Jake, Grace, and the Spirit-Transfer (by Ashen Key and Sothis) - Tree of Souls - An Avatar Community Forum
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Old 02-27-2011, 08:13 AM
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Default Jake, Grace, and the Spirit-Transfer (by Ashen Key and Sothis)

Hello, ToS!

This may be the first of a series, or it may be a one-shot. Basically, Ashen Key and I have been having analytical conversations about Avatar over chat, and we thought it would be nice to share some of them with the forum instead of keeping them to ourselves. Below is a cleaned-up version of a recent chat about Jake, Grace, and the spirit-transfer that they both attempt at the Tree of Souls. It is partly a character study of Jake and Grace, and partly a discussion of the "technical" aspect of the ritual, Eywa, and how it all works. There is also a brief mention of the Dream Hunt, as it pertains to Jake's psychology.

We decided to put this in the "fan articles" section due to its length, but please feel free to join in on the conversation below!

~Sothis




Ashen Key: Oh, this is an interesting take on Grace:

"She says that Eywa is a material presence, which (she thinks) can be quantified, because it involves a kind of planet-wide computer system, a neural network in the roots of trees that processes information rapidly. What she doesn’t understand is that Eywa cannot be understood or studied by breaking her into discrete pieces and putting her under the microscope. When Eywa is trying to save her life all Augustine can think of is “I should take samples of this” and the movie suggests this attitude, this “wound,” is ultimately the wound Eywa is unable to heal."


Sothis: Hmmm. It is interesting, but the passage has a sort of judgmental tone – as though Grace died because she failed to 'get it.'

Ashen Key: I'm not sure I agree that's why Grace died, but it's an interesting idea. The article isn't really judging, so much as looking at different ways you COULD take the film.
Avatar: A Contradictory Movie for Contradictory Times <-- The whole article is actually really interesting - as I said, it looks at different ways to look at it, and it deconstructs things, too.


Sothis: Fair, fair. I have my own interpretations for why she died. I always saw it as a combination of things.

Ashen Key: My theory as to why Grace died is two-fold - she's an older woman who has been shot in the stomach, so she was suffering from shock and bloodloss for nearly a day beforehand. Also, she didn't really WANT to come back, is how I read it.

Sothis: Yes, this. Her incentives for coming back weren't that great.

Ashen Key: Nope.

Sothis: They were fugitives on the wrong side of a war that was sure to be gruesome and heartbreaking and horrible.

Ashen Key: And she'd survived the destruction of Hometree, which had to be awful.

Sothis: Yeah. And meanwhile, I feel like she must have been so swept up in the awe of what she was experiencing that she wasn't able to focus on coming back.

Ashen Key: Yes, that's how I mostly read it.

Sothis: She was too overwhelmed with "oh my god... she's real." She'd been studying the biological network all her career.

Ashen Key: Yep. Add being out of it due to shock, and she's not going to come back.

Sothis: And with her being somewhat older and jaded, I think she was ready to go.

Ashen Key: Oh, yes.

Sothis: I feel like, for the transfer to work, you have to really want it and fight for it.

Ashen Key: Which is why it works for Jake - he's got a lot to go back to, and all of that drive. But with Grace, I get the feeling that she was running out of drive and fight. She'd seen the school unravel, and now Hometree's gone - that's well over a decade of her energy and passion just gone.

Sothis: Yeah. Meanwhile Jake is just getting started. He has a new wife, a family to raise, a clan to lead, and I think after surviving everything he did to get to that point, there's just no way he'd let this do him in.

Ashen Key: Oh, yes, he was going to fight with everything to get back.

Sothis: Although, I've also played with this idea that Jake has an element of survivor's guilt pushing him to do the transfer.

Ashen Key: Oh?

Sothis: It's secondary to his big, obvious reasons for doing it, but I think he's carrying a burden of guilt. At some level, maybe he feels like he should've died, instead of all the other people who died who didn't do anything to deserve it.

Ashen Key: Ah, yes.

Sothis: The transfer is a way of confronting that, in a way, and surrendering himself to an external power. He's putting himself in a position where he may or may not die after all, and it's all kind of up to Eywa. He may have a subconscious sense that, if he does in fact deserve to die, he will. And if he doesn't deserve to die, he won't. In both outcomes, he would have made a sort of peace with his guilt.

Ashen Key: Oh, yes. I can see that. As more of a subconscious thing, although I did get the sense he can be fatalistic. Like his attitude before doing the dream-hunt: "It's okay, Mo'at says an alien brain probably can't survive anyway."

Sothis: His mental state at that point is so interesting.

Ashen Key: It really is.

