One thing that’s been on my mind lately (for reasons I shall not explain right now) is the tragedy of Frankenstein. This was the first book on my list, the first science fiction novel according to some, and it really hit me the other day just how tragic that story is.
If you haven’t read it, then do! You won’t regret it. But you probably already know the gist of it anyway. Victor Frankenstein is obsessed with reanimation, succeeds, then abandons his creation out of fear. So, it’s not a comedy is what I’m trying to say.
Andrea, you may be asking, why does your heart simply ACHE for Frankenstein’s creation?
I’ll tell ya why!
But first, some administrative business. I’m going to refer to Victor’s creation as Jack from now on, because I refuse to call him “the monster.” That’s mean! He has feelings too ya know!
Okay, now that we have that settled, on to business.
Tragedy Part I: Jack Is Abandoned
The first part of the tragedy here is twofold. Dr. Victor obsessively works to create Jack, never looking up long enough to wonder whether he should be creating Jack, then the minute he succeeds, and I mean literally the second he succeeds, he freaks out and runs away, horrified by what he’s done.
So first he abandons his creation, a conscious, sentient being. Dad of the Year right here.
The second fold is that Jack knows. He is fully aware that his creator has abandoned him and that he has no purpose in life.
Yes, you can input some religious undertones here. Many people have a very strong faith and that’s great. Moreover, we don’t know if we’ve been abandoned or not. In fact, many religious people are sure that God is always with them. And truly, it’s a beautiful sentiment. But Jack knows who his creator is and that his creator abandoned him. It’s like knowing your parents gave you up for adoption because they didn’t want you. Except you don’t end up adopted by a nice couple. You end up running away from foster care. Harsh. That’s what Jake lives with.
And that really is tragic. Knowing that you are not wanted by your creator is the ultimate kick in the ass/terrible rejection.
But there is a silver lining (if it can be called that). We still get to create our own purpose in this world. Jack’s purpose, though, becomes to destroy his creator because he is so angry that Dr. Victor abandoned him and that Dr. Victor refused to create a mate for him. I mean, Jesus, at least God made Adam and Eve!
Tragedy Part II: Jack Is Alone
Therein lies the second aspect of Jack’s tragedy: he’s all alone. Anyone who looks upon him freaks out, calls him a monster and tries to hurt him or run away.
He has no place in this world.
This highlights even more just how wrong Dr. Victor was in creating Jack. More than the obvious tampering with nature, Dr. Victor created a unique being who had no chance of being accepted in the world, then left him. The cruelty is remarkable.
Lessons For Us
One of the reasons I’ve been thinking about this lately is because I’ve also been thinking a lot about robots. I’ve written before about why I love them so much. It seems inevitable that we will one day create a sentient AI, a being capable of understanding what it is and it’s place in the world. Right now, we are like Victor Frankenstein: heads down, tinkering, mathematizing, creating. Before we know it, we’re going to look up from our work, take a breath, and only then fully realize what we’ve created and the consequences thereof.
Hopefully we don’t freak out and run away.