The Synth Question

Synths. One of the main attractions in Fallout 4. These terms were once upon seen as fiction but one cannot deny the reality of the idea through the material presented to us today via games, TV, articles , books and other media. But what makes a synth. In Fallout there are 3 types of Synths created by the institute. Generation 1,2 and 3 synths. I tend to categorise them in the order of Robot, Android and finally Cyborg.
I came across a book called ‘The Mind’s I’ by Douglas Holfstadter and Daniel Dennett. Inside a section labelled ‘Mind as a Program’ he shares his interesting philosophical experience which directly relates to the brain in a vat scenario used in philosophical studies. He explains that he was approached by Pentagon officials and asked to volunteer (yeah right , asked) on a dangerous assignment which involved the retrieval of a device they had been developing. The catch was he had to leave his brain behind. The team of scientists told him that the device he would be retrieving was situated in a highly radioactive area underground , the radiation was very harmful to brain tissue but was not so on other limbs.They removed his brain and placed it in a vat. He was able to communicate with his brain via radio signals  He thought to himself “Here I am sitting on a folding chair , staring through a piece of plate glass at my own brain…but wait”. “Shouldn’t I have thought ‘Here I am suspended in a bubbling fluid, being stared at by my own eyes”(Hofstadter and Dennett pg.219)
This passage was very interesting and reminded me of Moravecs test. Whilst Turing test was designed to show that machines can also think, a trait that was once thought exclusive to humans, The Moravec test was designed to show how Machines can become the dumping grounds (store room) of human consciousness in turn enabling the machine to become human.(Hayles,p. xii Prologue)
If we can remove our brain and remotely communicate with it , doesn’t that make us cyborgs except out parts aren’t shiny and metallic but covered in slimy stuff. Like a hard drive, you store stuff in them . I can take that hard drive and put it into another computer and it still works.
If we can do the same to a mechanical body and name it Synth and expect to function just like us then whats to say that It isn’t human.

Are we on the pathway to building a perfect race, a race that doesn’t depend on factors such as food and water.
In my digital artifact I will explain:

  • What are synths, types of synths (gen 1,2,3) and relate them to robots, androids and cyborgs.
  • Elaborate on Moravecs theory using examples (Nick Valentine)
  • Discuss weather Synths should have rights (Note I didn’t mention human )
  • Provide examples from modern culture references and explain why I think these issues are real


Hofstadter, Douglas R, and D. C Dennett. The Mind’s I. Toronto: Bantam, 1982. Print.

Hayles, Katherine. How We Became Posthuman. Chicago, Ill.: University of Chicago Press, 1999. Print.


6 thoughts on “The Synth Question

  1. This sounds like a really interesting topic to research on. After reading your paragraph on Daniel Dennett, I was automatically hooked on learning more, not only about his case but in synths in general. The relationship between Dennett, his brain, and the device seems like an interesting case to look into more. Because I’m a newbie to all things synths, I took a look on Google and found this website that adversities their product of either a synthetic male (Charlie) or woman (Sally). Turns out, it’s a publicity stunt for the British-American television show Humans, but it’s interesting to see (like you mentioned in your previous blog) how the media is portraying this kind of technology as reality. I think it would be interesting to see how this TV show documents/portrays civilization where synths are living and interacting with humans. You could compare your finding from the Fallout franchise and other films you will be studying with this TV series.
    You had also brought up the question of where does our consciousness reside and how do we access it. This brought me back to Dennett. What type of device is able to pick up one’s thoughts/consciousness through radio links? Would Dennett be considered a synth? Like you, I wonder where do these synths intelligence come from. I look forward to reading on your further discoveries.


    1. Yes, Ive seen Humans. I thought it was a very interesting no matter how dramatised it was. Yes I will definetly be comparing and referencing lots of modern day exampled to convey my argument because i think its important to show everyone that this issue that was once seen as ficiton is becoming a reality.,%20Dennett%20-%20The%20Mind's%20I.pdf
      Here is a link of the book. Start on page 205. Thats interesting , i never really thought of that but the idea that we can access our brain, OUR EFFING BRAIN remotely is remarkable. However how reliable is this technology? What if it cuts out and we go limp? Are we going to be able to create efficient bodies and transfer our consciousness with us ? I dont know about you but im defiently signing up to this. Are we really going to be able to modify the perfect human being. It just makes me think are we reaching the end, what more is humanity going to be able to achieve. If we are able to create synths , does that mean we wont need to depend? Are we moving to a more perfected race. SO MANY QUESTIONS


  2. Synths are a great example of ‘brains outside of the body’, and like you pointed out, it leads to such a great question as to where the consciousness lays. The idea of being able to export everything into your brain into a computer is amazing, I feel like this would be a real possibility one day, and when it happens, they’ll be plenty of ethical and moral issues that need to be answered.

    A great example of this is the movie ‘Transcendence’ with Johnny Depp, while a lot of people don’t like the movie, I think the topic of the movie makes it really really interesting. It basically follows a character that develops the capability to transfer his physical brain into a computer, and it follows him as he changes and expands himself. It makes us ask, when did he stop becoming himself, or was he himself the whole time?

    Your subject is to close to the moral issues of AI, and i’m really interested to see your presentation, and what you find out!


  3. When you think about it the brain isn’t much different to machine. Apart from the fact it is made of fleshy materials it is still a device for processing information, storing data and sending commands. I think the ability to capture and upload a consciousness is something that is very probable in the near future. Have you seen the movie Chappie? it does a great job of visualizing how this process might work.

    I listened to this really interesting podcast about where we are at in terms of the likelihood of this happening. It was with Randal Koene a neuroengineer who is studying how to do it.

    In it he states “A lot of people worry about whether there is something very special about consciousness that you do not capture by capturing the functional aspects of the brain,” … “But we’ve seen no evidence that there’s anything outside of that. Every time we look at a certain function, it depends on hardware in the brain”…”I believe that if you have uploaded your brain, whether or not your biological brain still exists, that upload is indeed very much as continuation of yourself”.

    check it out here


  4. There is the thought that ‘downloading’ the brain or removing the brain from the body is a gateway to immortality. To think you could preserve the brain and everything about it could mean you are technically living forever. What makes us human, what makes us alive? Would we still be ourselves if only our minds lived on? Bruce Duncan has been working on a robot called BINA48 where he has studied a particular woman for several years; here cognition, the way she thinks, everything. They have been working replicating one’s behaviour and self. A lot of people seem unimpressed with the video but honestly, this is a starting point for bigger things.

    But transferring the brain is a very different situation than downloading it. Downloading means cloning, and what if we could clone ourselves? Which one is real, which one is the real you? Or are you no longer you if you are your entire self?

    You can look at Donna Haraway’s “A Cyborg Manifesto”, one of the assigned readings for this subject where she knocks on the perspective on the ‘ rigid boundaries’ of human and robot; what makes a cyborg. She talks about dualism, everything is one or the other, but never both. She is essentially say, what if we are both? It’s not all black and white.


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