Sothis: He's really trapped between a rock and a hard place. And there's no honorable way out, except to die trying to do the dream-hunt. Because neither side would really blame him if that happened.

Ashen Key: And it gives him an out.

Sothis: Exactly. Not that I think he wanted to die, per se, but he wasn't afraid of dying either. He would've considered it an acceptable outcome. Or rather... I think everyone is afraid of dying at some level, but he wasn't averse to the possibility that it might happen.

Another dimension I've been playing with, in the whole spirit-transfer thing, is whether we know for sure that it "transferred" his consciousness to the avatar, with continuity preserved, or whether it effectively created a copy and killed the original. And to what extent does it even matter. I'm sure this is something Jake would've mused about beforehand, too.


Ashen Key: Absolutely.

Sothis: Because really, he has no idea how this would work, if it even works at all. What he has to go on is kind of vague. "Our great mother may choose to save all that she is, in this body.” Maybe that just means all his "software" gets copied over.

Ashen Key: Which he would think of, being from a high tech society. He would have grown up copying and deleting and moving files.

Sothis: Plus, he's grown up with a twin, so I'm sure that metaphor would be on the brain too.

Ashen Key: Oh, yes.

Sothis: And the kicker is that this subtlety won't make a difference from anyone's perspective but his. It won't even make a difference from post-transfer Jake's perspective, because post-transfer Jake would have all of pre-transfer Jake's memories. So here's pre-transfer Jake, looking in the mirror, right before he leaves to go do it, thinking "I could die today and nobody would even know it."

Ashen Key: ...that would be so, so fascinating to explore.

Sothis: It's so lonely. :-( Not even Neytiri would know. And she'd have no reason to mourn him, because from her perspective, he's still alive. Still, I feel like he would be thinking through all this, and decide that it doesn't actually matter.

Ashen Key: Yep.

Sothis: Even if he is effectively giving up his life for a doppelganger, the doppelganger deserves it more, he'd think. I can sort of imagine that he's started to almost see himself as two different people: human-Jake and avatar-Jake. And all his regrets and guilt – everything he's ashamed of—was committed by human-Jake.

Ashen Key: ...oh, INTERESTING.

Sothis: And everything noble about himself in the last 3 months, the things that redeem him, was done by avatar-Jake. So I can definitely see human-Jake contemplating all this and having a sort of Sidney Carton moment.
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All Avatar writings
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Selected writings:

You came back
How do you make up after you've done the unforgivable? Jake and Neytiri have a conversation in the wake of Hometree's destruction, during their first real moment alone following his return as Toruk Makto.

The Last Train Home
Fourteen years after the war, a lone spaceship appears in the sky. The former members of the Avatar program watch its approach – expecting the worst, fearing for their adopted home. Then the ship lands. And suddenly, nothing makes sense anymore.

Five seconds too late
This is a different kind of Jake/Neytiri romance, the story that would've unfolded had she been delayed for just five seconds while trying to reach him following the fight with Quaritch.
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  #2  
Old 02-27-2011, 10:36 AM
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I'd say that Grace seemed to fully understand how the network functioned, as do the Na'vi (something that gets forgotten sometimes in my opinion) - they just accept all life as it is, so even knowing the nature of the network, that doesn't make them think of Eywa any differently. That said, while Grace having been shot was obviously causing her problems which may have interfered with the transfer, then I really like the idea of her not really wanting to - after all, she wants to find out more about the network and her memories being transferred to it is an amazing opportunity in that way.
I definitely agree on Jake - he had everything to live for, really for the first time in his life, of course he was going to return

As for the transfer itself, it always seemed like in effect, his avatar is a new Jake - he has all of Jake's memories, of course, but the 'hardware' of his mind and nervous system is completely new. It's still Jake himself, but in effect, his original, human, self died.
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Old 02-28-2011, 06:18 AM
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Originally Posted by Human No More View Post
I'd say that Grace seemed to fully understand how the network functioned, as do the Na'vi (something that gets forgotten sometimes in my opinion) - they just accept all life as it is, so even knowing the nature of the network, that doesn't make them think of Eywa any differently.
Yes, I agree. The quoted passage at the beginning seems to suggest Grace was wrong to think Eywa could be analyzed scientifically, whereas I don't perceive that to be the message at all. But it's still an interesting interpretation, and one could certainly pull things from the movie to support that interpretation.


Quote:
Originally Posted by Human No More View Post
As for the transfer itself, it always seemed like in effect, his avatar is a new Jake - he has all of Jake's memories, of course, but the 'hardware' of his mind and nervous system is completely new. It's still Jake himself, but in effect, his original, human, self died.
It's kind of a fine line to draw... the distinctions governing to what extent Jake died and to what extent he survived can get quite fuzzy. Personally, I find the topic almost endlessly fascinating.
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All Avatar writings
-------------------
Selected writings:

You came back
How do you make up after you've done the unforgivable? Jake and Neytiri have a conversation in the wake of Hometree's destruction, during their first real moment alone following his return as Toruk Makto.

