Serial Experiments Lain and the Future

Hey everyone, back again with another Lain post that I’ve had floating around in my head for a while. This post is going to be more based in speculation and how I think Lain relates to things that may come down the line – more of a brain dump for my own benefit as well as anyone who’s had similar thoughts. I continue to be obsessed with Lain and continue to want to learn more and think about it more – like I’ve mentioned previously I don’t know if I’ll ever get tired of writing about the show. That kind of looking to the future is partially what inspired this article anyway. I think there’s a lot that could be said in regards to Lain and how society and technology may continue to advance forward.

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First off, this is mostly going to be an opinion piece as I don’t have any way of accurately predicting the future nor do I think anyone else does. But as far as predictions go, I’m writing this in 2017 and Lain came out in 1998. So far Serial Experiments Lain has done a pretty damn good job at its ideas about how society would interact with the internet and the influence it would have over our lives up until this point.  As time has marched on it seems like Lain has gotten more and more prescient about the path that technology has been taking. Maybe some of this was a lucky guess but even still with how many comparisons you can draw from between reality and the show it’s still fascinating to talk about.

And that’s how I began to think about this article – I still think that there’s more of a story to tell. I think technology will continue to develop in the way it has been shown in Lain. Truth be told there is still technology in Lain that is not yet readily available in the real world. Full VR or some equivalent seems to be commonplace in the Wired but in reality not so much. The KIDS game and Lain’s projection into the wired seem to blur the lines between reality and the Wired so well that affecting something on the Wired has a lasting affect on something else in the real world.

Virtual reality is something on the up and up in our reality – we see technology such as VR headsets being used for gaming and augmented reality as well as realistic simulations are leading us towards something of a future where perhaps we could wander around the internet in our “bodies” as done in Lain. Of course, I hope it doesn’t get to a point that there are others accidentally killing each other due to a game in VR, but the point stands that with either a virtual reality headset or some kind of augmented reality we could simulate that same type of experience. Wandering around in a game world similar to SAO is a similar idea, although in that instance it was more of a “body stationary” thing rather than in Lain where it seems as though the body sometimes moves with the online persona.

With this advancement I think something else about Lain may ring even more true eventually – the breaking down of what is real and what is the “Wired”. If VR and augmented reality continue to advance as they are sure to do, there are sure to be some who choose to use the fake reality in place of the real world, for better or for worse. This could potentially lead to side effects where prolonged exposure causes a lapse in judgement between what is real and what isn’t – almost like a permanent dream. I don’t see this as a huge problem especially because VR would have to get to the point where a person forgot that they were in it at all, but it’s still something I could see happening once the technology gets to that point.

In addition to VR, there is the whole idea of putting chips / computers in oneself in order to enhance certain abilities. The most common idea behind this would be to put a computer chip in your brain in order to improve IQ or processing power for an individual, or potentially replacing body parts with higher quality parts once the technology is at a point where it could merge seamlessly with a brain’s impulses and signals. The closest example I could think of with regards to this in the show itself is Lain herself, as well as Accela. Lain is seemingly not entirely human but never shown to be an “android” either, yet later in the show she possesses the ability to upload data into herself in order to run a type of “operating system” by using herself as a computer. Is this how it would go in reality? Probably not, but there are still parallels. In this future it is entirely feasible that someone would want to upload some data that they want to remember to the chip in their brain and access it later.

This doesn’t even consider the idea that there may be a pseudo-immortality achievable within the next X years. Just as Eiri was able to place himself onto the Wired permanently after his “death”, researchers are currently in our real world looking into ways to upload a human consciousness to a computer or a hard drive or the like in order to “keep us alive”. This probably won’t be forced on anyone who doesn’t want it but it will be a potential “solution” to dying whether it’s needed or not. And just like those who die in Lain only to exist on the Wired, there will be no need for those who choose to upload themselves to computers to need a flesh and blood body. Once again, I hope it doesn’t occur the same way it does in Lain – we don’t need a false god trying to push humanity into something it’s not ready for.

The biggest factor and inspiration for me wanting to write this article however was the idea of everyone becoming wired and merging all consciousness into one. This is talked about in several different anime, but played a critical role in Lain with specifically regards to technology. As technology advances more and more, we’re beginning to see articles from leading experts which claim that a linking of consciousness could potentially be possible. Going back to the previous point, if people begin to replace parts of themselves with technology including their brain, one of the next logical steps of this would be to connect it to someone else’s brain with a chip as well. Meaning that they could feel each other’s pain and sensations. Going a step further would involve linking their thoughts – all purely hypothetical but things that are nonetheless being spoken of.

