Saturday, March 20, 2010

Caprica 1.8: "The Metaphysics of Flesh"

The French philosopher Maurice Merleau-Ponty spoke of the "metaphysics of flesh," by which he meant that we cannot understand intelligence as an abstract, but only as a process that animates and directs real bodies in the real world.   In my Mind at Large: Knowing in the Technological Age (1988), I argue that this means that artificial intelligence consisting of a program however powerful in a stationary computer can never really be like human intelligence - that would require a program in a machine that moved through the world, like a human being, or a robot.  Or, in BSG/Caprican terms, a Cylon.

Daniel Graystone almost says as much to Zoe in Caprica 1.8 tonight, telling her, "I took you out of a virtual playground and brought you into the real world" - took her out of V-world and put her into a robotic body that moves through the world, if not exactly like a human, certainly at least in our real world, not a virtual realm of electronics and pixels.

Since I agree with Merleau-Ponty, I thought Daniel's point was well taken.  Not that I admire his methods - trying to use everything from fire to ordering Cylonic Zoe to kill her beloved dog to get her to come out - but I do think Zoe owes some kind of debt to Daniel.  He didn't set the bomb that killed her flesh-and-blood existence.   Rather, it was his work, both in holobands and robots, that has allowed Zoe to continue to have two ongoing lives after death.

Caprica's first season (or the first part of the first season) will end next week.   I may be a little late in posting my review - I'll be a guest author at the science fiction convention, I-Con, where Ronald D. Moore will be a guest of honor - but I wanted to say now that I surely hope Caprica comes back for a second and more seasons.   Like Battlestar Galactica, Caprica has delved into some of the most profound philosophic issues, in or out of fiction, only Caprica's have been somewhat different from BSG's.    Its mix of fathers and daughters and avatars and Cylon has been uniquely thought-provoking and enjoyable.

5-min podcast review of Caprica

See alsoBattlestar Galactica Caprica: Exquisite, Flawed Copies ... 1.2:  Dawn of a Different Machine ... 1.3:  Daughters, Missing and Present ... 1.5: Adama's Daughter ... 1.6: The Chip and its Roots
... 1.7: The Cylon and the Dog

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