The Last Train Home
Fourteen years after the war, a lone spaceship appears in the sky. The former members of the Avatar program watch its approach – expecting the worst, fearing for their adopted home. Then the ship lands. And suddenly, nothing makes sense anymore.

Five seconds too late
This is a different kind of Jake/Neytiri romance, the story that would've unfolded had she been delayed for just five seconds while trying to reach him following the fight with Quaritch.
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Old 02-28-2011, 07:28 AM
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Look at it this way, YOU are a computer, made up of software and hardware.

Hardware: Flesh, blood, brains, bone, organs, etc. The physicality of a human. That which interacts with the world.

Software: Conciouseness, sentience, awareness, a sense of "I am", memories, intellect, etc. The intangible, central stuff that makes the physical stuff go. The stuff that defines you. YOU are the software of yourbody.

And just like computer software being capable of transferring between hardware units, so too can human software.

Eywa transferred OS Jake from a shriveled, weak hardware unit, to a tall, strong hardware unit. Everything that made OS Jake, OS Jake is still there, it's just running on a new machine now.
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"Man, I see in fight club the strongest and smartest men who've ever lived. I see all this potential, and I see squandering. God damn it, an entire generation pumping gas, waiting tables; slaves with white collars. Advertising has us chasing cars and clothes, working jobs we hate so we can buy **** we don't need. We're the middle children of history, man. No purpose or place. We have no Great War. No Great Depression. Our Great War's a spiritual war... our Great Depression is our lives. We've all been raised on television to believe that one day we'd all be millionaires, and movie gods, and rock stars. But we won't. And we're slowly learning that fact. And we're very, very pissed off." - Tyler Durden

Last edited by Tsyal Makto; 02-28-2011 at 07:30 AM.
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Old 02-28-2011, 09:17 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Tsyal Makto View Post
Look at it this way, YOU are a computer, made up of software and hardware.

Hardware: Flesh, blood, brains, bone, organs, etc. The physicality of a human. That which interacts with the world.

Software: Conciouseness, sentience, awareness, a sense of "I am", memories, intellect, etc. The intangible, central stuff that makes the physical stuff go. The stuff that defines you. YOU are the software of yourbody.

And just like computer software being capable of transferring between hardware units, so too can human software.

Eywa transferred OS Jake from a shriveled, weak hardware unit, to a tall, strong hardware unit. Everything that made OS Jake, OS Jake is still there, it's just running on a new machine now.
I'll leave off the disability!fail in your statement by calling Jake's human body 'weak' just because he can't use his legs, but might I suggest you be careful in your use of language there?

And actually, I disagree with you - we ARE our hardware. We are our brains. Damage your brain, you can damage your personality. Change your brain, you change your personality. For example, I have ADHD. This means, among other things, my brain is very different from that of a neurotypical person. But I am my brain - the different chemical balance of my brain affects how I think, and thus how I am.

I figure things will work with Jake because of the fact that the Avatars are so linked to their driver, that their brains would be similar enough to allow the transfer.
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Old 02-28-2011, 02:02 PM
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It wasn't a statement about his disability, it was about the general weakness of the human body vs.the Na'vi body.

As for the mind-body connection... Edit: Nvm, I have no idea how to word this.
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The Dreamer's Manifesto

Mike Malloy, a voice of reason in a world gone mad.

"You mustn't be afraid to dream a little bigger, darling." - Inception

"Man, I see in fight club the strongest and smartest men who've ever lived. I see all this potential, and I see squandering. God damn it, an entire generation pumping gas, waiting tables; slaves with white collars. Advertising has us chasing cars and clothes, working jobs we hate so we can buy **** we don't need. We're the middle children of history, man. No purpose or place. We have no Great War. No Great Depression. Our Great War's a spiritual war... our Great Depression is our lives. We've all been raised on television to believe that one day we'd all be millionaires, and movie gods, and rock stars. But we won't. And we're slowly learning that fact. And we're very, very pissed off." - Tyler Durden

