Part of the fascination of Ghost in the Shell lies in the way it sustains a tension between ‘the natural’ (the ghost) and the technological (the shell).

If we imagine two poles:

1 | the natural – in which a human being is entirely “innocent”. This is the state of humanity as suggested in Genesis1, of ideal human beings before the Fall. In this state, human beings perfectly fit their world, and they require nothing to complete human life. They do not farm, they simply gather; they don’t build, they merely exist. They have no need of tools, technology, fabrication, no need to generate, store or channel power: there is no artifice in their lives. This is the state of nature.

2 | the technological – in which human beings have ceased (have met their end), and in which artificial devices are able to replicate and adapt themselves without any human, natural or organic direction or intervention at all2. In this technological world, the Garden of Eden has been replaced by the Garden of Machines (or, perhaps more appropriately, by a Factory of Machines).

The humanity of Ghost in the Shell is poised between these two poles. “Natural” human bodies are augmented by implants and by prosthetic enhancements, and “natural” human brains are amplified and extended by cyber-brains. In imaginative terms, this could be described as the Garden of Eden being colonised by machines – among the fruit trees and the waterfalls, gleaming, snake-like tracks are laid and CCTV cameras pop up on steel stanchions.

This is not simply a state in which people use technology – “I picked up my phone and surfed the web”; or, “I sat in my car and drove to the station”  – but in which people are technology.

The physiques of characters like Kusanagi Motoko and Batou are, in part, crafted, and the line between the organic and the inorganic is blurred. Of Major Kusanagi’s original, biological body, only the brain and parts of the spinal cord survive: the rest is machinery, or a form of machinery.

And you?


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