M2 Commentary: Mind-Melds

In M2. The Belly of the Beast Professor Akayama has to confront the cosmic horror she created, which has swallowed her whole. The Hurricane was a spaceship meant to usher humanity to an age of peace. When its pilots’ minds were merged with each other and their machinery, the Hurricane fled earth and ate the observable universe, transmuting galaxies into its own flesh and machinery.

Mind-melding is a common trope in science-fiction and fiction in general. The earliest instance which comes to my mind, personally, is Star Trek‘s Vulcan mind-meld. However, the first time I saw mind-melding on TV for myself was in the anime Dragonball where two characters can dance and fuse into a more powerful one. I enjoy that the concept of merging minds can be taken in such disparate directions: Star Trek uses mind-melding for interrogation, while Gotenks from the Dragonball anime mostly flies around punching people with lasers, if I recall. In some instances of mind-melding, like Dragonball and Steven Universe, bodies merge as well. In others, like Star Trek‘s Vulcan mind-meld or most fictional hive-minds, bodies remain individual and distinct.

Mind-melding is even popular in the specific genre of giant-fighting-robot-action. While the Power Rangers are happy to pilot their megazords or whatever individually, Pacific Rim‘s Jaegers are piloted by two people who drift together. Symbiotic Titan has aliens jump into a robot who melds their consciousnesses. The anime Neon Genesis Evangeleon—which I sort of dissed here, but which this YouTube channel finds more philosophically meaningful—has (and these are spoilers in case you care) robots filled with the pilot’s mother’s soul. At the end, all of mankind is united in an egg, or something. (I’ve never actually watched the show, I’m skimming wiki articles. Maybe I’ll write a whole commentary about the show if I get around to watching it.)

On one hand, mind-melding the pilots of giant robots is a natural extension of having multiple robot-pilots in the first place. It just makes sense. Have you ever played QWOP? Voltron, a robot with a separate pilot for its left and right legs, should hardly be able to walk! It’s better to say, “no, no, all the pilots are blended together so they can coordinate perfectly.”

On the other hand, I feel like there’s more to it.

I mentioned here that a group of people piloting a robot is the perfect metaphor for social progress. If a people can operate a robot to perform some task, they must be expert cooperators; they represent the possibility of mankind to accomplish greatness when we work as one. Here, mind-melding can either emphasize this cooperation (in Pacific Rim only compatible pilots can drift) or decry the loss of individuality in an authoritarian state (the anti-spirals from Gurren Lagann are a collective consciousness which wants to subdue the universe). The Hurricane is more in line with the second camp: its combined mentality is essentially kidnapping the individuals which form it. The Hurricane is a tyranny, but the tyrant is the combined will of its constituents.

Simultaneously, humans are basically giant robots piloted by neurons who control machinery consisting of our muscles and other organs. Other cells could be called mechanics, or security guards, or delivery personnel, among other appropriately humanizing titles; our biome of gut-bacteria becomes a civilian population safely buoyed in our center.

Under this metaphor, the human ego is not the head pilot who leads the others. We subjectively feel in control of our executive decisions,  but we don’t control the cells of our body, and therefore it must be they who ‘control’ us. The sense of self is the outcome of the sum of our parts. We are their combined ‘consciousness.’

Of course, each cell is made of atoms and molecules, and we could pretend those particles are pilots who control the actions of the cell. It’s giant robots all the way down and all the way up, is what I’m saying. Just food for thought.

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