Paul McCann '10, English 65, The Cyborg Self, Brown University (Fall 2006)

In the beginning, there was the Word.

Things have become a bit trickier since then. Oh, it still begins with words, but then there's plans, and documents, and meetings, and venture capitalists, and, well, it's complicated. But creation is an ongoing process. A creator makes something, which he then owns and may use or sell as he sees fit.

So creation is trickier, but once that's done with, it becomes more simple. Unless you create a person (or something plenty close enough). Now slavery happily explains this away; the creator simply becomes the slave owner. This does bring about one problem: people create new people all the time, but most wouldn't want to suggest that they think of their children as slaves. So what is the creator, then? Parent? A suitable description, except that the creator must generally sell or employ his children to feed himself.

Being a creator doesn't do ol' JF or any of his buddies much good.

It's commonly perceived that the creation of a person is a feat on a level with the divine; that any who can accomplish such a thing are like unto gods (or trying to be). Perhaps the greatest problem with this is that the creators don't get all the nifty powers that come along with divinity, like smiting and omniscience. This is why intelligent creations invariably come back to smash their creators.

This man created the most highly advanced androids in the universe. They brutally murder him.

Still, it is the relation of the creator to the created that is always of the greatest importance; GENOM is none to friendly to its creations, treating them alternately as commodities and vermin to be eliminated. In Ghost in the Shell, the fusion of the mechanical and human parts is a critical theme, with the increase in power and ability brought by the machine parts being balanced by the fact that they're like museum exhibits — on indefinite loan, to be recalled at some unspecified future date. No bright prospects for retirement; you don't even own your own body. Deckard sums up the attitude of people towards machines, even (excepting cases of obsession) those they've created: "Replicants are like any other machine — they're either a benefit or a hazard. If they're a benefit, it's not my problem." That is the essential difference between people and machines.

A work worth mentioning here is Robert Silverberg's Tower of Glass, in which protagonist Simeon Krug is a figure much like Citizen Kane, except he became fabulously wealthy by creating androids instead of newspapers. The primary plot of the book is the efforts of the androids (organic rather than mechanical constructs) to gain full citizenship; the organization that leads these efforts is their "church", which worships Krug (unbeknownst to him), who will supposedly support the machines when the time is right. The revelation of Krug's opinions on the subject form the climax of the book. When the creation is intelligent, the creator's opinion of it matters as well.


  1. What are the responsibilities of a creator with regards to the created? Or is the creation enough?
  2. Can an intelligent creation be owned?
  3. What powers can or should a creator have over his creations?


Blade Runner film, 1982.

Bubblegum Crisis OAV, 1988.

Ghost in the Shell film, 1995.

Tower of Glass novel, Robert Silverberg, 1970.

Cyberspace OV Cyborg  Mona Lisa Overdrive

Last modified 31 October 2006