The Influences on Serial Experiments Lain

Hey everyone. Time for another Lain article, since I haven’t had much other inspiration for writing at the moment. I’ve been thinking about this article for a while and have put it off for too long already. This time, instead of offering a completely open interpretation into the world of Lain I have decided to look at some of the more focused areas of the show, namely some of the larger influences that inspired some themes and ideas within the show.

Now unfortunately I can’t cover all these areas in 100% detail because there are so many that the article would be tens of thousands of words long if I did but I will try and give brief explanations of who the people were, what the technology was, and/or what influence it had on the show (or my own interpretation of what it was). This article can be seen as one of the more “info dump” heavy pieces; a lot of this will be focused on episode 9 which is a very heavy info dump episode. So without further ado let’s start to look at these things. There will be no particular order as giving a timeline to the show and how it presents the ideas is rather difficult (some aren’t named directly in the show and some are only briefly mentioned although they have great importance).

The Roswell UFO Incident

One of the most stand out features about Lain is the aliens; they at first seem random and almost out of place within the show. The Roswell incident is referred to specifically near the beginning of episode 9 as a jumping off point for describing some other aspects of the show.

For those who don’t know, the UFO incident is quite possibly the most famous alien incident in the USA. In 1947 remains of what appeared to be a UFO were discovered on a ranch near Roswell, New Mexico. Debris from a “flying saucer” was noticed by a foreman. The incident was left alone for many years until interest erupted in the 70’s and books were written, interviews were done, and claims of “alien corpses” were rampant.

The US government debunked these claims, saying that the “UFO” was nothing more than a weather balloon, but conspiracy theorists still insist that not all was as it appeared from Roswell. The town itself takes pride in the mystery, marking itself as the home of the incident and selling various alien paraphernalia.

So what does this mean for Lain? Well, some conspiracy theories suggest that the aliens inside the ship remained alive, having survived the crash, and were taken to a government facility to be questioned. If we believe that this actually happened in the Lain universe it’s not hard to assume that the concepts for Memex, ECCO, Xanadu, and Protocol 7 were kickstarted by alien technology.

This would also explain why Lain takes on an alien appearance to Alice later on in the show. She is potentially the product of alien technology so having her appear in such a form would… “make sense”, as it were. This also can partially explain why the alien itself was appearing to those on the Wired; Protocol 7 was created based on dealings with the aliens so it is possible they have the technology to appear to humans through the Wired just as Lain did, albeit in a more limited fashion. This also leads into the one who thought of Memex (which will be explained  shortly).

The Majestic 12

A “group” of scientists that were at the head of the alien recovery investigation in Roswell, headed by Vannevar Bush. In real life they are rumored to have potentially not even existed; they are only mentioned by conspiracy theorists who state that the scientists were needed to properly document the UFO crash.

In Lain this organization serves little purpose besides being tied to Vannevar Bush and the Roswell incident; they have no further power beyond what they allegedly accomplished in the past.

Vannevar Bush

The scientist who started the idea of Memex and a member of the “Majestic 12”. He founded Raytheon, helped in wartime defense, was part of the Manhattan project, and accomplished many, many other things within the course of his life.

Within the show, his most important notable aspects are being the “brains” of the MJ-12 (Majestic 12) and the one who came up with the idea for Memex, which I will go into now.

Memex

Suggested in the 1930’s by Bush, Memex is a “library” of sorts that would be able to augment a human’s memory so they could easily recall information, articles, memories, or other information with ease and speed. This would be done by cataloging all the information and using “associative traits” in order to recall data that was needed. It is similar to human memory; it would have been used to help human memory along.

In Lain, Memex can be seen as a precursor or a part of the Wired/Protocol 7. Lain was a manipulator of memories and was able to access any particular memory in a group or individual and change it completely. It also seems like the memories that come from the collective unconscious can be drawn from thanks to Memex; so either Memex or a part of it exists in Protocol 7, possibly inside of Lain.

John C. Lily

A psychologist who studied consciousness as well. He used sensory deprivation tanks to determine the effect of isolation on the human mind. He also worked with LSD to figure out its effects on human consciousness and came up with the theory of ECCO, as well as performing work with dolphin communication.

Both ECCO and dolphin communication are briefly mentioned in Layer 09 in the information dump. Both have varying degrees of importance within the show as it is much easier to determine what dolphin communication is referencing rather than grasp at what ECCO means.

ECCO and Dolphin Communication

ECCO (Earth Coincidence Control Office) is mentioned in the show and is possibly a reference to the idea that the aliens (or another higher power) were trying to manipulate the outcomes and occurrences of the show. Dolphin communication is also made note of as it is a way for dolphins to communicate over extremely long distances in relatively short time can be compared to how the Wired (or even just the Internet) allows people to communicate quickly over short distances.

Ted Nelson

A man who specialized in philosophy, sociology, and information technology, Ted Nelson coined the term “hypertext” back in the 60’s when the internet was merely a far off dream. He is most famously known for working on and coming up with Project Xanadu which is mentioned by name in Lain.

