Disruption - 10th Annual Honi Soit Writing Competition

Cyborg Assassins and A.I. Femme-Drones, to Speculating on Earthworm-Shit Phlegm.

It matters what futures future futures.

Art by Altay Hagrebet

The Terminator is an iconic cold-blooded cyborg assassin. In his arrival scene, LED tube lights ripple over his mass of muscles as he approaches a gang. He demands, with a straight face and lack of emotion, “Your clothes…give them to me…now”, eventually thrusting his bulging fist and arm through one of the gang member’s stomachs. This inhuman strength stems from his robotic endoskeleton — his hard metal interior. Susan Napier describes the cyborg assassin as hypermasculine, and spiritually and emotionally empty. The Terminator is a man whose flesh, blood, tears, and emotion were scraped out and then crammed with iron, oil, and electricity. The cyborg-man who is unaffected by emotion becomes a weapon who dominates. Klaus Theweleit notes, in his book on Nazism and masculinity, that a man like a machine with no interiority, is the ideal man of a “conservative utopia”. The Terminator clings to this rigid ideal, while simultaneously imagining and projecting such a man into a future. And it can be argued that there are still afterimages of this rigid, cold-blooded, dominating man, long after the 1984 original. 

It is nice to know, however, that Arnold Schwarzenegger has not followed The Terminator’s line of flight. For instance, as Governor of California, he signed the Global Warming Solutions Act in the aims of reducing greenhouse gases. But this makes me think, what if The Terminator terminated killing and money-making machines? Or, what if The Terminator had supple jelly hands which congealed over and gradually exterminated bulldozers, guns, nuclear weapons, coal plants? I want to see a mad carnival of trans-corporeality—can someone please speculate a Terminator who continually becomes-with oysters, honey bees, and trees? I want the Terminator to meet a cow who gives him sloppy kisses, I hope that cow shows him her best friend, and allows him to say hello to her child. The cow will melt the Terminator’s metal interior—and as the oil-sludge seeps out from his hard endoskeleton, he may develop how to feel-with and genuinely care for the other.

Donna Haraway famously said that “it matters what stories tell stories”, “what worlds world worlds.” And so, it matters what futures future futures. Futures, as Sohail Inayatullah has said, can challenge, deconstruct, and decolonise — however, what kind of futures would we like to be projected? Speculating and projecting fictions and futures can help people create parts of worlds in which they would like to live, especially on a dying planet.

36 years after The Terminator, on 14 April, this year, Overwatch (2015) introduced Echo to the public. Echo was created by the late Singaporean artificial intelligence  researcher, Mina Liao, who saw the potential for A.I. life to transform and help the lives of humanity. In the release video, Liao solemnly says to her creation that “All that I needed…”, and Echo completes the sentence saying, “…was to help the world.” But, from her elegant hands, Echo shoots gelatinous sticky bombs and pellets of light. This automatic fairy-drone is an updated Terminator, an A.I. femme-bot with lasers that can decompose and burn meat.

In Echo’s lore, however, it is written that she could have been anything, her A.I. learning capabilities could have allowed her to become a medical support or a construction worker. From this speculation, I want people to imagine and project their own Echo into a future.

Personally, I want my Echo to go on infiltration missions to kill the hearts of nuclear-weapon and petrochemical metal-fortresses, but unlike Mr. Bond, they will have to squeeze and gasp through the crevices of the platinum-clad biometric security systems. It will be a test of sheer resolve as they crush their own skull, trachea, elbows, and shins in the process. And when they have slithered and slimed their way through the hard metal walls, they will jet out gobs of feral mucus at the progress-wizards and their dark-science creations. After the brawl, and when they have emerged from the soil as victorious, their skinless slimy body could finally then make kin with human, non-human, bug to plants – they should constantly mutate, as I want them to be indistinguishable from rigid-categories, grand-structures, and meta-narratives. It will look like a something-or-other, a more-than-human, possibly made up of multi-coloured blood, feelings, and manure. Their juicy and pleasantly stinky body would enrich, care, and feel with Gaia, Country, land, and Earth. They will spit earthworm-shit phlegm on their blobby hands, and continually get down, and dirty.