photo & text by nacrowe
with all the recent advancements in BIOMEDICAL ENGINEERING (i.e. PERSONALIZED MEDICINE and SYNTHETIC EMBRYOS) and genetic editing (i.e. CRISPR TECHNOLOGY), MARY SHELLEY's novel FRANKENSTEIN; OR, THE MODERN PROMETHEUS (1818) is arguably more prescient to our current situation than ever before. it does not feel like a total disconnect from reality that somewhere someone is toying with the idea of creating life from scratch.
what remains interesting about the idea of ARTIFICIALLY MANUFACTURING LIFE, now as in the early 19th century, are the ETHICAL LIMITATIONS of where SCIENTIFIC INNOVATION meets real-world implementation. humans are adaptable and the TECHNOLOGICAL and CULTURAL RATE OF CHANGE during my lifetime feels unlike anything from previous generations. when i was teaching middle school a decade ago i could not help but realize that my adolescent experience probably had more to do with my parents than with these kids. what blew my mind was how different their my students' experience would be from that of their children. as TECHNOLOGY and our willingness to adapt to it move forward in time, it feels inevitable that ethical guardrails and basic expectations become fluid as well. with major OMNIPRESENT CORPORATIONS like APPLE and AMAZON currently becoming or planning to get involved in HEALTH CARE monitoring applications and at-home services, the amount of intrusion into our individual bodily PRIVACY becomes another barrier broken.
during the ROMANTIC period that defined the literature of SHELLEY, as well as other notable AMERICAN authors like WASHINGTON IRVING, EDGAR ALLEN POE, HERMAN MELVILLE, and NATHANIEL HAWTHORNE, there was an open resentment against technology and its perceived creeping encroachment on the freedom and liberty of the individual. today we live in that world. its arguable we are all collectively FRANKENSTEIN's monster, defined by TECHNOLOGY and our viability in a CONSUMERISTIC SOCIETY. we are consuming as we ourselves are being consumed for what purpose is unclear. our METADATA, SEARCH HISTORIES, ONLINE PURCHASES and BIOLOGICAL TRACKING INFORMATION is being utilized by someone somewhere. its just a fact. where is it heading and to what detriment on our INDIVIDUALITY is unclear, but it feels proto-ORWELLIAN at worst and slimy at best.
FRANKENSTEIN's monster had no choice in the matter. it was created and ultimately destroyed by a morally absent yet technologically advanced society that could not reconcile one aspect with the other. that feels like today. like right now.
im always finding myself thinking back on the ideas present in FRANKENSTEIN; OR, THE MODERN PROMETHEUS and its forewarnings of our present situation still concern me. if you havent read the book, it is definitely worth checking out and the concepts it presents far exceed the limited appreciation brought on by the GERMAN EXPRESSIONIST-influenced, JAMES WHALE-directed UNIVERSAL monster/horror feature of the same name.
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