The Container Of My Person
“There were times, I told him, at the age of five, six, seven, when it was a shock to me that I was trapped in my own body. Suddenly I would feel locked into an identity, trapped inside myself, as if the container of my person were some kind of terrible mistake. My own voice and arms, my name, seemed wrong. As if I were a dispersed set of nodes that has been falsely organized into a form, and I was living in a nightmare, forced to see from out of this limited and unreal ‘me.’” — The Flamethrowers by Rachel Kushner
I wonder if you’ve ever felt trapped in this way. I have, of course, and I suspect that you have too. Carrie Fisher said on Twitter (captioning a photo of her dog): “My body is my brain bag, it hauls me around to those places & in front of faces where theres something to say or see” [sic]. It’s unclear whether Carrie meant to apply this sentiment to herself or the dog, but it certainly applies to me. Her comment is a poem about how it feels to be an awful meat-sack — it feels, predictably, awful. Piloting this body is a slog.
The promise of virtual reality is to free us from such “real”-world restraints. What will our avatars look like in a hundred years? Post-gender and post-form, or exactly like the musclebound hunks and bit-titted blondes that titillate today’s Second Life denizens? We mustn’t forget the furries and weaboos, already a significant contingent of any visually oriented social network (which is all of them) (especially 4chan) (maybe they don’t haunt Instagram? idk).
Part of what draws me to cyberpunk, as an aesthetic / lifestyle / political ideal, is that I hate the tyranny of my physical form. I’m restricted to this flesh, to this brain full of misfiring synapses, and here’s the worst part: every experience that makes up who I am is filtered through faulty nerves. Wouldn’t my identity be completely different in a body with unfamiliar memories? Imagination says that I would be myself but better — yet I’m imposing my illusion of control on a hypothetical future. I’m not in charge of developing these simulation products. I don’t know what options and settings will be available.
Neither do you — don’t forget. Keep hacking, because the rest of us haven’t learned how.