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Compare and contrast the representation of technology in two texts


of your choice.
Literatures relationship with technology has always been a tenuous one, at best. At first glance,
the disciplines of science and literature have very little to do with one another, however the
attempt to fictionalize science has been documented in several different pieces of fiction
throughout the years. As with any new invention, the field of technology was approached with
trepidation. Each new invention seemed to be a cause for alarm, and this stretching of the
scientific horizon was given a place in literature as well.
Technology has not been widely accepted. In many cases, technology is regarded with an
ingrained terror of the subjugation of the human race to something that is created by the human
race, and this is one of the most important tenets upon which science-fiction technology is built.
Specifically, the growth of awareness in a machine that is capable of moving past human
limitations and the sudden realization that it is, in fact, not a servant to mankind but indeed
stronger. Although this is not the only portrayal of technology in popular literature, it is one of
the most common views. It is inconceivable, to humankind, to create something for the benefit
for humanity that will be happy serving humanity. The double-bladed sword of artificial
intelligence where, on one hand, artificial intelligence is a necessary and important creation,
and on the other hand, will lead to the extermination of mankind as a species is used most
often. Movies such as 2001: A Space Odyssey, the Terminator series, and The Machine tend to
show the dangers of scientific exploration that leads a man to play god.
It can be stated that this contemporary myth of science breaching the rights of nature
and the creation itself denying its creator and turning to violence against him was dreamt up by
Mary Shelley. Mary Shelley was nineteen-years-old when she first wrote Frankenstein. Reeling

from the death of her child and other problems, Mary Shelley wrote Frankenstein as part of a bet
between herself, Dr. John Gordon, Lord Byron and Percy Shelley. Her story has become itself a
trope of science-fiction, and could be considered as the foundation for many of the tropes found
in science-fiction, especially the violence against the creator.
In Frankenstein, the titular character Victor Frankenstein manages to create life through
copious experimentation in his laboratory. Frankenstein has crafted this being out of parts of
discarded bodies he has made it in the shape of man, however when it comes to life,
Frankenstein is horrified by its appearance and attempts to deny the fact that it existed. He runs
away from the monster, leaving it behind while he returns home. The monster then finds him,
and delivers an ultimatum: create a companion for him, and the monster will leave him alone.
Frankensteins Monster is not initially violent. Its violence stems from its lack of place in
the world created by a man, it has no place in the world of scientific experiments as it has
awareness that a laboratory experiment does not have, however neither does it belong to the
world of humanity. Therefore, this monster exists on a thin line between the two that renders it
practically unidentified. As it is not natural, and not supernatural, the monster exists in the story
as Other, and this is where its violence because humanity does not accept its Otherness stems
from. Frankensteins Monster, when it comes across his creator, states, if I cannot inspire love, I
will cause fear, and chiefly towards you my arch-enemy, because my creator, do I swear
inextinguishable hatred1. That is Frankensteins manifesto: to cause fear and misery to
humankind. This is only his existences goal.

1 Mary Shelley, Frankenstein (Australia), p.175. PlanetEbook ebook. [accessed 8 June 2014]

Frankensteins Monster is not wholly unsympathetic. When we are first told of his escapades,
through the point of view of Frankensteins Monster himself, the Monster was confused and sad
at being left alone by his creator, and left his apartment barely more functional than a child. He
explains to the reader how he found wonder in fire, and in the moonlight, and how he learned to
scavenge for food. At this point of the novel, it is easy to sympathize with the Monster that
Frankenstein abhors, especially given his apparently fondness for human beings, a family of
which he endeavoured to guard and learned from. Frankensteins Monster is initially only
monstrous in appearance, only because he does not resemble anything human. We are given no
specific details to the appearance of Frankensteins Monster, except a dull yellow eye 2 and an
imposing height and build. The monster himself believes that he is a deformity 3, and beholds
the beauty of man in part envy and part awe, and wants only a creature as hideous as himself 4.
Ugliness is part of the nature of the science-fiction monster. For it to be perceived as other, the
monster in science-fiction must not be human, if not in appearance, then in limitations, and it
must harbour a hatred for mankind, partially for mankinds aid in bringing it to life. The monster
in science-fiction is caught in a never-ending existential crisis, where its demise is not easily
given and its creation is at the call of someone else. It cannot have an identity because its identity
is unique, and it cannot exist in a world where it has no identity and no sympathy with
humankind. At the same time, monster who hate their creators because of their part in their
creation are ambiguously evil. One could argue that humanity, in these stories, is well-deserving
of everything that happens to it because it has created a life that it then refuses to take credit for.
2 Shelley, p. 58.
3 Shelley, p. 133.
4 Shelley, p. 175.

