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Ghost in the Shell

by Masamune Shirow

Series: Ghost in the Shell (1)

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingMentions
1,1611713,278 (3.96)19
In a world in which the human mind can be programmed like a computer, where does the human soul end and the cybernetic machinery begin? What does it mean to be human? From Masamune Shirow, the creator of Appleseed, Orion, and Dominion: Tank Police, comes an epic, dystopian tale of politics, covert actions, and cyborgs with too much attitude!… (more)
  1. 40
    Akira, Volume 1 by Katsuhiro Otomo (jannis)
  2. 30
    Appleseed, Vol. 1: The Promethean Challenge by Masamune Shirow (jannis)
  3. 20
    Ghost in the Shell 2: Man-Machine Interface by Masamune Shirow (Project2501)
    Project2501: Carries over themes from the original, with mostly color printouts and great use of CG on beautiful glossy pages
  4. 20
    Neuromancer by William Gibson (Project2501)
    Project2501: Shares similar themes such as the ghost dive, cyborgs, artificial intelligence, etc.
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» See also 19 mentions

Showing 1-5 of 17 (next | show all)
"Security Force Kokaku", begins as a police force (Section 9) mostly against computer crimes, in a future society where humans have many cyborg implants. The main character "Major" only has a human brain, and is skilled in fighting. She questions how much of her humanness is necessary to make her sentient, and ends the novel/series by fusing with a possibly sentient computer brain. The author relates many of the questions about what the soul is to not only technology, but Japanese religion too. There is much female nudity throughout. ( )
  AChild | Jan 12, 2022 |
197
  revirier | Dec 13, 2021 |
So disappointed that I can't finish this manga. I know it's a classic. I never figured out what was going on. I also have a problem with 80's hair and clothes distracting me from vintage manga and old movies, but that's my own issue. I think I might check out the anime, though.

I did appreciate Motoko's sense of humor but it wasn't enough to get me through this book. ( )
  Chica3000 | Dec 11, 2020 |
9
  neilneil | Dec 7, 2020 |
THRESHOLDS OF HUMANNESS
Somewhere around the age of fourteen, I saw The Matrix for the first time. I grew up in a household informed by the spiritual teachings of Gurdjieff and J. G. Bennett, so the core themes around consciousness and awakening were both familiar and intriguing.

A few years later my cousin-in-law was getting rid of some of his old anime VHS tapes, and I learned about The Ghost in the Shell-one of the primary influences for The Matrix. During this era I saw the anime film. Only this year did my friend lend me her copy of the original manga.

A FUTURE RECEEDING
The first thing that I'm struck by in reading The Ghost in the Shell in 2020, more than thirty years after it was written, it feels as the the biotech future it describes in the year 2029 is further away than it was in 1989 (maybe this can be said of science fiction in general). Sure, knee replacements work pretty well these days, as do dental implants. And massive amounts of funding are poured into biotech research each year (but more for the sake of solid Return-on-Investment for pharmaceutical intellectual property than for the sake of pushing the envelope in the medical field). And there's certainly a dedicated biohacker subculture. Maybe we're a century away from cyborgs, but not a decade.

SCIENCE FICTION VERSUS SOCIAL FICTION
As I've commented before, I find it discouraging that so much of our fiction invests so much effort into exploring the technological potential of the future-in a way that implicitly assumes that social realities will calcify rather than evolve. Back when The Ghost in the Shell was authored we might have written off the sexism of young, mostly-naked female cyborgs surrounded by fully-clothed ugly old men holding all the power to be the daydreams of an adolescent manga artist (Masamune Shirow was still in his twenties when The Ghost in the Shell came out). But in the era of #MeToo, we can no longer be so dismissive. Female cyborgs like the Major, with large breasts constantly on display, are the image of some adolescent male fantasies, while male cyborgs are black cubes. What does this say about Masamune Shirow's subconscious understanding of the importance of the physical and aesthetic form of the masculine versus the feminine?

THE THRESHOLDS OF HUMANNESS
Science fiction writer Liu Cixin in his Three-Body Problem series notably concludes that the human organism, once fully severed from earth, is no longer human.

The earth is part of our body, part of what makes us human.

This question of humanity and its boundaries is an eternal question of human cultures. We confront it in politics today around abortion rights (when does human life begin?) and gender non-binary rights (how does gender relate to our humanness?). Ancient myths such as Gilgamesh also explore the boundaries of where humanness begins and ends, with Enkidu's domestication by Shamhat.

It is a rich inquiry in its dynamism and non-determinism. How a civilization answer these questions speaks much to its worldview. Masamune Shirow's distillation of his (and my) culture's answers speak volumes.

I've recently been reflecting on the somatic lens into reality. Cyborgs, without a human body, are excluded from this realm of intelligence entirely. Masamune Shirow assumes that our humanity rests in our brain and our spinal cord. Aside from technical questions of survival (it is scientifically unclear whether a human could remain "alive" in any meaningful sense of the world without the rest of their organism), such a worldview clearly elevates "intellectual" knowing far above emotional and physical knowing.

And yet, maybe Masamune Shirow has doubts about such extremes as well. The series is titled The Ghost in the Shell. Are human bodies really just shells, or are they something of more foundational importance? As the expression, "he's a ghost of his former self," belies, without souls and spirits, we're just ghosts. In other words, to have a ghost and a shell doesn't bring an organism up to the lower threshold of personhood. A body and a spirit or soul are required for such status.

That said, I find The Ghost in the Shell much less chilling the Ex Machina. A robot with a human brain and spinal cord somehow feel much less haunting to me than an AI impersonating a human (an android, as Masamune Shirow refers to it as). I wonder what this says about this threshold between human and machine.

I would be remiss not to mention Gurdjieff's striving to free humans from their mechanicalness. His thesis was that, in our unconscious lives, humans are far more machine than human. Maybe our science fiction is reflective of the fact that, from a behavioral perspective, much of us do tend to exhibit behaviors more akin to machines than humans.

A MONTE CARLO APPROXIMATION OF MEANING
As Masamune Shirow admits in one of his numerous footnotes, he has managed to pull a lot of science and action into his epic, and yet at the same time, it is reminiscent of a Monte Carlo approximation of a story. Although there's clearly a thread about some kind of hierarchy of intelligence and consciousness, it is never fully articulated. It reminds me of the way that, in New York 2140, Kim Stanley Robinson's plot hinges upon principles that enable financial hackers to undermine capitalism-but he fails to express what these principles are! Or how in The Three-Body Problem, Liu Cixin's story revolves around an alien race, which he never actually describes!

That said, maybe it is the role of fiction to ask questions rather than provide answers. ( )
  willszal | Oct 6, 2020 |
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In a world in which the human mind can be programmed like a computer, where does the human soul end and the cybernetic machinery begin? What does it mean to be human? From Masamune Shirow, the creator of Appleseed, Orion, and Dominion: Tank Police, comes an epic, dystopian tale of politics, covert actions, and cyborgs with too much attitude!

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