Rebecca’s #CBR4 Review #50: He She and It by Marge Piercy
At what point robot/cyborg life forms become indistinguishable from humans and deserve the same protections and rights is a question that has been explored in pop culture a few times; the most well-known explorations are Ridley Scott’s movie Blade Runner and the tv series “Battlestar Galactica”. The fact that technology is nowhere near the point where robots can begin to be anything like humans does not matter; I would argue that these works, while distanced in sci-fi surroundings that make the specifics unrelatable, are about what makes human beings human.
He, She and It is another entry on this topic, which contrasts two stories. The first is a sci-fi story about Shira, a young divorced woman whose son has been taken away by one of the large multi-national enterprise that run society. She returns to her hometown, a lower-tech, independent enclave, and falls in love with Yod, a very human-like robot, who is intensely devoted to her. The second story, as told by Shira’s grandmother, is that of Joseph, a Jewish Golem in the 1600′s.
Both Yod and Joseph were created to protect groups who are marginalized and under threat; in both cases, they are much more human than anticipated, forming their own desires and goals.
While part of the story is what makes these not-quite-human life forms human, it is also about the ways that technology created to have its own intelligence cannot be fully controlled. However, it is not just an exercise in philosophical questions; it is an involving story, even if the technological sci-fi stuff is never very interesting, outside of Yod’s programming. It is a story of Shira changing her own beliefs (Yod is not a person) and falling in love with someone; a story of a mother ferociously fighting for her son; and a story of independent, poorer states fighting multi-nationals for their own independence. It may go on a little too long, but it wraps up in an almost perfect way.