This is the view posited in Frankenstein. Is Frankenstein or the Monster the true
monster? It would require a working hypothesis of whether the law acknowledges the Monster as
truly existing in society and that, because of the Monsters status as a non-entity in the world of
Frankenstein, can never happen.
Humanitys treatment of technology, and technologys subsequent hatred of humanity, is
also the bottom line of Harlan Ellisons short story I Have No Mouth and I Must Scream. The
story takes place in an alternate universe where the Cold War was never brought to an end.
Instead, there was World War III, the deaths of which were so plentiful, the warfare so
complicated, that they needed a computer to charter the history of the war. AM was created in
order to keep the records of the war of everything that happened throughout the process. AM
originally stood for Allied Mastercomputer, and there were several versions of it: Russian,
Chinese, American. It was implied that the Allied Mastercomputer was mostly created unique to
the country of its origin. Again, the creation was made by humanity in order to serve humanity,
just as Frankensteins Monster was brought to life as a consequence of his curiosity and his
scientific experimentations.
We had given AM sentience. Inadvertently, of course, but sentience
nonetheless. But it had been trapped. AM wasn't God, he was a machine.
We had created him to think, but there was nothing it could do with that
creativity. In rage, in frenzy, the machine had killed the human race,
almost all of us, and still it was trapped. AM could not wander, AM could
not wonder, AM could not belong. He could merely be. And so, with the

innate loathing that all machines had always held for the weak, soft
creatures who had built them, he had sought revenge.5
This is similar to Frankensteins Monsters attempts to explain his own feelings to his creator. At
one point, he says to Victor Frankenstein:
How dare you sport thus with life? Do your duty towards me, and I will
do mine towards you and the rest of mankind. If you will comply with
my conditions, I will leave them and you at peace; but if you refuse, I
will glut the maw of death, until it be satiated with the blood of your
remaining friends ... Have I not suffered enough, that you seek to
increase my misery? Life, although it may only be an accumulation of
anguish, is dear to me, and I will defend it.6
The difference between these two extracts seems to be largely technical. Victor Frankenstein did
not create the monster with a purpose, whereas AM was created with something to do and a
creed to follow. Despite this, AMs creation was a technologic marvel whose purpose was to
serve humanity. Frankensteins Monster was, at best, a scientific accident whereas AM was a
planned production. This could be further allegorized by their treatment of their respective
masters the creators, father and mother figure alike, are tormented much like a cyclical pattern
of an abused child. One planned, one not, accidental intelligence grants the technology created
the ability to understand and seek revenge on the nature of its creation. This is what

5 Harlan Ellison, I Have No Mouth and I Must Scream, Users.pop.umn.edu, p. 8. Web. [accessed 8
June 2014]
6 Shelley, p. 113-114.

technophobia fears the most the creation of a race that we will not be able to subjugate, that
will be infinitely less than humanity and yet capable of subjugating it.
I Have No Mouth and Frankenstein bear more similarities. Both stories share creators unwilling
to acknowledge their mistakes at first, but in I Have No Mouth, the unnamed narrator eventually
admits that it was the fault of humanity to create AM, to create him bound and unable to work for
himself. It is interesting to note that Frankensteins Monster has no physical constraints, whereas
AM did: in vengeance, they both branch out from their respective arenas, however
Frankensteins journey is a physical one, whereas AMs is an exercise in creativity.
It is also interesting to note a principle that is given form in I Have No Mouth, but exists
solely as implied in Frankenstein. When Gorrister is trying to explain how AMs name came
about, he mentions the phrase cogito ergo sum...I think, therefore I am7. It comes from
Descartes, and states that the act of thinking proves that one exists. The fact that AM adopts this
as his new name, to take the place of Allied Mastercomputer, shows the intelligence of this
created being to be similar to an adult or a theorists. The Monster, by contrast, starts out with the
intelligence of a child, but because he is in the face of humanity, he does not seem to doubt his
own existence. It can also be a tongue-in-cheek joke that AM perpetuates in order to torment his
human slaves into realizing the error of their manner. In which case, AMs ability for morbid
humour in spite of his subjugation and hatred for humanity shows a thread of some pastiche of
humanity exists within him. Even at the end of the story, Frankensteins Monster is not humorous
merely angry, and then numb.

