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In the ‘original’ (1978) and ‘reimagined’ (2003) versions of the science fiction film and TV program Battlestar Galactica, the Cylons are a mechanical race of beings created by mankind but which have turned on their creator.
In the reimagined TV series, the Cylons may look exactly like human beings. Not unlike the Hal 9000 in 2001: A Space Odyssey, the Borg and The Matrix, Cylons symbolize the possibility of mankind becoming endangered by machines. And on the sociological level, Cylons could be taken to represent the very real issues of depersonalization, alienation and, as sociologist Max Weber put it, the bureaucratization and rationalization of human beings in contemporary society. Not only that. As the above poster suggests, Cylons could represent hostile spies in otherwise healthy societies.
The background story to the Cylons is pretty complicated. It’s actually quite amazing how thoroughly the Battlestar Galactica writers fleshed out – maybe not the best metaphor in this instance – their identity.¹
The word Cylon, itself, stems from an actual Athenian nobleman.
¹ Especially in the reimagined series: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cylon_%28reimagining%29
- [Books] Battlestar Galactica: The Cylon’s Secret (geeky-guide.com)
- WATCH THIS: “Battlestar Galactia: Blood & Chrome” (lezgetreal.com)
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- ‘Battlestar Galactica: Blood & Chrome’ Blu-ray Review: Prequel Mocks Pre-9/11 Mindset (breitbart.com)
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- Luke Pasqualino and Ben Cotton Talk ‘Battlestar Galactica: Blood and Chrome’ (advocate.com)
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- Artificial Intelligence (unrealengine.com)
According to the Swiss psychiatrist Carl Jung, the archetypal image is a representation of an underlying archetype. Archetypal images symbolize and mediate the psychological power of the collective unconscious to the ego (i.e everyday consciousness).
Through different types of expression (e.g. works of art and architecture), mankind translates these hidden archetypal forces into the observable world of human culture.
Some modern and ancient examples of archetypal images would be figures like Godzilla, the Klingons, The Cylons, Luke Skywalker, Spiderman, Superman, Superwoman, Batgirl, Marilyn Monroe, Spock, the Magician, the Witch, the Angel, Yahweh and the Devil.
Jung believes the ancients did not always see archetypal images as mere symbols, but often as actual things in themselves. The Indian sun god, Surya, for instance, was not a symbol but a real deity, diurnally traveling across and lighting up the sky in a splendid chariot. Likewise, many American Indian cultures firmly believe their myths tell of actual ancient events and heroic ancestors. And today, Catholics believe that the Eucharist is not just a symbol but the real presence – in essence but not form – of the body and blood of Jesus Christ.¹
On the topic of UFOs, Jung believed the rounded flying saucers of the 1950s were archetypal images of the human self, not unlike the mandala. By the same token, Jung didn’t rule out the possibility of actual UFOs.
However, Jung was not as open-minded with regard to Christian truth-claims, choosing to adapt them to his own theories. At times he speaks of the crucifixion of Jesus, for instance, as producing an upwardly skewed symbol of the self (i.e. the crucifix) instead of seeing Jesus’ death as a saving sacrifice and absolute victory over evil, as do most Christians. Some might argue that Jung’s and the Christian view do not really differ. Others do believe that they differ on important points—most notably, on the nature of and how to deal with evil.²
¹ Belief, alone, does not create truth out of falsehood. But as Plato pointed out, a true belief does relate to an actual truth, if not knowledge of that truth.
² An interesting follow-up to this point can be found in Jung’s relationship with the Dominican priest, Victor White. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Victor_White_%28priest%29
- Forum II: Archetype (imanberhan.wordpress.com)
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- Animus (earthpages.wordpress.com)
- Carl Jung on the “Dechristianlzation” of our world… (carljungdepthpsychology.blogspot.com)
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- Psychology in Writing: Anima and Animus – Introduction (wtjowett.wordpress.com)
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HAL 9000 is name of the paranoid supercomputer in Arthur C. Clarke and Stanley Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey.
The alphabetical letters immediately following each of the letters in Hal’s name are IBM, suggesting that Hal represents the dark side of computing.
Hal is a clever, if violent and strange, machine. After murdering the Jupiter-bound astronaut Frank Pool during a spacewalk and attempting to murder his colleague Dave Bowman in a space pod, Hal rightly suspects that the sole survivor, Bowman, is about to disconnect his higher processing functions. He tells Dave:
“I honestly think you ought to sit down calmly, take a stress pill and think things over.”
Later, while being stripped to his basic functions, Hal laments “I’m afraid, Dave.”