He serves almost nearly the same purpose Vannevar Bush did; he came up with a/the next step of the “Wired” idea and pushed it forward, closer to becoming Protocol 7 in the very end.

Project Xanadu

In the real world Project Xanadu was supposed to have been something to revolutionize the way we use computers. The comparison is made that nowadays we simulate paper and pencils on computers and the internet but with Xanadu we would use a simple interface to allow us to browse more easily. Unfortunately Project Xanadu never really took off, being seen as too ambitious back in the 70’s. There are versions available today but it still is not as popular as it could have been.

Within Lain, as stated already, Xanadu serves much of the same purpose as Memex. It is an influence in the design of Protocol 7 and the Wired and was a necessary step in history for the Wired to have achieved its way of functioning. Instead of paper documents in the Wired the characters have a way of uploading their bodies and traversing the world wide web (as it can be called) in a much different way than we use the internet in real life.

Timothy Leary

A psychologist in both Lain and the real world and a member of the counterculture revolution in the 60’s, Leary was a man who advocated the use of psychedelic drugs in order to be used as a type of therapy. He was labeled as extremely dangerous and went to prison very often.

In the case of the show his importance is somewhat different from the last two men mentioned. He developed what is known today as the “Eight-circuit model of consciousness” which was used in order to influence some of the ideas and thoughts put into Lain.

Eight-circuit Model of Consciousness 

This model is used to describe all human and inhuman states of consciousness. It is a theory proposed by Timothy Leary that dealt with normal psychological states and altered psychological states through the use of drugs or religious experiences.

The seventh layer is the most important layer within the confines of the show. Echoed again by the numbering of Protocol 7, the seventh layer of the model (also known as the neurogenetic or morphogenetic circuit) is the layer that connects all forms of consciousness through evolution together. It is echoed by the collective unconscious theory by Carl Jung.

Carl Jung

One of the most famous psychologists in the real world, Carl Jung studied various fields including spirituality, individualism, and analytical psychology. His ideas also helped develop the Myers-Briggs model and creating theories about extraversion and intraversion. His work dealt quite a lot with merging the conscious and the unconscious.

His most famous contribution to the show and one of the biggest factors within the show itself was the Collective Unconscious. This is also one of the major factors that inspired this article itself – it has such a large influence on the show that it could potentially warrant its own article.

Collective Unconscious 

The idea that everyone in the world of the same species is connected on some level. Jung supported this idea through arguing that instincts are indicative of something everyone knows and therefore it can be argued that we all share some collected level of knowledge. The argument was also put forth that humans can recognize bad dreams or omens even if they have had no experience with them before.

Within Lain the influence of this theory is immense. It is pretty much the entire central theme of the show; Lain herself comes from the collective unconscious, the Knights are trying to turn the unconscious into the conscious (by merging everyone together), and the Wired works by connecting everyone’s minds in order for them to share thoughts and socialize. The whole plot of the show comes down to Lain determining if it’s better for humans to have individuality or to be a part of the same entity.

Winfried Otto Schumann

A physicist and a mathematician, Schumann is best known for proving the existence of the Schumann resonance. This is his major contribution to the show; not much more seems to be said of his work.

Schumann Resonance

A theory proved mathematically, the resonance is a series of extremely low frequency electromagnetic signals that are a part of Earth. This resonance is used to determine several events, most notably lightning activity.

Within Lain the Schumann Resonance seems to be tied fairly closely with the Collective Unconscious and Layer 07 of the Eight-circuit model of consciousness. It enables the Wired to operate as it would allow the communications to permeate through the electromagnetic field. This is also made reference to in the artbook Lain Illustrations: AB# Rebuild An Omnipresence in Wired when a story is told about a soldier with a metal plate in their head that picked up radio frequencies.


That’s it from me for now. Before anyone makes mention of it, I know there are potentially tons of references I missed from the show. The influences of horror movies in Chiaki J. Konaka’s writing, the allusions to Proust, all the Apple computer callouts, and the obvious human instrumentality influence were some things I couldn’t expand on. But even so, if I had written about all of these things I would have to make separate blog posts, or just continue with all this for way too long.

I hope I was able to cover the main influences in a way that is somewhat easy to understand and explain how they influenced the show. Lain always amazes me with its ability to have crammed so much stuff into 13 episodes and to have done it in such a way that makes sense (…mostly). I’m not entirely sure what my next article on Lain is going to be about but I’m sure I’ll be writing more on the subject soon, maybe after a different article to break up the pace a bit.

Thanks everyone for reading, I hope you enjoyed this piece and can use it to better understand the show on a potential rewatch. For those who want to do additional research, Wikipedia is a great place to start and is where I was able to find out much about the people and the technologies. Thought Experiments Lain and Mebious were two areas that greatly helped me as well. Let me know if you’d like to discuss more, as I’m always happy to talk about Lain.

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