What does it mean to be human? Ray Bradbury once said, “We are an impossibility in an impossible universe.” Does that make us miracles? Or monsters? What is it that makes a being human? The creature in Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein could speak and read. Does that make him human? Why are we here?
Science fiction attempts to answer many of the questions we have about our place in the universe, about what defines a human being, and about what human nature really is. One method used in some science fictions films and stories is to depict human beings as monsters while having aliens or creatures embody what we think of as human virtues such as compassion, empathy, and love. Another method is to have a “monster” observe people while trying to determine what human nature really is. A third is when a creature or android wishes to become human himself (and often turns out to be more human than the people around him will ever be). Each method becomes a way of questioning the very nature of being human, including our understanding of that nature.
In this presentation we will explore some of the ways in which science fiction films and literature tackle the questions we have about being human, opening up ways to look at how we ourselves might begin to answer those questions.