In the exploration of the posthuman it becomes increasingly clear to which extent we as humanity are clawing to our perception of the human reality as taught to us by the structures of society. Even today we are to some extent used to thinking in dichotomies when it comes to the real world and the virtual world.
But what happens the moment these categories are no longer functional or more likely, we, as usually belated, come to the realisation that they indeed never existed?
Such a question is elegantly posed in the avant-garde-anime “Serial Experiments Lain” that evolves around the idea of a system-concept called The Wired.
The Wired is a complete virtual reality system, containing all communications and networks that enables humans and non-human entities to communicate with one another and even exist purely on a non-physical level. Therefore it operates on the same basis as reality, or one might even argue beyond it, since the only thing setting it apart is the lack of presence as a physical/biological matter. This lack of matter or the mutation of a free system-embedded conscience is even, according to theorists like Lyotard, an undeniable gateway to the human system’s future survival. (Stefan Herbrechter: “Towards a Critical Posthumanism”, s. 11)
What makes the narrative stand out amongst the dystopian concepts of virtual reality is that it challenges the very core idea of creating a safe-barrier between the notion of real and virtual-real. In “Serial Experiments Lain” there is no need for this barrier since the human entity as an autonomous presence in “reality” opposed to the virtual technology was never more than false alienation from a self who was always imbedded in the inhuman system.
[…] it is an alienation process from a self that has always been an illusion and thus has always (already) been alienated from it(s)self. […] – in this sense technology represents a privileged form of the (Lyotardian notion of the) “inhuman” which has always already inhabited the core of the human. – ( Stefan Herbrechter: Ibid. s. 29)
The anime series therefore exemplifies an important branch of posthumanist thinking – the break with the humanist division of real and virtual-real. According to author Adèle-Elise Prévost “Serial Experiments Lain”, as a posthuman representation of the future interconnectedness, embodies the potential of;
[…] the end of indexicality. But it is also the potential beginning of great things, if we allow ourselves to reinvent what we consider real, and to let identity reveal itself in aspects other than the physical. – (Adèle-Elise Prévost: “The signal of noise”, s. 188)
Serial Experiments Lain, Ryutaro Nakamura, Yoshitoshi ABe, TV Tokyo, 1998. Anime Series.
Adèle-Elise Prévost: “The signal of noise”, s. 188 in Limits of the human: Mechademia,University of Minnesota, 2008
Stefan Herbrechter: “Towards a Critical Posthumanism”, s. 11 in Posthumanism: A Critical Analysis: London: Bloomsbury, 2013