The live-action version of Ghost in the Shell was released on DVD this week. I’ve never seen the original animated version (my only full-length anime movie achievement is Akira, and from the clips I’ve seen of the original Ghost in the Shell, I’d rather not watch an animated nude assassin bouncing around). Since I had no reference with which to compare the Hollywood version, I found it to be visually impressive and pretty decent all around. I can’t help but think of Blade Runner when I see movies set in dystopian Asian metropolises, and considering the source material, the scenery in Ghost in the Shell doesn’t feel too far in the future.
As the title suggests, the “ghost” is the human spirit and the “shell” is the cybernetic body that houses a human brain (and its “ghost”). There have been plenty of books, movies, talks, research papers, news articles, and general hullabaloo about the practicality and implications of blending man and machine, specifically mind and machine. It has already taken place to some extent with mind-controlled prosthetics and even robotic devices that can be manipulated via brainwaves. Of course, inserting a human brain into an artificial body is still many, many years away (or is it?). The challenges with such an endeavor are legion, and even if the science were viable, the ethical and moral debates would rage for years, if not decades.
So let’s consider this from a Christian perspective. As believers, we know that our bodies are corrupt and fallen as a result of original sin, and that one day, it will be restored. In the kingdom of heaven, there is no sickness or death, which is why Jesus healed “every sickness and disease” (Matthew 4:23, 9:35). For the believer, not only are they restored to fellowship with God, but their body will be made perfect. Body and soul will be purified and perfected.
But what if that perfect body could exist on earth apart from God’s miraculous touch? What if a body could never be sick and could not “die” in the traditional sense? Go beyond that – what if there were no body at all? What if the human mind could be uploaded into cyberspace and never need to eat or sleep or exercise?
I am just a writer so I do not have any keen insight into the world of cybernetics or neuroscience, but I believe that ultimately, it won’t matter. What does matter is that a human soul cannot be created without a body. We cannot make a person. Only God can do that, and the only conduit through which a new soul is introduced to the world is through a human, fallen body, and it is that body which will be restored to full glory one day. We were meant to walk on two feet and touch things with our hands and feel the wind on our skin. The fact that this does not happen for everyone is a result of sin, and while a solution may be devised here on Earth, it is only temporary. Man’s best efforts to perfect the body will ultimately burn away with the rest of the fallen world, and God will restore everything to greater glory and harmony than anything man could ever devise.
This doesn’t mean we shouldn’t try. I marvel at medical technology and hope we continue to unlock the secrets of our physiology. I also know that the greatest body mankind can produce is just a shell. Only God can create the ghost, and that is the part that matters.