“Unlocking the Mindware: Taking Responsibility for the Solipsistic Self in Murakami Haruki’s Hard-Boiled Wonderland and the End of the World” addresses the issue of identity formation in relation to neuroscientific technologies by observing a phenomenon called (self-imposed) “locked-in syndrome” portrayed in a speculative fictional setting. Hard-Boiled Wonderland shuttles between two unnamed protagonists—a coder living in a futuristic metropolis secretly governed by data encryption agencies, and a librarian who mysteriously lands in an isolated town where mythical creatures absorb and absolve the residents of all earthly memories. As the tale progresses, the coder learns that he is the sole survivor among test subjects who received neurosurgical implants that use the human brain as an encryption mechanism, while the librarian realizes that he is the coder’s imaginary alter ego born out of a computerized mental construction built into the implant. Later, the coder/librarian becomes trapped in his own mind when the brain circuit malfunctions and cuts off all external sensory input, and eventually relinquishes one precious opportunity to escape (survive in the outside frame of reality as the coder, not the librarian) in favor of the fantasy characters that cohabit his mind-world. Refuting wide-spread readings of this “brain in the vat” premise in the denouement as an advocacy of solipsism or nihilism, the author interprets this “end of the world” as the rise of an essentially individualist yet socially responsible subjectivity that redeems the disillusioned isolationists who seek self-imposed alienation in the hypercapitalist society of our time. By harnessing the potentials of the human mind as an infinite microcosm that runs both on the random-access principle of an advanced logic machine and the arbitrary operating system called “identity,” the author asserts, Murakami positively affirms the precarious physicality that the brain as a mindware inhabits, highlighting the social and interactive dimension of our mental and physical existence.
Unlocking the Mindware: The Responsibility of Building a Solipsistic Universe in Murakami Haruki’s Hard-Boiled Wonderland and the End of the World
Haerin Shin is an assistant professor of English, with affiliations with Asian studies and cinema and media arts at Vanderbilt University. Shin’s research focuses on the relationship between technology and ontology, digital objects in the cultural domain, and issues of race and ethnicity. Shin has published articles on topics including posthuman spirituality (Symposium), techno- Orientalism (Dis- Orienting Planets), cyber- communities and cyber- bullying (Journal of Korean Studies, K-pop), and state surveillance (Surveillance in Asian Cinema). Shin is editing Telos journal’s special issue on Korea (2018) while completing her first monograph, The Space between 1s and 0s: The Technology of Presence.
Haerin Shin; Unlocking the Mindware: The Responsibility of Building a Solipsistic Universe in Murakami Haruki’s Hard-Boiled Wonderland and the End of the World. positions 1 November 2018; 26 (4): 749–780. doi: https://doi.org/10.1215/10679847-7050556
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