Ponderance

(May 2003 - March 2007.) Tama's thoughts on the blogosphere, podcasting, popular culture, digital media and citizen journalism posted from a laptop computer somewhere in Perth's isolated, miniature, urban jungle ...

Battlestar Galactica & 'Humanity's Children': Constructing and Confronting the Cylons

Friday, December 02, 2005
I'm in the midst of finalising the last chapter of my docotoral thesis, so while I was extremely heartened to hear my abstract for the upcoming academic collection on Battlestar Galactica has been accepted, I'll have to make sure I put the time aside before April to give it some proper attention. For those interested, here's what I've promised to write ...
Battlestar Galactica & 'Humanity's Children': Constructing and Confronting the Cylons

Abstract by Tama Leaver

In Mind Children, the director of the Mobile Robot Laboratory at Carnegie Mellon University, Hans Moravec, foreshadowed an inevitable 'postbiological' future where the machines, computers and artificial intelligences of today will culminate to form new life for which humanity en masse is the proud parent. When our 'artificial progeny' arrive, Moravec sees little place for their stumbling inefficient fleshy ancestors. In the mini-series which re-introduced Battlestar Galactica to a twenty-first century audience, the Cylon temptress, commonly know as Number Six, warns her human lover Dr Baltar that after the Cylons had been driven away from the human colonies decades earlier, "Humanity's children are returning home … today." In this key shift from the original 1970s series, the Cylon enemies of the Galactica's crew are no longer the product of aliens, but rather humanity's own technological creation which have become self-aware and self-directing. As with Moravec's prediction, the Cylons beg the question as to humanity's ultimate response and responsibility to the Cylons they created. For the military crew of the last remaining Battlestar, the enemy is the enemy, with no room for ambiguity. However, from the outset of the new series, the humanity and subjectivity of the Cylons has been a key theme, from Number Six's neurotic need for Dr Baltar's love, to two incarnations of the Sharon Cylon, one knowingly a Cylon, one a sleeper agent, both developing intimate relationships with the Galactica's crew. Moreover, the 2005 mid-season cliffhanger 'Pegasus' dramatically and provocatively confronted audiences with the possible consequences of de-humanising your enemy (which has both narrative resonance within the show's diegesis, and as a metaphor for the current 'War on Terror'). This paper seeks to address the concerns raised in the conflict between the Galactica's crew and the Cylons, exploring the ethical relationship with and subjectivity of humanity's Cylon descendants, arguing that humanity and our artificial progeny are far more symbiotically linked than either group would prefer to admit (and there are, of course, theoretical and ethical ramifications to these connections, which will also be addressed).

Should be fun. :) It's December now, so make sure you don't get too Cylonic this silly season!

Update (26 Jan 2007): As a number of people have emailed me asking to read this article, I should point out that it didn't end up getting finished in 2006. Instead, I've changed the concept slightly and re-submited the abstract to a new collection and if it's accepted then I'll finish the article off before June 2007.

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