Nature hath made men so equal in the faculties of body, and mind; as that though there bee found one man sometimes manifestly stronger in body, or of quicker mind then another; yet when all is reckoned together, the difference between man, and man, is not so considerable, as that one man can thereupon claim to himself any benefit, to which another may not pretend, as well as he. For as to the strength of body, the weakest has strength enough to kill the strongest, either by secret machination, or by confederacy with others, that are in the same danger with himself.
—Thomas Hobbes

In the economic and technological world of Ghost in the Shell, people are no longer able to survive simply with natural, organic bodies – the human body of Eden, of ‘nature’, existing in a state of innocence, has been eroded/supplemented by the fitting of cyber-brains, implants and prosthetic enhancements of various kinds and degrees.

Any vision of the future is also a vision of the present, and the present may be described as a dynamic form of negotiation between visions of the past and of the future.

Ghost in the Shell proposes a world in which the organic is under increasing pressure from humanity’s own drive towards, and reliance upon, technology.

It may be said that humanity is unimaginable without technology: the act of creating fire – an act not required of us in Eden – is a method of altering our relation to our environment through the employment of techniques and implements. The ability to build fences, to corral and herd animals, to erect buildings, to work stone, timber, fibre and metal into weapons, containers and tools, these are all instances of humanity’s technological impulse.

As we alter the world using technology – burning off forest, mining out resources – so technology alters us. We shape our environment into cities and states, and we are shaped by these structures and processes.

We adapt and evolve, both as societies and as individuals: because we are human, we evolve and adapt technologically. In using certain tools, or engaging in certain industrial processes, we become prone to certain injuries: for computer operators, repetitive strain injury; or for those working in poor conditions in mines, silicosis. As our eyesight weakens, we can be fitted with glasses or contact lenses. We ‘intervene’ in our own bodies: hips or knees which have worn out are replaced by artificial joints. People injured in war or accident can be fitted with prosthetic limbs. In the ‘developed’ world, certain forms of intervention are so common as to be more or less invisible: the ambient use of antibiotics, for example, or systems of plumbing and sanitation. Plane journeys, street lighting, refrigeration and central heating, and so on, are forms of ambient intervention, and form structures so complex and endemic that it is very difficult to imagine life without them.

If we inflect the term and concept ‘machination’ in an idiosyncratic way, we may say that we are undergoing a process of machination.

In the super-urban Hong Kong of Ghost in the Shell, this process of machination has reached a point where an individual – Major Kusanagi – is uncertain as to whether any part of herself remains ‘natural’, or whether she is entirely machinated.

Ghost in the Shell may be described in one way as an exploration of this process of machination – a secret machination, uncharted, without controlled aim or conclusion – especially highlighting humanity’s relation with that mysterious phenomenon, ‘the web’.

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