the man Case knew (both present and deceased).

    Yet in the quote above Baudrillard is talking about the caves at Lascaux covered in prehistoric paintings. When the cave began to show signs of it's touristic visitors a duplication was made close by so that sightseers could appreciate the site wit! hout destroying it... and without actually seeing it.

    "Our entire linear and accumulative culture collapses if we cannot stockpile the past in plain view." [Simulation and Simulacra, 10]

    It would seem that Sense/Net had no other immediate purpose in mind when they comissioned a recording of Pauley than to store him away for later use. The mind is commodified and filed away. Once it has been boxed** it may be forgotten.

    On a larger scale it seems that our culture is based on revealing, restoring, and replicating the past... we revel in it... we need it. But what do we make that is new other than better means to facilitate our reverence of the past? In short what past are we leaving of ourselves?

    In Gibson it seems that the pinacle of our archival tendancies are found in the Flatline construct. We are no longer venerating austere oil paintings, foggy photographs, or technicolor movies of our past, we are simulating our past. Selectively encoding the portions we want and saying "There, that is our man" when it is not the man that lived but a simulation of him: incomplete, idealized, and static. It is not Einstein's brain in a jar, it is not the bones of a venerated saint, it is the grating laughter and short term memory of a simulacrum pretending to be, imagining itself to be, it's model. Corpses and formaldhyde soaked grey matter don't make such a claim, and while they are feeble grasps at the past, they do not seek to emulate or deceive...

    "We require a visible past, a visible continuum, a visible myth of origin, which reassures us about our end. Because finally we have never believed in them." [Simulation and Simulacra, 10]


    * "...artificially resurrected under the auspices of the real, in a world of simulation, of the hallucination of truth, of the blackmail of the real, of the murder of every symbolic form and of its hysterical, historical r! etrospection-- a murder... that for a long time has extended to all Western societies."
    [Simulation and Simulacra, 8-9]

    ** "It is science that masters the objects, but it is the object that invest it with depth, according to an unconscious reversion, which only gives a dead and circular response to a dead and circular interrogation."
    [Simulation and Simulacra, 9]

    "Our culture dreams... of an order that would have nothing to do with it, and it dreams of it because it exterminated it by exhuming it as its own past."
    [Simulation and Simulacra, 10]

    [To other discussions of Baudrillard by members of English 111, Cyberspace and Critical Theory, Spring 1998.]

    Theory Cyberspace OV Website Overview