Posts Tagged ‘humanity’

Book Review: “The Adoration of Jenna Fox” by Mary E. Pearson

April 5th, 2011

What does it mean to be human?

What makes me myself?

Is it the endless combinations of A T G and C that make up my DNA?

Is it the way my environment has shaped my genetic material such that I am expressed as a specific phenotype?

Or perhaps it is my memories that make me myself. Perhaps it is the collection of information and experience stored somewhere within my brain that makes me myself.

Then again, maybe it is some ethereal thing, something beyond my physical makeup, such that even if my physical being were to be completely annihilated, I would still be–and be complete.

Jenna Fox wakes up after a year-long coma to find that she’s not quite sure who she is.

She’s walking around in an unfamiliar body, remembering unfamiliar ideas.

She’s living in an unfamiliar world, watching videos of an unfamiliar her living an unfamiliar life.

She’s just starting to get comfortable in her own skin, just starting to remember herself, her life, her family…

when the truth smacks her in the face and she finds herself at square one again.

Who is she? What makes her herself? Is she herself? Or is she merely a product of her parent’ unceasing adoration?

The Adoration of Jenna Fox was my first ever dystopian novel–and oh what a first!

Set only a hundred or so years from now, The Adoration of Jenna Fox sees the world continuing on its current trend of helicopter parenting and biomedical advances–with disastrous results.

Adoration is a meaty novel, full of thought-provoking ideas about personhood (as mentioned above) as well as about ethics in medicine, genetic engineering, and beyond.

Nevertheless, this is by no means a novel intended as a text book. The Adoration of Jenna Fox is an engaging story in and of itself–and one that begs to be read, even if one would rather not think about the issues it raises.

Yet force you to think about the issues it does. This is no propaganda piece, intended to convince the reader to one side of a spectrum or another. Instead, it is does exactly what a good book ought–it forces the reader to think through sides of an issue he might not have thought about before, challenging his ideas regardless of which “side” he might have originally found himself on.

(For the record, I’m a conservative, evangelical Christian who believes that humans are created in the image of God and have intrinsic worth as such. I’m also the sister of a student of biomechanical engineering who is doing his graduate research with adult stem cells and who is always sharing fun stuff about manufactured skin and transplanted blood clots. And I found plenty to make me think in this book–things I agreed with and things I didn’t.)

This is a novel I highly recommend.

Rating: 5 stars
Category:Young Adult Dystopian Fiction
Synopsis:Jenna Fox seeks to discover who she is after a year-long coma leaves her in the dark–and discovers that who she is is scary.
Recommendation: Absolutely read this one! (Parents might want to read through it first before passing it on to their children–I’m not sure exactly what age group this’d be appropriate for, but I’m thinking probably older rather than younger. Like seventeen, eighteen year old kind of older. At least, that’s what I’m guessing. Not that the content is necessarily inappropriate–there’s a bit of girl/boy stuff but much less and less explicit than the usual YA fare; and a bit of violence I think–but I think the concepts and ethical questions would be much for a younger teen to think through.)

I originally added this book to my TBR list based on reviews from Diary of an Eccentric and Jennifer of 5M4B

WiW: Outsourcing humanity

March 7th, 2011

The Week in Words

“Peter Suderman…argues that…’it’s no longer terribly efficient to use our brains to store information.’ Memory, he says, should now function like a simple index, pointing us to places on the Web where we can locate the information we need at the moment we need it….
Don Tapscott, the technology writer, puts it more bluntly. Now that we can look up anything ‘with a click on Google,’ he says, ‘memorizing long passages or historical facts’ is obsolete. Memorization is ‘a waste of time.'”
~Nicholas Carr The Shallows

Memorization is a waste of time, Tapscott suggests.

I understand where Tapscott is coming from.

If memorization is merely a means by which information is stored for future recall, information can be stored much more easily, with much less work, online.

Why memorize sports stats if I can just look them up online whenever I need them? Why memorize the dates of friend’s birthdays when Facebook can remind me on the day?

“[Clive Thompson] suggest that ‘by offloading data onto silicon, we free our own gray matter for more germanely ‘human’ tasks like brainstorming and daydreaming.'”
~Nicholas Carr The Shallows

It’s a nice idea. Let the computers do the dreary work of memorizing. Let’s stick to the parts that make humans unique. The stuff that can’t be outsourced.

Thompson lists brainstorming and daydreaming as more “germanely” (fittingly, appropriately) human tasks than the task of memory.

In a way, he’s right.

We can outsource “memory” (the storage of facts) to computers–but we cannot outsource brainstorming or daydreaming.

As such, brainstorming and daydreaming are more germanely human than memory.

But he fails to mention what I think is an even more germanely human task–the task of thinking.

Humans are unique among created beings in that they have a mind in addition to just a brain.

Humans can think. They can sort through stored information. They can make new connections between information. They can discover new applications of information. And they can be transformed as they think through information.

You can memorize without thinking. Computers do that.

But I don’t know that you can think without memory.

Thinking. It’s an integral part of the Imago Dei.

And memory is an integral part of thinking.

That’s why I disagree with the above commentators.

We can’t outsource memory–because if we do so, we lessen our ability to think. And in doing so, we lose an essential part of what it means to be human.

That’s one thing we can’t outsource.

Don’t forget to take a look at Barbara H’s meme “The Week in Words”, where bloggers collect quotes they’ve read throughout the week.

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