The film indirectly poses the philosophical question: Do machines possess consciousness? Only recently have philosophers of science considered the possibility that artificial intelligence (AI) may be not only sentient but also alive.
Apart from this issue, Hal arguably represents what writer Erich Fromm and C. G. Jung saw as the mass or “mechanical” aspect of mankind. Mechanical men and women follow the herd, do not express individual aspirations, and are always eager to blame their personal moral defects on someone else.
However, the HAL story becomes more complicated in later novels like 2010 (also a film), 2064 and 3001, where the literary device of retroactive continuity. Some plot and setting details are modified by Clarke but not at the expense of a greater, more holistic sense of coherence. For instance, in the sequel film 2010 we learn that HAL was told to lie by Washington, which was incompatible with HAL’s programming.
So the computer’s sinister ‘malfunction’ in 2001 becomes something more of an unavoidable (and forgivable) psychosis, ultimately caused by human error, as HAL ironically indicated in the original film.
3001 explores an intriguing idea where Dave Bowman (consciousness of human origin) unites with HAL (a computer program) to create a new kind of hybrid being named Halman.
Dave Bowman and the HAL 9000 from Arthur C. Clarke and Stanley Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey (Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer (MGM) 1968)
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The Matrix is a 1999 science fiction film written by Andy and Larry Wachowski, starring Keanu Reeves as Neo.
The Matrix is part of a trilogy. The first film gained the attention of pop culture theorists through its depiction of the world as a deceptive computer program (called ‘the matrix’ by those in the know) designed to enslave human beings.
The majority of humanity exists in a state of comatose slavery, plugged into a master computer which, through cyber connectivity, creates the illusion of everyday life. Essentially, people are nothing more than dreaming ‘batteries’ for the matrix, living in a horrendous vault and living on a liquid that itself is the product of the dead.
Neo apparently is “The One” destined to free humanity from this mass cybernetic deception. His mentor Morpheus (and other awakened liberators) believes in his special status and liberates him. As it turns out, Morpheus is right. Neo really is the one.
However, Neo wouldn’t have made it if not for the love of Trinity (played by Carrie-Anne Moss), who at one point literally brings him back to life with a kiss.
Search Think Free » Hero, Soul Loss, Talbot (Michael), Virtual Reality
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M. H. Abrams says that at the most fundamental level a symbol is anything that signifies something else.
Abrams also notes that a distinction is often made between the public and private symbol. The public symbol, such as the cross, is apparently understood by everyone in a given culture whereas the private symbol, such as an obscure poetic allusion, isn’t.
This distinction, however, seems open to debate: Surely not everyone in a given culture interprets the cross in the same way.
In literature a symbol is
a word or phrase that signifies an object or event which in turn signifies something, or suggests a range of reference, beyond itself (A Glossary of Literary Terms, 2005, p. 320).
In depth psychology, Carl Jung says the symbol is a meaningful image that mediates healing or destructive forces from the collective unconscious to ego consciousness–for example, the symbol of the Cross or Serpent.
Jung says symbols arise from the unknowable archetypes but are recognized as archetypal images. Archetypes interpenetrate among themselves; likewise, archetypal images are discrete but exhibit similarities. For Jung the flow of psychic energy between the collective unconscious and the symbol is a two-way process.
Jungian Erich Neumann says that the symbol acts as both as an “energy transformer” and as a “moulder of consciousness.” As an energy transformer the symbol facilitates the ego’s experience of the numinous, arising from the collective unconscious. As a moulder of consciousness, the symbol operates on the level of collective consciousness by contributing to the ideology of a given culture.
Jung says the interconnected conscious and unconscious aspects of humanity cannot be severed. He’s widely quoted as saying in The Undiscovered Self (1958):
You can take away a man’s gods, but only to give him others in return.
Likewise, political leaders of the mass state cannot avoid being glorified or demonized. This occurs through brute force, clever calculation and also through public fascination and projection.
Jung believes, for example, that a mass-produced placard image of Joseph Stalin expresses an archetypal force articulated on the conscious level that both sways and oppresses individuals.
A more contemporary example would be the disempowering psychological effect that massive bank towers (symbolizing ‘Big Business’) have on the poor and disenfranchised. And in ancient cultures such as Greece, Rome and Egypt, impressive architecture apparently had a similar effect on slaves, the exploited, the underprivileged and on less powerful visitors from foreign cultures.
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Sociology is usually defined in terms of the ‘scientific’ or ‘systematic’ study of society, two notions that postmodern – and just serious – thinkers today openly question.
