Friday, May 28, 2010

Attempting Immortality: AI, A-Life, and the Posthuman in Greg Egan's "Permutation City" - Ross Farnell

A lengthy article.

This paper argues that the combination of "hard" and "metaphysical" sf in Greg Egan's Permutation City provides a unique exploration of digital modes of being and immortality. His use of multiple paraspaces and subjective cosmologies challenges many assumptions regarding objectivity, the body, and identity, in a mediation of philosophy, theology, science, technology, and fantasy. The novel's spatio-temporal disruptions and the subjective fragmentation of digital topologies question what it is to be human, to be alive, and to be immortal. Juxtaposing AI Copies with evolved A-Life swarm-like entities, Egan explores the differences between these paradigms in the context of science fiction's quest to "live forever." Crossing the line between self-transformation and death, the Copies struggle against timeless time and trial by space, their panic bodies demonstrating ontological dislocation. Through abstraction, the Copies' non-bodies deny the most fundamental phenomenological experiences of corporeality, the viscer(e)al. Ultimately, they confirm that only the finite is bearable. The novel's A-Life reverse the logocentric (digital) gaze, removing the posthuman from center and exposing the Copies' hubris. Where the cybernetic posthuman falters, the non-human paradigms of A-Life adapt through enactive evolution to survive being immortal. Permutation City demonstrates how A-Life can offer sf a viable chance to narrate a true alien alterity divorced from Western metaphysical traditions, thus providing a valuable reflection on the human and the posthuman condition."

Attempting Immortality: AI, A-Life, and the Posthuman in Greg Egan's "Permutation City"
Ross Farnell
Science Fiction Studies, Vol. 27, No. 1 (Mar., 2000), pp. 69-91
Published by: SF-TH Inc

4.5 out of 5

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