Last edited by Tsyal Makto; 02-28-2011 at 03:21 PM.
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Old 02-28-2011, 09:10 PM
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Originally Posted by Tsyal Makto View Post
It wasn't a statement about his disability, it was about the general weakness of the human body vs.the Na'vi body.
It was your comment of 'shriveled' that made me go 'excuse me?' - I'm well aware that fandom tends to regard humans as weak and the Na'vi as strong, even though more accurately it's that the Avatar is designed for Pandora while humanity has evolved on Earth.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Tsyal Makto View Post
As for the mind-body connection... Edit: Nvm, I have no idea how to word this.
Sad, I was interested in how you came to your view. It's very much against how neuroscience views it, so I was interested.
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Old 02-28-2011, 10:34 PM
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And actually, I disagree with you - we ARE our hardware. We are our brains. Damage your brain, you can damage your personality. Change your brain, you change your personality. For example, I have ADHD. This means, among other things, my brain is very different from that of a neurotypical person. But I am my brain - the different chemical balance of my brain affects how I think, and thus how I am.
I'll give it a shot:

Keeping with the computer analogy, hardware has an effect on software performance there too. A harddrive can have faulty sectors, which result in loss of data, which in turn results in changes to the software. A CPU can have fried transistors, resulting in incorrectly executed commands, again affecting the software.

These computer-hardware failures have bio-hardware failure analogies: Alzheimer's disease causes neurons to breakdown, effectively causing loss of data. Biochemical imbalances causing mood-swings, psychosis, etc. could be considered "CPU problems".

Now, the harddrive and CPU can be replaced with new, fully functioning and possibly higher performance models. The lost data cannot be recovered (unless there was a backup), but the computer would be operating as intended again, with the data/personality mostly intact.

Sadly, the human brain is not modular (yet). Creating spare parts could theoretically be done with contemporary technology, e.g. cloning, but transferring data is another matter. The problem is that we are not digital, as our data/personality is instead stored in the form of biochemical equilibria. But if we could emulate this manner of data storage, we could theoretically copy everything a person is into a new body. From the perspective of the copy, they just underwent mind-transfer. The old model would still die, but really no more so than an old computer on the scrap pile, all of its data safely stored on a new harddrive.

The flaw of the analogy is obviously than the computer isn't sentient. I would personally be perfectly happy with the above version of "immortality", but I imagine others would have trouble accepting it.

Food for thought: strong A.I. (a matter for another thread).
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Old 03-01-2011, 09:43 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Tsyal Makto View Post
Look at it this way, YOU are a computer, made up of software and hardware.

Hardware: Flesh, blood, brains, bone, organs, etc. The physicality of a human. That which interacts with the world.

Software: Conciouseness, sentience, awareness, a sense of "I am", memories, intellect, etc. The intangible, central stuff that makes the physical stuff go. The stuff that defines you. YOU are the software of yourbody.

And just like computer software being capable of transferring between hardware units, so too can human software.

Eywa transferred OS Jake from a shriveled, weak hardware unit, to a tall, strong hardware unit. Everything that made OS Jake, OS Jake is still there, it's just running on a new machine now.
Exactly.
I've used a very similar analogy before - memories are like interpreted code - it can run on any hardware if there is the capacity to interpret it correctly to produce the output. As such, the complete set of memories contain the 'OS' (ability to understand the memories) as well as the 'code' and will run on any compatible architecture (a nervous system that works in the way way).

Quote:
Originally Posted by Ashen Key View Post
I'll leave off the disability!fail in your statement by calling Jake's human body 'weak' just because he can't use his legs, but might I suggest you be careful in your use of language there?
Humans in general are weak compared to the Na'vi!

Quote:
And actually, I disagree with you - we ARE our hardware. We are our brains. Damage your brain, you can damage your personality. Change your brain, you change your personality. For example, I have ADHD. This means, among other things, my brain is very different from that of a neurotypical person. But I am my brain - the different chemical balance of my brain affects how I think, and thus how I am.
Because either the memory is damaged, or it changes the way thins are interpreted. If the memory was undamaged and copied to new hardware, it could resolve it - many things are a chemical imbalance within the brain for one thing or another.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Carborundum View Post
I'll give it a shot:

Keeping with the computer analogy, hardware has an effect on software performance there too. A harddrive can have faulty sectors, which result in loss of data, which in turn results in changes to the software. A CPU can have fried transistors, resulting in incorrectly executed commands, again affecting the software.

These computer-hardware failures have bio-hardware failure analogies: Alzheimer's disease causes neurons to breakdown, effectively causing loss of data. Biochemical imbalances causing mood-swings, psychosis, etc. could be considered "CPU problems".
Exactly

With that in mind, since Jake himself is a function of his memories and the interpretation of that interacting with perception of senses, then he still exists as himself, even if his former body (and in effect, his original mind that was himself) is dead - while what makes him himself was copied or moved, it still runs the same way. It's like imaging a hard drive onto a new drive in a new system, with a similar setup but improved actual hardware - it runs the same, as if nothing had changed.
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