The independent student newspaper of Goucher College

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Kyle Sardinha

Kyle Sardinha has 3 articles published.

Do We Really Want to Live Forever?

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If you’ve spent any amount of time with me in the past couple of weeks, I’ve probably tried to get you to watch Altered Carbon—a new cyberpunk noir murder-mystery based on Richard K. Morgan’s novel of the same name that recently came out on Netflix. The show is set in a world where humans have found a way to download personalities into bodies (a.k.a. Sleeves), and in doing so, the human form has essentially become disposable and interchangeable. While the following is mostly my own musings, I will try to avoid spoilers where possible, but if you don’t want spoilers go watch the show then read this.
First off, let’s talk about pain for a bit. Humans have, as a society, generally accepted that pain is a bad thing. The International Association for the Study of Pain defines it as “an unpleasant sensory and emotional experience associated with actual or potential tissue damage, or described in terms of such damage.” What does this mean for the world of Altered Carbon? The IASP definition mentions one of the principal factors: damage. We, in our frail human bodies, are extremely susceptible to damage. We are not exactly the sturdiest things around. And as of right now, we have no way of recovering from many types of damage. But what if we could?
Altered Carbon’s Protectorate has their sleeve technology, Elysium (the film, not the afterlife) has their Med-Bays, and Star Wars has space magic. Escaping the physical limitations of our own bodies and mortality (and mind you, I’m only counting glaringly obvious ones here, so no mech suits, A.I., or crazy life-support machines in this issue) is something we mortals seem to be mesmerized by. In this context, where either the real impact of any damage is reduced (as in Altered Carbon and Star Wars); or where damage is easily repairable, does it become less negative?
We see this interaction between damage and cost play out in Altered Carbon when Lieutenant Ortega tries to arrest Kovac for “sleeve damage” after a fight. Her reaction is what one would expect if a cop in 2018 caught someone smashing a car. It’s still a serious offense, but doesn’t have nearly the same moral implications, which is, in my view, much more significant. It’s almost as if our current ethical and practical dilemmas (punishing those who cause pain and harm) have become the future’s holdover laws. In the same way that we see Tulsa, OK’s “You need an engineer present to open a soda bottle” law as old-fashioned, or as some kind of meme, a future society may eventually come to find our laws to have no contextual grounding for them.
Let’s extrapolate from this something we hear about briefly in the show: death. Now, we’re talking about sleeve death, not real death, because that’s another can of worms entirely. It’s reasonable to say that death, right now, is a bad thing. It is, as far as any of us can prove, the end, and therefore, any damage that causes death is something that we as a society find in our best interests to criminalize. But what if we could just plug ourselves into a new body and keep going? Bodies still cost money, and they are still things you own, so it’s still property damage, but it would be as easy as activating car insurance.
So, this lack of a true conclusion leads well into the question I want to ask: considering a society where the practical justifications to outlaw, criminalize or marginalize a given thing or behavior has been addressed, should we judge solely on moral objections? If so, can we do it fairly and accurately? Going a little further still, to what extent can we really compare what we know as our human experience to that of a society like this? Personally, I’d like to say that while I’m often the first to present moral objections, I’m also the first to acknowledge that those morals are entirely baseless and set in nothing but my own conviction. Because of this, I do not at all think that any judgment we pass can really be called fair and accurate, especially considering how completely different our experiences are.
I would love to hear what you think, so you can email me at cavic001mail.goucher.edu with questions, comments, thoughts, and suggestions for shows or topics you want me to take a look at.
Catch y’all later!

Have Faith: A Reflection

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For Sebastian. Take care, pal, you’ll be missed.
Life is fragile and fleeting. Most of us are aware of this, but I’m not sure if we really understand it. I had a bit of a wakeup call recently, when I got an email from my high school with a very vague subject line of “Sad News.” And so, in a smoky, dinky corner bar in Brazil, I found out that a friend of mine had passed away. It was a chilling, sobering realization, that someone I’d seen months ago, someone my age, was just not here anymore.

“I’m scared of a lot of things, and death has never been one of them, but in this moment, I was afraid of death.” Photo Credit: Google Images

This sobering, chilling feeling kept me up at night for a couple of weeks, because the truth is, I was scared. I’m scared of a lot of things, and death has never been one of them, but in this moment, I was afraid of death. Not because there was so much to see, or so much to do, or because I’d miss people, but because for once I was close enough to it that the unknown seemed imposing, intimidating, and much too close for comfort. I find myself, then, with only a simple sticking point to solve my dilemma: what’s going to happen if I die right now?
I’m not a particularly religious person, and I derive no comfort from the idea of a god or an afterlife, so that can’t help me. That’s not a problem, as I’ve always sort of taken it for granted that I’d just stop at death. I’ve done nothing to leave as a testament to my existence, so that’s no good either. This is a little worse, because I’d really like to leave behind something to prove that I was here. Besides, I’m not exactly hopeful that, were either of those the case, I’d be satisfied with it.
And therein lies the first rub: I’m not a hopeful person. Whenever I’m not doing well, I get logical, which is exceedingly helpful to fix most of my problems, from not having studied to writing papers hours before they’re due. People, however, are neither logical nor fixable, so this attitude isn’t exactly helpful when dealing with people problems. This frustrates me to no end, and frustration makes me cynical. I’m usually okay until I get here, where the cynicism kills me.
Therein lies rub numero dos: I find it exceedingly hard to get out of this mindset on my own, which means I need help, and I am deathly afraid of needing or asking for help. I don’t want to be a drag, and I don’t want to be a buzzkill, so I tend to be hesitant at best when I need a hand. I’m forever thankful to my friends, who have been there for me many times, for helping me despite my best efforts.
If it seems like I’m leading up to a big reveal here, I hate to disappoint, but this isn’t that kind of article. The solution to my problems is me being less stubborn, but that’s not my point. It’s not about finding a solution, but rather about finding out why that’s the solution. Not to be too cliché, but it’s about the journey, not the destination.
So I guess what I’m really trying to say is that life, fragile though it may be, is not only the path we walk, but the forest surrounding it. Like any other forest, it gets brambly, sometimes the path disappears, and you’ll probably run into some spots where you can’t see the sky, and that’s fine. Sometimes, all we need is to look around, focus, and have faith.

For students looking for support and conversation about grief, the Student Bereavement Group meets on Wednesdays from 4:30-5:45 in the Chapel Undercroft.

Fiction: A Brief Moment

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Time tells tales that somewhere in its waves lies hidden a city that discovered the secret to perfection. In this city, there is no death and no illness, as the flaws of the flesh have no hold here. There is no pain and suffering, for such human failings are long forgotten. In this city, no one sleeps, no one lacks, and no one loses hope. Its people wander the streets, mesmerized by the pursuit of the abstract. At the center of the city is a tower, and at the top of the tower lives the most beautiful princess who will ever be. She paints, as she has forever, a small canvas, depicting a light in the dark. The princess paints one final stroke, and leans back to examine her masterpiece: the essence of life. And in that moment, with one final tear on her cheek, she is gone, with her city and its people, for their purpose is done.

Untitled by Talia Military
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