Thursday, August 11, 2011

The Ghost in the Machine

You first came upon this concept as an undergraduate, where your own machine was filled to overflowing with subscriptions to the major science fiction magazines of the day and where you were spending such disposable income as you had in used book stores.  The term as you first encountered it was the title of a book by Arthur Koestler in which he took on the construct of the mind-body dualism of Rene Descartes.  Being an undergraduate meant you were at UCLA, where, although you wore all the badges and insignia of the English Department, the ruling fiefdom was the Psychology Department, itself largely in the thrall of B. F. Skinner.  If it were not behaviorist, their catechism ran, it could not be valid, much less accurate.

You do, from time to time, dwell on deconstructing behaviorism, particularly as it relates to what has been called the Sapir-Whorf equation, relating to investigations of how the language of a particular culture had a direct effect on its behavior.  All quite provocative and useful materials for conjecture and attempts at defining yourself to yourself.

But this is background, a digression from the fact of science fiction/speculative fiction being the pole star department in the heavens of your psyche.  To you, the ghost in the machine had been (and continues to be--particularly since the introduction of the computer to the equation) an extraordinary volition resident in all machinery that on occasion rises to rebellion against the designed function of the individual machinery.  The ghost in effect has a mind--a mind of its own, a rebellious mind that seeks domination over the czarist function of the original design.

Today's ghost in the machine is probably no ghost at all; it is apt to be one or more crumbs from cinnamon-raisin muffins or cookies, eaten at your desk, either in tandem with morning or afternoon coffee or solo as snacks and/or mere indulgences.  It is probable that the "ghost" in today's machine is in one or more ways interfering with your wireless keyboard and/or your wireless mouse, causing great mischief in your already whimsical spelling talents and sending flashes of reptilian brain behavior surging through your Cartesian being to the point where you can understand--if not sympathize with--the rage behavior of the rioters in London and surrounding areas.

You are in most ways fond of your machines.  You are even now in serious debate about acquisition variously of iPhone, iPad, and a replacement Mac Book Pro, each of which you will surely subject to equivalent "ghosts" as raisin cinnamon muffins or oatmeal cookies.  You will appropriately rail at whichever of these acquisitions you bring home, entering your own Lowenkopfian duality of a love/hate relationship with them.

You have been spending much time in recent days thinking about subtext and irony as they relate to story.  The "ghost" in the machinery of personal relationships is love/hate.  When in your dealings with man, woman, or child for whom you experienced the depth of abiding love, did you not experience irritation of a frightening intensity?

The ghost in the machine is the resident pattern of the individual person, place, or thing to become haunted by some equivalent muffin or oatmeal cookie crumb, investing it, them, with the moments of behavior that seem irrational and supernatural, and all the mischief that implies.

You are the ghost in the machine.  You and your crumbs.  You and your flashes of irritation, frustration, and bewilderment when, for long moments, the stars, asteroids, and planets of your Reality deviate from their orbit.

You are the ghost in the machine, scribbling furiously to capture the ironic behavior the deviations produce.

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