Theory in a Digital Age: A Project of English 483 Students, Coastal Carolina University

Diminishing Human's Through Machinery

In “Sleep Dealer,” the body is almost a resistance in most cases. Memo watches his dad pick corn he grows from the field, but doesn’t quite understand why his dad produces corn. This is how his dad is doing labor. Growing corn is a form of work that people in this modern age call labor. The way the theorist could look at it is the body is resisting of nutrients because Memo resists the growing of corn. Food in this case is diminished from the film because of the economy he lives in, but also being diminished because they are eating the final product. If one were to look at the economy, the food that grows from the land is going to nourish the body more than the food that doesn’t come from the land. Although the only way to get water in this economy is to pay for it and fill up bags from the reservoir. It is shedding light on just how hard food and water is to have in this society. What’s interesting here is the idea that Memo doesn’t understand why his father is doing this form of labor. Food is the subsistence of life. With Memo becoming a cyborg in a way through digital labor, he is diminishing the nourishment of his body because he is working twelve hour days or longer to provide for his family. When his father grew corn, he ate a meal that gave his body the energy it needs to continue going, but with Memo working long hours, he doesn’t get the nutrition he needs to stay awake, nor do we see him eat much after the beginning of the film. Near the end of the film, he finally comes to understand why the body needs to be nourished in this way and we start seeing him eating food again. Food is the equivalent to a healthy body. The body in “Sleep Dealer” is where we see Memo diminish.

To give you a clearer idea, Marx is trying to say that the value is being turned into a mystical character because of the determining factors of machine taking over mankind's job. Before Memo left his home in Santa Ana Del Rio, he enjoyed creating a listening device that got himself in trouble with higher people that used military drones to kill criminals. In the process of trying to find the criminal, the military personnel, Ramirez, is connected by nodes, uses the drone to kill his father not knowing they have the wrong target. Memo left home after that because he thought by using his expertise in something good, he could benefit his family by making money and sending the money home. A perfect example of this comes from Marx’s piece where he suggests, “it is a physiological fact, that they are functions of the human organism, and that each such function, whatever may be its nature or form, is essentially the expenditure of human brain, nerves, muscles, etc.” (Marx 1). With that being said, humans function differently than robots, and even though humans are being used as robots in “Sleep Dealer” there are no human emotions coming from the robot even if it were to fall off the building it is laboring. The virtual workforce that is created through these nodes gives one the ability to control their human connection rendering them to possess the value of humans whether it be for the good or bad of their morals.

This virtual reality is being used to diminish the human emotions or rather dehumanize them. For example, in the film, Ramirez kills Memo’s father and notices afterwards that he actually felt bad about what he did. And afterwards, Ramirez feels the need to find Memo to tell him that he is very sorry for what he has done, and he even wants to make things right even though he isn’t able to bring Memo his father back. The person behind the machine is the one having these emotions, and the machine is just doing what it is programmed to do. Thaver suggests, “In other words, if modern technology has taken everything up as resources, including human beings, then what might become of being, in such an eventuality?” (Thaver 4). This question poses a great stance by not only suggesting that humans are being diminished compared to technology, aka machines or robots, but that it is slowly taking over our humanity. Karl Marx says, “A commodity appears, at first sight, a very trivial thing, and easily understood. It’s analysis shows that it is , in reality, a very queer thing, abounding in metaphysical subtleties and theological niceties” (Marx 1). Being attached to technology has become a way of modern life. It is an eventuality that our life is going to be occupied by modern technology no matter the cost of our being. In reality, as Karl Marx has suggested, the commodity such as the robot doing human work is what brought on the use of technology today.

With the usage of computers and robots in this film, they are seen as a commodity of today. Machinery has becomes a linkage to our lives. Mark Poster suggests, “The introduction of the computer and now the linkage of computers to the global network of the internet vastly alters the patterns of life that have become customary in modern society” (Poster 1). With that being said, computers have built a framework for nodes and the machine that connects to Memo, in the film, to provide a way to project Memo into a virtual reality. Whether they are in Mexico or California this modern technology has given Memo a way to transport himself into a “robot” to perform a labor that provides a place of living for other humans. The human labor aspect disappears because the robot now being put in place of humans. It’s diminishing the human value of emotions over the mind and body through labor that so many of us have done for decades.

In the film “Sleep Dealer,” we see Memo being dominated by nodes. His body is becoming lifeless. Diminishing into nothing. There is a projection of mind-space within Memo. Connection with Memo by the contacts and the virtual reality is taking him to another place. His mind is still intact. But his body has no control over the machine. He is only in control of the robot in the virtual reality when Memo connects with the nodes. Memo is a projection in his own mind. Thaver also states, “Quite clearly, though variegated, what is being dealt with is a vast electronic expanse or clearing for exercising a wide range of techno and social skills for connecting with humanity or merely extending the self” (Thaver 6). This is the part of saving grace with the idea of danger with the body and humanity of self, which is unique. What we see is the humanity being deprived from Memo as he keeps going back to work. He basically works till he drops, and by drops he falls asleep standing up connected to the nodes. When Memo wakes up after realizing he fell asleep he is zapped awake after a few minutes of inactivity to make sure he is awake enough to work. That’s like zapping your dog for no reason with an electric collar with a remote at the other hand, or using a taser on a human for no reason. Technology has a mind of its own, and even though Memo knows what’s going on in his mind, he just doesn’t have control over his body during this time.


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