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Ghost in The Shell: Stand Alone Complex - Machine Désirantes

Updated: Feb 18, 2021

In the Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex series, episode 15 of season 1, Machine Désirantes, the Tachikoma units begin to develop individuality. Tachikomas are machines used by Section 9 that are equipped with artificial intelligence. The units synchronize all data and experiences, and as a result have trouble remembering which unit experienced what.

However, in this episode, the units begin to develop individuality from the group. As a result of the Tachikomas developing their own unique personalities, they begin to ponder life, death, and other mysteries of the universe. Since all data and experiences are synchronized, to some extent, the group of units act as one artificial intelligence. That is, the artificial intelligence is having a conversation with itself... self-reflecting on the nature of reality. Perhaps not unlike the conversations that go on in our head.

One conversation that takes place early in the episode is found below. Interestingly, the units contemplate how humans interacting with robots is changing the human understanding of life.

Tachikoma 1: What do you suppose alive is?

Tachikoma 2: Hmm... that's hard to say. You see the definition of the word "life" itself is quite variable.

Tachikoma 1: What do you mean?

Tachikoma 2: By coming into regular and increasing contact with robots the image humans typically have of life is subconsciously altering. I believe that humans are the ones that are changing. Not robots.

Later in the episode, one Tachikoma gets really deep.

Tachikoma: Well... its individuality.

Batou: Individuality?

Tachikoma: Yeah, and do you remember that existence of God thing that I had so much trouble understanding. Well guess what? I think I'm starting to grasp it now. Here's my theory, maybe just maybe it is a concept that is similar to a zero in mathematics. In other words it is a symbol that denies the absence of meaning. The meaning that is necessitated by the delignation from one system to another. In analog that's God. In digital, it is zero. What do you think? What I'm getting at is this. The base of our design is digital, right? So for the time being regardless of how much data we accumulate, none of us will ever have a ghost. But for analog base people like you Mr. Batou, no matter how many digital components you add on through cyberization and prosthetics your ghost will never diminish. Plus because you have a ghost, you can even die. You're so lucky. Tell me, what's it feel like to have a ghost?

Batou: What's it feel like? Ahh... boy was I wrong earlier. Yes, you are definitely one messed up Tachikoma.

What is most delightful about this episode and the script, is how it may relate to human evolution. Yet at the same time, we are seeing glimpses of things to come. The past, present, and future coming together. At one point in evolution, we may have been like the Tachikomas awakening for the first time to the concept of individuality and self-awareness--the separation of the family or group social unit into individual personalities with independent thoughts, or rather the delignation from one system to another. In a previous blog post, "The Hive" concept was introduced.

In regards to God, zero, and a symbol that denies the absences of meaning... where have we seen this before? How about the famed mathematician Srinivasa Ramanujan? As noted by Prasanta Chandra Mahalanobis, Ramanujan would talk about “zero” as the symbol of the absolute... the absolute negation of all attributes." Ramanujan goes further to talk about how all other finite numbers are the creation of the product of infinity and zero. More about Ramanujan's thoughts can be found here.

Anyway, what do you think? Do you agree with the Tachikoma? Is technology changing the meaning of life?

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