And that’s where the “looming” question of linking consciousness comes into play. If people can all be linked to one another, having everyone on the planet linked together would potentially be one of the “final” steps. Similar to having Lain put everyone on the Wired, humans could all be linked together in a kind of pseudo evolution. I myself don’t think I would advocate for this but then again it’s so far off that I don’t think that I would have to worry about it myself – unless of course uploading your consciousness or thoughts into a computer becomes a reality in my lifetime.

This is why this show and technology continues to astound me, however. We make leaps and bounds within years as opposed to decades or centuries now. There’s no telling where this will all go but there’s plenty of theories on how it could potentially go. Eventually humanity will be pushed into a choice as to what step to take next – will the planet be uninhabitable for flesh and blood bodies? Will we be able to upload ourselves into a computer? Will we be able to link ourselves together? Regardless of the answers, Serial Experiments Lain is one show that, in my view, starts to ask those questions for us to consider.

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2 thoughts on “Serial Experiments Lain and the Future

  1. Hello,

    I write a blog called TINBox. One of the topics I cover is Digital Existentialism. You can read the post here: https://tinboxweb.wordpress.com/20161210tinbox-epublishing/blog/

    I have been following your blog and like you I am a fan and devotee of SEL. As consideration for further reading on the subject you might consider William Gibson, Cory Doctorow and several others.

    While the concept of uploading the soul is relevant we are still restricted by size. While the human brain may only contain about thirty Terabytes of data it takes several hundred Pentabytes in order to run the personality matrix in real-time. From what I have read, and barely been able to understand, the mind works in a four or five dimensional hologram. At least thjat is the only way I can make sense of it. We store memories as audio and visual files with extra content loading, (Taste, Smell, sensory pain or joy, emotional states, etc.) each with specific quality values. The brain receives constant input and updating, sometimes in reprocessing memories to either remember them better, forget them or edit them. All of this happens as processing functions, utilizing our RAM as a way of buffering these memories to prevent them from affecting our daily lives in any catastrophic way. I believe mental disorders may be a result of the brains inability to buffer memory. All of this is just the physical data being processed, stored and used.

    Personality matrices are far more complicated. Plug in all the variable responses to events, input the environmental; surroundings, add interactions with other personality matrices, account for the real and perceived variables caused by these interactions. That is a real load of calculation. And now you invite nuance, the subtle things people do and say that are unspoken, distinctive individual cultural / personal traits. This adds another entire layer on top of the existing calculations. So, beside the three dimensional space there is also the space of movement within ones environment and the functions of time. Time a conversation lasts. Here is an example:

    You are having a conversation with three people on a train. There is approximately eight stops before the destination, a commuter rail, and about forty minutes travel time. The three people besides you are an MIT physicist, 54 years old, divorced and from India. The second person is a financial planner. She is 35 years old, married with two children and interested in getting a new job. The third person is a student, male, 22, a computer science major and a bit of a geek but thought of as “cute”. The discussion of uploading the soul comes up. All four of you are interested in this discussion. There are at least 28 variables in this discussion and no one has spoken a word yet. Each person brings their own perspective, separate from reality, to the discussion. (The argument of the perception of reality v. reality) Now you have just doubled the number of variables and your brain has to process this while carrying on a complex conversation in a moving environment within a limited timeline.

    This is a small microcosm of an entire life. I suspect the Pleiides supercomputer at NASA might be able to manage one personality matrix. But there is always Moore’s Law. Eventually it will fit into an iPhone.

    What you see in Lain is something similar, but different. Like in SAO the idea of VR is commendable but not practical at this time. Two technologies are working to change this, but its still a long way from implementation. One is neural interface technology, the other is the haptic interface. Of course the people with the most money to spend on such technology are those who would have a military use for it. See: http://www.darpa.mil/program/re-net-reliable-peripheral-interfaces
    They are working on it. Trust me.

    Haptic technology is different. Haptics uses body movement to control a computer. Combined with a virtual headset you could fly a real plane while sitting in your living room. While utilizing network technology it would not be like Second Life, the virtual world created back in the 00’s. Haptics were used in Lain in episode 7 – Society at 4:30, 10:20 and 18:07. The man walking around with a VR set on his head while controlling a computer haptically is the epitome of this technology. It can allow for more data about the surrounding environment to be searched and used by the user.

    Mankind may not enter the fully digitized world facing forward into the cyan lights of the server incarnate. We will most likely walk backwards into it, or simply be over run, and find ourselves there. Brought in one little bit at a time until we no longer resemble the humans we once were.

    Of course then you are only as alive as your power supply.

    Kirito

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    • Wow, I unfortunately don’t have a very long response to this but it was extremely interesting. Thank you very much – I love Lain because it’s a show that continues to challenge your understanding of topics you think you already have a grasp on. I learn more about people and computers through comments like yours and I’m really grateful for that.

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