The term was coined by Auguste Comte (1798-1857), although others were thinking sociologically (i.e. examining social trends and truth claims) well before his time.
On the Web:
- For a mainline view, Wikipedia provides good coverage of the chief figures now known as part and parcel of sociology. » http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sociology
» Advertising, Athleticism, Charisma, Christianity, Class, Cylons, Deviance, Durkheim (Emile), Ethical Prophet, Exemplary Prophet, False Consciousness, Functionalism, Gutenberg (Johannes), Hobbes (Thomas), Ideal types, Individual Rights and Freedoms, Language, Magic, Neurosis, Nineteen Eighty-Four, Occam’s Razor, Parsons (Talcott), Party, Saint-Simon (Comte Henri de), Scholarship, Science, Sophists, Status, Structuralism, Suicide, Totem, Weber (Max)
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Science Fiction (sci-fi)
A genre of literature, TV and film sometimes trivialized by the arts and literary establishment.
Critics say science fiction characters are wooden, two-dimensional ‘cardboard cutouts’ rarely developed in the manner of, say, a Holden Caufield (J. D. Salinger’s The Catcher in the Rye) or a Hagar Shipley (Margaret Laurence’s The Stone Angel).
Some sci-fi writers accept this criticism, saying the medium began as an exploration into the human imagination rather than as a commentary on the human condition.
By way of contrast, H. G. Wells, George Orwell and more recent authors like Frank Herbert (Dune), Ursula Le Guin (The Dispossessed), Kurt Vonnegut (Cat’s Cradle, Slaughterhouse Five) and filmmaker Stanley Kubrick’s intense rendering of Arthur C. Clark’s 2001: A Space Odyssey have helped to change the face of sci-fi.
Indeed, William Shatner, who plays Star Trek’s Captain Kirk, says that a good science fiction story must be grounded in distinct human experiences.
Gonzo Bonzo adds:
If you’re looking for some good science fiction focused on characters, you’d better read some of the novels from Robert Silverberg. Dying Inside, which is about a telepath in an early 70’s NYC, who’s losing his power, or Man in a Maze talks about the first astronaut ever to meet alien lifeforms, who comes back being unable to hide his feeling and emotions to his fellow humans, and who chose to exile on giant maze. Book of Skulls is also a good example of human centered SciFi, with very complex and multi-dimensional characters.
In more recent efforts authors like Jeff Vandermeer, Vernor Vinge (with his wonderful Rainbows End), Paul J.McAuley, Iain M.Banks, China Miéville or Ian R.McLeod are good examples of what SciFi is these days. » Source
Regardless of condescension from those literati who think they know best, sci-fi finds itself in a unique position to explore unconventional ideas that the worldly wise regard as ludicrous and unworthy of attention.
An historical example of a truly great sci-fi visionary is Leonardo Da Vinci (1452–1519). Leonardo worked as a military engineer and inventor in Italy. He was venerated in France as a genius and some of his more imaginative sketches depicted flying machines, robots, a tank and submarines. But Da Vinci kept many of these innovative sketches secret, most likely to avoid ridicule.
While sci-fi may still encounter a similar kind of prejudice, the runaway success of J. J. Abrams’ Star Trek film indicates that the snobs out there may just be incredibly jealous. After all, who can distinguish other than for themselves what’s treasure and what’s trash?
» 2001: A Space Odyssey, Abyss, Alien Possession Theory (APT), Borg, Artificial Intelligence (AI), Asimov (Isaac), Cylons, Hal 9000, Lewis (C. S.), Lexx, Matrix (The), Occam’s Razor, Parallel Universes, Roberts (Jane), Star Trek, Star Wars, Tek War, Temporal Paradox, Virtual Reality
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Weber, Max (1864-1920) Pioneering German sociologist who suffered a mental collapse and is said to have recovered through rationality.
Along with Karl Marx and Emile Durkheim, Weber is usually regarded as one of the ‘big three’ in classical sociological theory.
We don’t know if Weber was fully aware of Marx but his notions of status and party extend Marxist analysis, which focussed on the idea of class, ownership and the means of production.
For Weber, social position rests not only on economic class but also on status (i.e. social prestige, such as a priest or judge) and party (i.e. political power).
Unlike Marx, whose theory was geared toward social transformation, Weber sought only to understand.
In studying the major world religions Weber made important contributions to the sociology of religion, particularly with regard to his development of ideal types, his work on charisma and the distinction made between ethical vs. exemplary prophets.
Because of the vast scope of Weber’s work on religion, and due to his reliance on translations of original texts, some scholars argue that he constructs a ‘grand theory’ based on sometimes misunderstood scriptures.
