Even However, she is the one that
Even though the analyses were compact, a clear image of the two tragedies have been painted in relation to the research question.
First of all, in the movie Her, the problem of subjecthood in a posthuman society was addressed. Through the work that Theodore did, writing commissioned personal letters to total strangers, which addressed the anonymity in the posthuman society, but even more in the character of the OS, Samantha, who Theodore fell madly in love with. Samantha is actually designed to meet Theodore’s needs – and that is exactly what he wants and is looking for. However, he doesn’t treat her like a computer. He treats her like a human being, and he develops respect for her and her ability to learn.
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The fault he makes is that he treats her like a human and therefore holds her to human norms. What he doesn’t realise, is that since she is not human, and that therefore, human rules don’t apply to her. She doesn’t have human limitations (for example of having a corporeal body) – therefore, the human limits shouldn’t be imposed on her. Secondly, in Sayonara, we follow an android, Geminoid F, whose sole purpose it is to recite poetry to her dying clients. However, she is the one that remains, and every time one of her clients die, she is confronted with the pain and loneliness, combined with the paradox that she can’t properly do het work anymore.
When the audience finds out she is doomed to work forever in loneliness, the audience empathises with her, even though she is not human. Like with Her, the moment human contact is most needed, the human is replaced with an intelligent machine. And, just as in Her, the nonhuman agent is measured with human standards, although this evokes empathy with the audience and not pain in the character, like with Her.
One could say that these tragedies evoke fear and excitement, as Hayles stated. Fear and excitement for the future: is this really how capable artificial intelligent machines will become? And, more importantly, what else will they be if this is what we imagine now? But, upon closer examination, the research question this essay started off with seems a little bit ambiguous now. The research question was: how do nonhuman characters in tragedy challenge the humanist foundation of the tragedy? It was ambiguous because, even though there were nonhuman characters in these tragedies, they were still being seen through a human lense and given human standards (to a certain amount). Also: the nonhuman characters were both created by humans.
Does that count as decentering the human from tragedy? Or is it giving appreciation to another, improved human life-form? These tragedies might not be the grand posthuman fantasy, just because the human is still very much in play and in the centre. However, it does give an insight how we might treat artificial intelligent machines not as slaves, but as equals, and let us be influenced by them. And in that respect, these tragedies give us food for thought what the future will perhaps look like.