Rat Things

Greg Halenda '08, English 65, The Cyborg Self, Brown University (Spring 2005)

The rat thing is a combination of the biological and the mechanical. This combination is especially dramatic because it takes a dog, which probably be considered to have little to no relationship to machines, and marries it to a vast array of technologies

Haraway claims cyborgs allow us to escape domination by machines, since we have become the machines ourselves. Does this really hold true in the case of the rat-thing? The rat-thing is a slave to his machinery. It is a security device in the Snowcrash world, a mechanical dog which guards one's territory. The rat-thing is constructed from an actual live dog, and is mechanically advanced to the point where nobody really knows there is actually a dog inside the shell. This dog must stay in his (or her) temperature controlled hut to prevent from overheating, and is fed a simulacra world of never-ending Frisbee catching and steaks growing on trees to keep him occupied when he is not needed. The rat-thing waits for intruders, listening to the long range broadcasts of other rat-things, and monitering his millimeter-wave radio scanners to be sure no weapons are around.

Its machinery tells the dog when it must attack, and it is literally programmed to disarm intruders. Instead of living a normal dog life, it has been confined to a technological prison, even if it is a pleasant one. It is even programmed to know not to jump the fence around its perimeter, though it very easily could do so.

How has this cyborg escaped domination by machines, even though it is now a machine itself? Does the union of man and machine ameliorate the domination of man by machines, or worsen it?

Course Website cyborg Body & Self

Last modified 7 April 2005