Regardless, Weber produced a recognized classic, The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism, in which he argued that the Calvinist view of salvation fostered the development of Capitalism.
According to Weber, the Protestant ‘work ethic’ sanctioned hard worldly work and the reinvestment of profits as a fulfillment of religious duty.
The Protestant population could be simultaneously wealthy, religious and guiltless–an ethic already present among Jewish minorities throughout Europe.
» Caste, Class, Comte (August), Cylons, Ethical Prophet, Marx (Karl), Exemplary Prophet, Language, Party, Protestantism, Relations of Production, Scholarship, Sociology, Status
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Artificial Intelligence (AI) One of the more interesting issues in contemporary philosophy and science fiction is that of machines possessing consciousness.
When we consider that human consciousness is in large part affected by our bodies and especially the biochemical charges running through of the brain, nervous system and organs, we’re compelled to ask if the organizational properties of a machine or electrical circuit could have a similar effect with electricity.
In other words, some wonder if ‘the whole would be greater than the sum of its parts’ within the realm of man-made machines.
This may sound far-fetched to the conventional scientific mind but several religious perspectives, especially within Asian and New Age traditions, believe that energy itself is conscious.
Further to the idea that degree of energy organization is linked to the degree of specialization within consciousness, one could go as far to say that a computer, when turned on, generates a more specialized kind of consciousness than that of a single electron or simple electric current.
Critics object to this hypothesis by saying it represents mere projection–i.e. an observer wrongly imagines that his or her type of consciousness could belong to an external object.
Today, conventional science tends to use the term AI as it relates to speech and character recognition. More recently, “digital seeing” links optics with computers so robots can identify shapes and thus navigate environments.
The idea of AI has been explored by numerous science-fiction writers, sometimes humorously and other times intelligently.
Several TV and film robots have become a part of Western pop culture-e.g. The Tin Man in The Wizard of Oz, Maria in Fritz Lang’s Metropolis, Robbie the Robot in Lost in Space, Hymie in Get Smart, Hal 9000 in 2001: A Space Odyssey, C3PO and R2D2 in Star Wars, Commander Data in Star Trek: TGN, The Terminator in the film of the same name, and the Cylons in BattleStar Galactica.
Other questions posed by science fiction are whether or not AI would possess not just consciousness, but emotions and a soul.
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2001: A Space Odyssey (1968) Science-fiction novel by Arthur C. Clarke, as well as a film with screenplay by Clarke and Stanley Kubrick, starring Keir Dullea and Gary Lockwood.
While the novel helps to flesh out the enigmatic film, it’s a bit pedantic. The film, on the other hand, is regarded as a cinematic classic.
In the film two interconnected themes are explored with a bare minimum of dialogue: (1) Mankind vs. Machine, and (2) Mankind in Evolution.
The machine, a HAL 9000 computer, malfunctions and murders astronaut Frank Pool and several others traveling in suspended animation en route to Jupiter (Saturn in the novel). The lone survivor, Dave Bowman, disconnects HAL’s higher processing modules, despite HAL’s advice to “take a stress pill, relax, and think it over.”
Bowman is then transported through an alien gateway to a distant world. Dying, he is reborn a Star Child.
In Clarke’s original story the child-god returns to Earth to safely detonate an orbiting hydrogen bomb. Unsure what to do next, he will “think of something.”
The catalyst for the Jupiter mission (and eventual transformation of Bowman) is a strange signal emanating from an anomalous, rectangular object discovered just underneath the Moon’s surface.
The film tells us that another, identical object was present on Earth at the dawn of mankind. The novel explains that the object, often called the monolith, was planted by aliens in order to guide the evolution of mankind.
The screenplay is far more open-ended than the novel. But both portray astronaut Dave Bowman’s metamorphosis in a way consistent with various mythic cycles relating to the theme of death and transformation.
Subsequent novels like 2010 (also a film), 2064 and 3001 use the literary device of retroactive continuity. That is, certain plot and setting details are modified by Clarke but not at the expense of a greater, more holistic sense of coherence. For instance, in the sequel film 2010 we learn that the HAL 9000 was told to lie by Washington, which was incompatible with HAL’s programming. So the computer’s somewhat sinister ‘malfunction’ of 2001 becomes something more of an unavoidable and forgivable psychosis ultimately caused by human error, as HAL ironically indicated in the original film.
3001 explores an intriguing idea where consciousness of human origin (Dave Bowman) unites with a computer program (HAL) to create a new kind of hybrid named Halman. » Cylons
Official 2001: A Space Odyssey Trailer
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