Autonomous Themes (con’t)
Let’s just keep going on the themes of the novel. We’ll jump back to Monday’s page if we need to.
Politics of Medicine
This will seem like an obvious observation, but this novel has a lot to say about the politics of Medicine. However, it also has a lot to say about supplements or drugs for enhancement. Zacuity’s promise alludes to the plethora of energy boosters advertised on TV. Of course, there are also prescription drugs that help focus attention.
- Here is a link to 2013 data on worldwide coffee consumption
- Here is a link to 2017 data on worldwide coffee consumption
- Here is a link to 2015-2017 energy drink sales
Questions for Autonomous
- Why do companies create energy boosting supplements? What does it say about a culture that consumes so much caffeine in the form of coffee and energy drinks?
- What’s the dilemma (assuming there is one) of profiting from developing new medicines to cure ailments?
- How do companies come up with the knowledge for creating new medicines?
A story about three Nobel Prize winning Scientists…
In 1998, The Nobel Assembly at Karolinska Institutet awarded that year’s prize in Physiology or Medicine to Robert F. Furchgott, Louis J. Ignarro and Ferid Murad. These scientists independently discovered that
NO [Nitric Oxide] is a signal molecule of key importance for the cardiovascular system and it was also found to exert a series of other functions. We know today that NO acts as a signal molecule in the nervous system, as a weapon against infections, as a regulator of blood pressure and as a gatekeeper of blood flow to different organs. (Nobelprize.org, Background, para. 2)
What do all three scientists have in common? Do you know what famous drug this discovery led to?
Gender and Sexuality
We started with Asimov and I, Robot, and now we’re at Oh, Robot!
Autonomous is pretty open about sexuality, and one could say the novel presents readers with cutting-edge sexuality. Robophilia is one of the main ideas the book presents, but I think there’s more to it than simply fetishizing robots. As with other works, there’s a comment about human relationships, and saying “it’s complicated” is an understatement! There is an old 1987 film “Cherry 2000” that deals with robophilia…not sure it’s class appropriate but good for a laugh.
Maybe this is just me, but did anyone else notice that the main characters weren’t married? I wonder if we can read anything into that?
The novel follows science fiction texts that make readers reflect on gender assignment, construction, and presentation (see Joanna Russ’s The Female Man and Ursula K. Le Guin’s The Left Hand of Darkness). Newitz also presents sexuality in a very open, non-judgmental way. There’s a reading-between-the-lines comment on sexuality as a spectrum as opposed to a binary. Obviously, Jack is open to a variety of relationships and isn’t committed to one gender. Eliasz is committed to heterosexuality, but it’s complicated. [Yes, our class discussion on this very complication will end up on Test 3.]
- p. 39: “Paladin was sure that [his wanting to pleas Eliasz] wasn’t just some indenture algorithm weighting his decision matrix; it was true desire.”
- p.40: “Eliasz had picked a nym for Paladin that was more commonly given to women, but gender designations meant very little among bots.”
- About “nym.” I’m not 100% sure why Newitz uses “nym” instead of name, but –nym is the Greek suffix for forming names.
- Perhaps it has something to do with dialect. Early in the novel, Threezed watched silent films from the 1910s and 1920s told Jack “it was easier for him to read the English intertitles than understand the weird accents in movies from later decades.”
- pp. 77-78: Eliasz and Paladin have an interesting encounter on the range…
- p. 80: The problem with getting sex ed from the internet: “On the public net, the subject of bots and human sexuality also revealed a wealth of data. But when Paladin eliminated representations from fiction and the sex industry, he found himself with almost no information.”
- p. 96: Eliasz is clearly uncomfortable discussing robophilia with Paladin until…
- p. 108: “[A] lot of roboticists believe that successful autonomous bots need kniship ties, and a period of childhood where they can experiment with different identities.”
- p. 126: Who tells Paladin Eliasz might be anthropomorphizing him?
- Similar to personification
- p. 146: “some bared their upper thighs and chests with transparent fabrics that suggested their skills were too important for employers to worry about modesty.”
- pp. 183-184: Why does Eliasz start calling Paladin “she”?
- p. 235: Eliasz was truly an anthropomorphizer; he saw Paladin’s human brain as her most vital part, especially because he believed it made her female.”
- pp. 257-258: Eliasz takes out his frustrations on a group when he was younger.
- p. 298: How does Paladin get her autonomous key?
Even though the book has many comments that disrupt gender as a binary, there are no androgynous main characters. However, we can complicate that because who could be androgynous? Also, do you notice anything about the relationship statuses of the characters?
If there’s time left in class, we’ll go back to last class’s page and review the following:
- Bod mods (modifications)
- Intellectual Property
That’s it for Autonomous. Make sure you know how all the main characters end in the story…I’m adding questions about each of their final outcomes. Oh, who are the main characters?
On Friday (10/18), you’ll be taking Test #3, so we won’t meet in Fretwell 402. Take the test wherever you have reliable internet access. Keep up with the syllabus. For next week, we have four short stories from the Anthology, so the reading will be much lighter the next two weeks. We’ll have two novels in November, so don’t get behind!