sci-fi fictions and movies and how they affect the idea of cyborg
For the final paper, I will be discussing the mutual influence between the reality and science-fictions regarding cyborgs and robots. Since the course objective is to “explore the history and theory of cyborgs and cyborgs in the many domains in which they have been influential to offer some answers to that questions,” I will research and focus on the history and cyborgs’ impact on society in both artistic and anthropologic perspectives. The last century has been an accelerated journey for cybernetics both on theory and on development thanks to the booming technology, and as result, more and more literature and movie scripts are based on the theme of robots and humanity; and my mission for the paper is to try looking for the changes made to and from books and movies by the theory of cyborgs.
One of the most influential piece of writing to me was Isaac Asimov’s I, Robot, which is a series of short stories told in a narrative in 21st century (and of course the world is still not what the book described yet). The stories in the book describe a world with cyborgs, robots and human living together in 21st century and interactions between the three kinds of beings. When reading it, the book inspired me to look back the trail of science fiction in the past century about what has changed and how the history of cybernetics has intertwined with the specific genre of writing. Written in 1950, I, Robot has an optimistic attitude towards the future with cybernetics and humans, although problems may appear. Similarly, in a more unrealistic setting, books and comics like Star Wars in 1970s do not expect much conflict between humans and the futuristic beings either. Compared to the imaginations in 20th century, our expectations to the robots and cyborgs have been more volatile as machines can actually achieve more in the reality with the computer science evolution; and the concerns are reflected in the market: more movies and shows like Westworld are selling the social and moral conflicts between machine beings and humans, and the audience are buying them.
The mindset difference in the past century is interesting to explore, and there are many books I would use to dig deeper into the subject: Philip K. Dick’s Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep is an intriguing source to start with, as the book was 1960s and multiple movie adaptions were made throughout the decades – movie Blade Runner in 1982, Blade Runner 2049 in 2017 and a short film Blade Runner Black Out 2022 in 2017. The script writers for the two movies have chosen different paths to add and cut when adapting from the original book, and there would be much to find and analyze the reasons for the editing in different eras.
Besides the famous books and movies, I would also like to use reference from trivial stuff in different eras to reflect the social image of cyborgs, like posters or book covers. For examples, there were many editions of I, Robot published in different eras, and the changes in the book covers can be analyzed to show the changes in public opinions regarding cyborgs.
To finalize my proposal, I would like to show my appreciation to the inspiring discussions by my classmates. The different perspectives on cyborg politics can help me better on analyzing the cyborg’s social image nowadays.
You need to involve the book Philip K. Dick – Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?
Your paper proposal proposes examining science fiction cyborgs and robots. You name 3 specific works: Isaac Asimov’s I, Robot, the Star Wars series, and the Blade Runner movies and their relationship to Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep. I think these are great source materials! I would actually encourage you, though, to just pick 1 of these to focus on, with maybe minor mentions of the others, especially since all three are series and/or include multiple different stories together. At the end of the day, your final paper will be long enough to do a deep dive into a series or set of short stories, but not really long enough to do substantive comparisons between them. Furthermore, all three of these series are VERY popular, and there has been a LOT of both scholarly and non-scholarly reviews and reflections about them. So no matter what you pick, you will have lots of other writers’ opinions on it to read and sort through to come ot your own conclusions.
Another thing to think about, as you pick one of these sources, is that you will want to spend a little bit of your research time and writing on the temporal and national context surrounding them. For example, you note that Asimov’s series is so hopeful, focused on the potential of future technologies. In many ways, this reflects some of the dominant optimism about the power of US technology in the early days of the Cold War and the space race in 1940s and 1950s US! Star Wars, at least the original trilogy, is from a different moment in the Cold War, when Us vs. Them stories and paranoia about spies in the midst of the good guys dominated many forms of cultural production. And then the Blade Runner series is interesting, because the first one comes from a similar paranoid moment, but the paranoia of the film is largely focused on US anxieties about falling behind Japan, economically and technologically (notice the ramen stalls at the beginning, how all of the tech and service workers and many of the people at street level are East Asian…). But then the newer films don’t really have any politics at all besides a celebration of and mourning for capitalism, a very 2010s US mood.
So in analyzing your chosen films/stories, in short, you will want to both examine how the narratives themselves work and the ideas about robots and cyborgs they encode, as well as considering what kind of hopes and fears they might convey that were related to the culture in which they were made at the time.