Human Life from Different Perspectives An Anthology

Paula Urdaneta

University of Houston

ENGL 2330

Professor Bass


Human Life from Different Perspectives: An Anthology

Various theories have been put forth to explain human existence, thereby influencing contextual perspectives at different times. Arguably, it would be advantageous to anyone interrogating such existential theories to keep an open mind, for at some points the theories may agree with each other while completely disagreeing at other instances. Such is the kind of mindset one must adopt when reading literary texts whose authors have been influenced by different schools of thought as far as the concept of human life is concerned. Reading these texts in unity leaves no doubt that indeed life can be viewed from different perspectives, with some portraying it as meaningful or meaningless depending on the context. That makes sense more so considering that human beings are particularly sentient beings; with physical, emotional, and mental responses to everything in their vicinity. As such, the thought of creation or destruction of life will always be present in nature just as the possibility of artificial life to create an ideal or desired self. In this respect, the presence of existential crises gains relevance in the manner it brings into the picture the anxieties and inner conflicts accompanying human existence, responsibilities, freedom, independence, and issues relating to commitment and purpose. It is also in this context that concepts like isolation, meaninglessness, and death gain elevation because they lead to an array of psychological problems and there seem to be no final answers to them. In the absence of the implied existential crises, it is impossible for humans to truly discover or decide what meaning they wish to grant to their existence. Against the backdrop of this acknowledgement, it seems safe to infer that despite artificial life, technological advances and virtual reality, humans by nature are able to feel empathy regardless of any situation they encounter themselves by their sacred and unique identity that acts as a tool to allow them to be real.

An artificial life form seen in Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein turns out to be a frustration to its creator. The scientist, in his desire and desperation for greatness and success employs vast and advanced capacity of knowledge to create artificial life, which unfortunately leads to the unfolding of many negative events. For failure to get what he desired for when he set to make the creation, Victor Frankenstein ends up rejecting and hating it.

Due to the creator’s rejection of the creation, it (the creation) develops unpleasant behaviors that make it seem ‘less human’. This is what is usually observed in humans when presenting rejection and lack of nurture whereby they naturally demonstrate unpleasant characteristics. In the context of Frankenstein, this shows that the creature is equally human in every aspect. A more in-depth analysis of this work brings to the fore the issue of playing God where Frankenstein receives punishment for such an unimaginable transgression. Thus, he becomes the author’s tragic hero who suffers in the face of synthetic biology, thus the present inference that even in the face of such artificial life and technology, human nature remains unchanged (more so in terms of emotions and feelings).

Still in Frankenstein, Victor’s creature turns against him, but he does not fully acknowledge its existence. The way he treats it suggests he does not give much value to it, for he considers it a construct of flesh and an object that is an abomination. As for the monster, it longs to be recognized and acknowledge by Victor, but this is in vain. This monster remains in a state of misery and desperation. It knows it has no identity unless Victor validates it. This is the same situation that androids find themselves in in Philip Dick’s Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep since, unless they are validated by human, they have neither identity nor existence. True as it were, this behavior is noted among artificial forms of life encountered in broader science fiction literature. While they may be considered as forms of life by their creators, they are often wondering if they are real or if their existence is simply a simulation of the reality of human experience. Indeed, there are distinguishing traits between human life and these forms of artificial life.

Empathy, a significant human emotion, lacks when humans do not allow themselves to feel and understand others. Philip Dick in his Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep depicts a society made up of real and artificial humans, with the only distinguishing factor being empathy. In the story, the remaining and only surviving humans have produced androids, which are a form of life, all in a bid to refill the world and give it meaning following realization of the earth’s apocalyptic meaninglessness. Androids, a form of manufactured life, serves a wide range of social functions that have been lost or eroded by the war, including but not limited to hope and empathic contact. Nevertheless, android life’s artifice remains a mere mimicry that is used as an object of pursuing human authenticity. This begs the question as to what it means to be a human being. Here, one must interrogate the traits that define humanity. While humans are noted to be using androids and other forms of artificial life to reinforce or support their social functioning, they still call such artificial life into question and reject them. This is quite paradoxical because they are using such forms of life to add meaning to their own life. The difference between such artificial life and humans themselves is that the former lack feelings of empathy as well as compassion. As such, artificial forms of life such as androids may be considered to lead a life of their own, but they cannot be considered human since they do not display or experience the said feelings. Thus, empathy, compassion, and other feels are part and parcel of being human, hence a defining aspect of human life.

Technology is noted to have surpassed natural life through the creation of a dystopian futuristic world filled with a cybernetic culture. In Willian Gibson’s Neuromancer, society is absorbed by technology and sees the value of life based on their capacity to connect to the “cyberspace”. Characters reject their natural human qualities and prefer to feel “high enough” in order to feel connected to their desired reality. They do this to the extent of harming themselves with their lifestyle provoking dependency and addictions. In this story, one sees an artificial manipulator that uses human beings in its bid to overcome its limitations. Humans are noted to enjoy downloading the contents of their minds into the artificial virtual arena where death does not count in as far as categorizing artificial intelligence (AI) as an omniscience and omnipresent God is concerned. In this work, technology is elevated in the sense it transforms human identify, an example being the creation of a cyborg woman who happens to be a juxtaposition of the creature and creator, hence posthuman identity. This new creature, which can be said to be neither artificial nor human, can rightly be considered a natural or an original adaptation of a human and as such a technological evolution that makes the human being obsolete. As other stories in its category, this story depicts cyberspace as an arena for the creature to not only express its viewpoint but also make known its perception of human beings. Overall, the core human characteristics are absent in the creature.

In a word, by paralleling a real society with a nightmarish futuristic dystopia these different yet similar stories propose that core human traits like empathy and compassion are what define a human being as a living soul who naturally develops a need for belonging. It is important to keep in mind that people’s own experiences and existences define and shape their views as worthy of being called “human” despite being artificial or lost (in reality). The synthesized texts could not demonstrate this fact any better.