by Marge Piercy
Cyborgs and the Future of Science
The year is 2059,
and the world has experienced several world wars, plagues, famines,
ecological distruction, and the death of over two billion people. This
future world is divided among the rich multinational corporations
(multis) and the poor wretched masses (the Glop). In the corporate
enclaves people live within controlled environments protected under
domes designed to shelter inhabitants from lethal UV, pollution , and
uprisings from the Glop. There is also a tightly regulated cultural
environment with strong counter-incentives against anything bordering
on personal creativity. Here, the primary goal is to conform to the
self interested designs of corporate management. In sharp contrast is
the Glop with its endemic gang violence, environmental disaster, and
deadly disease. With little or no protection against this deadly
environment, life is cheap, violent, and miserable. Here, the primary
goal is escape through something akin to a crack house high -- sensory
artificial reality stimulation (stimmies). Between these two extremes
exist the marginal zones where creativity, culture, and free trade
(software defense systems) persist in spite of the ever present threat
of destruction. One of these zones includes the small city state of
Tikva, which is based on "libertarian socialism," "anarcho-feminism"
and "reconstructionist Judaism." Here, the goal is to find a plan of
defense against the multis, who are bent on destruction of their more
creative competitors. The one thread that connects each of these
competing groups is a highly advanced form of the "Net" and the
"intellectual property" interchanged on it, resulting in an information
The central theme of Piercy's novel is that science, though necessary and intellectually stimulating, is not the savior of humanity. The status of the world in 2059 is clearly due, in large part, to the scientific advances of humanity. The scientifically provoked "cyber-riots" (pp. 13, 48) occurred throughout the world as a response of fear that technology would replace humans. The sweeping environmental disasters could not be averted by scientifically informed UN "eco-police." Not only could science not avert the Two Week War, but it actually had enabled the terrorist act which started this "conflagration of biological, chemical and nuclear weapons that had set the oil fields aflame and destroyed the entire [middle east] region" (p. 3). A secondary, and yet equally important theme of this novel is that the distinction of human personhood is sufficiently plastic that it may soon disappear. Not only does the sixteenth century Maharal struggle with this idea, but today the increasing blend of mechanical and biological components in medicine threatens to demolish any distinctions based solely on physical metrics. Not only does humanity no longer inhabit an exalted place in the Piercy's universe, but it is finally defined out of existence.
In this novel Piercy
continually avails herself of the effect of complete immersion. From
the first page on we are immersed in experiences without introduction
(21st century divorce court, multi culture, the Glop) and with only the
immediately necessary signposts provided. We are drawn into the story
by this method since, by struggling to get our bearings in this
bewildering new world, we have a vested interest in discovering what
finally takes place. The unfolding of this story is primarily achieved
through a description akin to headlights on a dark road. We are
enlightened about this world only as we make our way through various
events and circumstances that happen to the central characters in the
story. Dialog is one of the most important means for the revelation of
salient points of interest as illustrated by the town meeting
discussion of the personhood of Yod. Further, the power of words is
illustrated not only by the creation of Joseph through incantation, and
Yod through program language, but also through emphasis on hidden
meaning in naming of persons, places, and things.
This novel is chock
full of 1990's cultural clichés: "libertarian socialism,"
"anarcho-feminism" and "reconstructionist Judaism," not to mention the
cyber punk genre stereotypes. According to The Denver Post review
"Piercy adds family and religious values to the cyberpunk
core of multinational corporations and information pirates." In point
of fact, Piercy takes a swag at just about everything that moves in our
present culture and extrapolates these into a vision for the future.
Multinational corporations, traditional values, and the Christian
Church are interchanged as the villains of the past and present. From
the onset we are to understand that the "multis" are animated by "born
again ... Christian practices" (p. 2), which includes marriage
motivated by "male dominance" (p. 4). Mindless school children are led
through the streets singing "corporate hymns", and all creativity is
suppressed which includes the imposition of modest dress codes.
Consistent with the radical feminism espoused by Piercy, Malkah
chastises Shira for having submitted to male domination; "Those poison
belchers. I told you not to marry him. You're the first in our family
to marry in four generations. It's a bad idea" (p. 7).
Then God said, "Let us make man in our image, in our likeness, and let them rule over the fish of the sea and the birds of the air, over the livestock, over all the earth, and over all the creatures that move along the ground." So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them. (Genesis 1:26-27)
There is clearly a
need for a sure Word from God who alone can bring life from the dead
and make promises worthy of hope for the future.
Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and there was no longer any sea. I saw the Holy City, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride beautifully dressed for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, "Now the dwelling of God is with men, and he will live with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God. He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away." He who was seated on the throne said, "I am making everything new!" Then he said, "Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true." (Revelation 21:1-4)
The power of words is not in the words themselves, but rather in the one expressing those words. Therefore the expression of God's will must be expressed by God himself. The Apostle John was inspired to record the written Word concerning God's will revealed in the personal Word of God.
"In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning. Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made ... The Word was made flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the One and Only, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth. (John 1:1-3, 14)
Man, more than ever, needs salvation from sin and its consequences which are; separation from God, separation from man (humanity), and separation from nature. Only Christ revealed as the personal Word of God is an adequate Savior.
1. Marge Piercy, He, She and
It, (New York: Ballantine Books, 1991)
Tim Nordgren, 8-14-96