人日(ren ri), humanity and memories
Yesterday was Ren Ri (人日), the 7th day of the Lunar New Year, directly translated as ‘human’s day’ and the day that humans were created. By extension that means it was everyone’s birthday. It was no coincidence then that I was watching a review of Mamoru Oishii’s ‘Ghost In The Shell’ (GITS) sci-fi animation film which was originally released in 1995. The life-action adaptation of the original film starring Scarlett Johansson will be out later this year:
Oishii’s GITS primarily deals with the theme of what humanity means, through the protagonist cyborg Motoku Kusanagi’s experience and questions about her ‘ghost’ or soul as she clearly has a robotic body but yet questions her own existence through her mind and consciousness, as though she had memories or experience of a past life. Although Kusanagi was created as a cyborg, the opening scenes in GITS in which the artificial ‘body’ was created and the ‘brain’ was planted into the ‘head’, together with the curled foetal position before she was ‘born’ as a person seemed to mimic natural human birth.
Personally some questions I had from the film were: If our consciousness or memories were decoupled from our bodies or lived experiences, are these memories still valid? What if our memories could be ‘downloaded’ as data and placed into ‘bodies’ as we wish? In the age of data and advanced robotics in the foreseeable future, what does being human mean? Can consciousness ‘develop’ without a physical body like the Puppet Master in the movie?