Saturday, March 09, 2013

Frankenstein for the Now

Neo, the hero of The Matrix is rebuilt following his release from the controlling program

Mary Shelley's  Frankenstein or the Modern Prometheus published in 1818 is seen as  a historical and literary divergence between the poetic and the technical, and is today recognized as a significant reaction against this split as part of English Romanticism.

The monster of Frankenstein is an abomination that results from the misguided belief in science. Victor Frankenstein believes that  “The labours of men of genius, however erroneously directed, scarcely ever fail in ultimately turning to the solid advantage of mankind. ” But he is wrong with the monster, his creation murdering a child. Victor hunts down his creation and attempts to destroy it.

In contrast we have the contemporary figure of Neo, the young hacker turned savior in the Matrix trilogy.
When Neo is rebuilt it is very suggestive of the unnatural birth of the monster in Frankenstein. In this context the reborn man is released from the illusional world of the computer program that holds all humanity in a 'neo'-platonic grip. At the same time Neo has mastered the illusion; he controls technology because he is as one with it. As a telekinetic child says to Neo in the first Matrix film; "There is no spoon." For Neo there is no technology, only extensions of his own self. For this reason he can control the space around him, but at the same time the space around him must be controlled.

The huge difference between Neo and the monstrosity created by Victor Frankenstein is that Neo is here to save humanity; science and poetry have at last joined. Neo is that union. Avital Ronell in conversation with Werner Herzog said, “One text that shows the disaster of the divorce between science and poetry would be the one by Mary Shelley whose name is Frankenstein.” But the digital revolution that has Neo as the Chosen One is the marriage of science and poetry.The monster in Frankenstein is Neo's sibling that was abandoned when science no longer needed poetry and poetry stopped understanding science. This occurred when poetry got obsessed with form. Science lost interest in poetry when it began splitting atoms.

For Neo poetic form and atoms are the same thing. Reality is one great poem, a dance of code that can be read, interpreted and responded to with a Will to Power:
"My idea is that every specific body strives to become master over all space and to extend its force (its will to power) and to thrust back all that resists its extension. But it continually encounters similar efforts on the part of other bodies and ends by coming to an arrangement ("union") with those of them that are sufficiently related to it: thus they then conspire together for power. And the process goes on"- Nietzsche, The Will to Power.
The lie of the matrix is not the illusion of material reality, it is the will to power, the desire to master the space. While the power of the matrix could be use to liberate minds, it is being used to control space, in a violent and ongoing war, waged with the same technology that provides the awareness of reality -  which is defined by the struggle to control it and so on ad infinitum.

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