Farzad Mahootian (Ph.D. Philosophy; M.S. Chemistry). is a Clinical Associate Professor at New York University’s College of Arts and Sciences. His interdisciplinary work focuses on the interactions of metaphor, myth and science in the context of scientific theory, practice and history. Recent publications include, “Metaphor in Chemistry,” and “Whitehead on Intuition.”
“Valediction of Monsters: Shelley’s Frankenstein and Lem’s Golem XIV"
Harold Bloom observes that, despite his privileged upbringing, excellent parentage, and the best education, Victor Frankenstein is a “moral idiot.” His undying Prometheanism aside, there is an inherent evil in his act of creation: Frankenstein’s creature is constructed apart from any reference to aesthetic values” (Whitehead). The creature suffers at the hands of human society and thereby understands the moral and aesthetic depravity of his origin. He learns first-hand “the responsibilities a creator owes to his creature,” and violently conveys this lesson to his creator—indeed, the creature gets the last word. Frankenstein’s technical success is his utter downfall. Stanislaw Lem carries this problematic forward in the context of artificial intelligence in his tale of Golem XIV, the most advanced AI in a series of military AI failures. The Golems are fitted with moral algorithms—what could possibly go wrong? Lem’s is not the typical AI-apocalypse scenario: he ingeniously removes the source of Frankenstein’s most obvious vice—his clumsy disregard for human connection— to lay bare deeper flaws of human creative genius.