7 Ellison, p. 4.

At the end of their respective tales, AM succeeds whereas the Monster fails. AM, although he
loses three of his victims, succeeds in retaining the fifth, the youngest, the one that he has
affected least. The Monster fails, not only in his quest to find a like monster to keep him
company, but even in the attempt to render Victor Frankenstein thoroughly miserable. Although
he takes everything from him, Victor Frankenstein dies, not at the Monsters hand, but at his
own. The cycle of revenge is thus not completed in the story. Frankenstein, contrary to AM, also
does not feel enjoyment at what he has driven Frankenstein to do. AM drives his creations to
suicide, and his only remorse is not that they suffer, but that they stop suffering. He is unable to
continue torturing them himself, whereas Frankensteins Monster has no enjoyment in torturing
Frankenstein: it happens only because Frankenstein cannot think of a better way to punish his
creator than by making him feel the desolation that he himself feels.
Frankenstein himself says as much:
For while I destroyed his hopes, I did not satisfy my own desires. They
were forever ardent and craving; still I desired love and fellowship, and I
was still spurned ... Nay, these are virtuous and immaculate beings! I, the
miserable and the abandoned, am an abortion to be spurned at ... but it is
true that I am a wretch .. You hate me, but your abhorrence cannot equal
that which I regard myself.8
Whereas AMs hatred for the creators does not abate one iota:

8 Shelley, p. 275.

He was furious. I had thought AM hated me before. I was wrong. It was


not even a shadow of the hate he now slavered from every printed circuit.
He made certain I would suffer eternally and could not do myself in.9
Frankenstein, at the end, does not hate Victor Frankenstein: he hates himself. AM hates
humanity. AM hates the fact that the people he has been torturing have mostly died. AM,
therefore, takes revenge by mutating the form of the last survivor into something that cannot die,
that has no mouth, and I must scream 10. He is not content with the mere idea that they are dead.
For AM, nothing short of eternity in his company will suffice.
In both of these stories, the manifestation of the hatred of humanity, its reasons for existing, are
one and the same. Humanity has created these inventions, and then throws them aside on a
whim. To AM and the Monster, this injustice cannot stand. However, at the penultimate moment
of reckoning, Frankensteins Monster rejects its violence and its hatred for Victor Frankenstein
and regrets its transgressions into crime and villainy because they did not improve its life. AM
regrets nothing. Much like King Lears flies and wanton boys, AM is bent on revenge and on
hurting the people that brought it into the world. Awareness created by someone other than God,
these stories advertise, will eventually turn on humanity. While there are differences
Frankensteins Monster is organic, whereas AM is eternal and mechanic, Frankensteins Monster
feels remorse, selfish remorse but remorse nonetheless, whereas AM is amoral and cruel the
lesson to be learned within these stories is that the creation of life outside of the realm of God
will not end well for humanity. The gift of awareness, when given to something that is not fully

9 Ellison, p. 12.
10 Ellison, p. 13.

in control of itself, will not benefit humanity, and the exploration and greed of the scientists who
push for that avenue of development will suffer when their creation becomes stronger than the
creator. As the unnamed narrator of I Have No Mouth finally admits, [Am was] created because
our time was badly spent and we must have known unconsciously that he could do it better 11.
Victor Frankenstein does not admit anything but that the Monster was a mistake.
Treatment of this nature of technology has its roots in the Industrial Revolution. The legend of
Ned Ludd destroying the machines that were taking over the jobs of the workers is a fable that
has lived on in technological circles a Luddite, ergo, is someone who is so tacitly against
technology that they will destroy it any chance that they get. As modern times proceed towards a
total dependence on technology, but technology for the benefits of mankind, the words of
Ellisons I Have No Mouth and Shelleys Frankenstein live on in the minds of technophobics
everywhere. When the Unabomber published his manifesto, his first sentence was the Industrial
Revolution and its consequences have been a disaster for the human race 12, and deems the whole
process of technology not worth it. Marshall McLuhan seems to corroborate this, warning that
the future masters of technology will have to be light-hearted and intelligent. The machine
easily masters the grim and the dumb13.
There will always be a constant march towards progress, which may push the limits of
technology and of what it means to be human. While a world depicted in the same manner as
Frankenstein and I Have No Mouth is ludicrous to imagine, one would not have to look very far
11 Ellison, p. 13.
12 Theodore Kaczynski, Industrial Society and Its Future, Editions-hache.com, 1995, p.1. Web.
[accessed 11 June 2014].
13 Marshall McLuhan, Counterblast (London: Rapp & Whiting Ltd, 1970), p. 55.

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to notice that, today, society is capable of such experiments. What this means for humanity has
yet to be seen, but it would not be harmful to keep the violence of machines against their masters
in mind.

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List of Works Cited


Ellison, Harlan. I Have No Mouth and I Must Scream. Users.pop.umn.edu. Web [accessed 8
June 2014]
McLuhan, Marshall. 1970. Counterblast (London: Rapp & Whiting Ltd), p. 55.
Kacyzynski, Theodore. 1995. Industrial Society and Its Future, Editions-hache.com. Web
[accessed 11 June 2014]
Shelley, Mary. Frankenstein (Australia). PlanetEbook.com. Web [accessed 8 June 2014]