With all its morbid decadence, the richly-layered Gothic imagination and cosmic horror of Bloodborne tends to overshadow some of its more (post)modern influences. Bloodborne isnt a traditionalist, after all, but a punk: or to be more precise, a cyberpunk. It may not havesinister corporations or hackers, yet this sci-fi renegade still conjures the rebellious ghost in the machine.
Most obviously, theres the overpowering presence of that looming megalopolis Yharnam as dependent on monumental, almost brutalist architecture as any good futuristic urban sprawl. The social dynamics within Yharnam echo the politics of cyberpunk, the hegemonic power of the Healing Church pitted against the social outcasts roaming the grimy streets. Dangerous social experiments and unchecked technological advancements have led to a Victorian dystopia. There are even cyberspaces, simulated, subordinate worlds in the form of the Dreams, which can be accessed and even hacked by those who are privy to secret knowledge.
Ridley Scott'sBlade Runner:
And just like cyberpunk, the world of Bloodborne is held captive by the promise of transhumanism the idea that humankind will, one day, be able to transcend our fleshlylimitations and become something more. Whether it is Deus Ex or Bloodborne, the tool for this quasi-religious endeavour is cutting edge research and technology. In Deus Ex, that means body modification through nanotech or even merging consciousnesses with an omnipresent AI. In Bloodborne, its the Healing Church and Byrgenwerth researching into the old ones and their blood that drives this change: aiming to transform humans, in theory, into celestial beings that have entirely discarded their humanity. Not unlike in Blade Runner, the eye becomes an omnipresent symbol of self-directed evolution and the dangerous knowledge necessary to pursue it.
However, Bloodborneisa punk that refuses to slavishly follow in the tracks of those that came before. The differences are the most fascinating thing here. The futuristic vision of transhumanism, whether it is presented as a utopian promise or a dystopian threat, is seen as an evolutionary culmination or perhaps even singularity that severs the umbilical cord that connects us to our evolutionary history. The human is a product of natural processes, distant cousin of the apes. The posthuman the product of transhumanism is something different (strangely, it is our human arrogance that leads to this fallacy of teleological evolution.)
Eye of a Blood-Drunk Hunter
Bloodbornes idea of transhumanism is recognisable, but different. Its still a morally complex idea, both pursued by individuals and institutions while also causing societal upheaval, but its vector is in the opposite direction. The path to transcendence doesnt lead the inhabitants of Yharnam away from humankinds evolutionary history, but confronts it head-on in a retrogressive journey. The first enemies our hunter encounters are beastmen, many of them recognisably human but some, like the werewolves or Vicar Amelia, almost devoid of human characteristics. Theyre hairy and canine, clearly mammalian despite their deformities. So far, this is in keeping with stories like Robert Louis Stevensons The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde or H.P. Lovecrafts tales of human degeneracy, such as Facts Concerning the Late Arthur Jermyn and His Family, in which a British nobleman burns himself alive after discovering that one of his ancestors was an ape goddess from the Congo. These stories play with our post-Darwinian revulsion at being the offspring of mere animals.
But as you progress through Bloodborne, the hunter descends deeper down the evolutionary ladder. Soon, enemies resemble snakes, insects, arachnids. Later, they become more alien still, strange variations of squids, snails, slugs (that is, molluscs) or even fungi. They have names like Celestial Emissary, or Celestial Child and are closely related to the Great Ones, some of whom, like Ebrietas or Kos, share similarities with the games mollusc-like creatures. Bloodborne displays a special fascination with mushrooms and molluscs, as well as the creatures of the ocean (especially in The Old Hunters DLC). These creatures are associated with the primordial, the early origins of life on earth, and their strange forms, both beautiful and disturbing, gives them a semblance of otherworldliness. And since they dont seem to belong to this world, perhaps they originally visited earth from unknown regions of the cosmos?
Ebrietas, Daughter of the Cosmos
Nudibranch, Nembrotha Kubaryana. Photo by Nick Hobgood
Nudibranch, Nembrotha Cristata. Photo by Chriswan Sungkono.
Nudibranch, Tritoniopsis Elegans. Photo by Sean Murray.
From this anthropocentric perspective, becoming like these creatures means getting closer to the miraculous origins of life, when the earth and the cosmos had yet to be disentangled. The transhumanism of Bloodborne thus turns the usual teleological view of human evolution on its head; the forces of evolution, whether natural or self-directed, will not bring humans closer to the gods, but have instead distanced them from the celestial spring of life. To fulfil their atavistic yearning to return to the lap of the cosmos, the inhabitants of Yharnam must regress to earlier evolutionary stages. The horror and tragedy of turning into wolf-like beasts, therefore, isnt just due to a revulsion to our animal ancestors or the destruction they cause, but the knowledge that those beastmen didnt regress far enough. If only they hadnt gotten lost in this evolutionary valley, they could have emerged on the other side as transcendental beings, as kin not of the earth, but the cosmos. At least, thats one way of looking at the complex picture Bloodborne paints.
The transcended hunter as slug-like Great One in Bloodbornes true ending
The beautiful thing about this is that it doesnt just fly in the face of transhumanism as it is usually understood, but the most problematic aspects of Lovecrafts work, too. The ugly concept of degeneracy, with all its overt racism, was an integral part of Lovecrafts fictional worlds. The ancient and unambiguously evil powers of the Great Old Ones is tied to primitives and mongrels, marginalised humans seen as genetically impure and degraded. They are easily manipulated by the old gods and worship them in the hidden and remote corners of the earth.
In Bloodborne, the blame of Yharnams ruin is dramatically shifted. The hidden corners of worship arent foreign jungles or secluded villages, but the sacred spaces of a church that is the backbone and centre of a sprawling megalopolis; the mysteries of the Great Ones are still secret knowledge, but secrets of a powerful, manipulative elite (as you would expect in the conspiracy-filled worlds of cyberpunk stories). But while this elites endeavours clearly lead to a horrific dystopia, the moral issues of this regressive transhumanism stay ambiguous throughout. The degenerate beastmen are hapless, unfortunate victims rather than villains. The experiment of transcendence through reverse evolution seems doomed to fail, but it is not at all clear whether that goal is inherently misguided. After all, the Great Ones seem amoral rather than evil (not unlike the people of Yharnam), and the hunter is no stranger to the allure these celestial beings exert through their disturbing kind of beauty. Perhaps their apparent darkness stems purely from the human minds failing to comprehend their true nature? Either way, Lovecrafts ideas of degeneracy doesnt entirely fit into Bloodbornes world.
Being kin to both the Lovecraftian as well as cyberpunk, Bloodborne, too, is a kind of mongrel. But this impurity is precisely what enables it to distinguish itself and comment meaningfully on its ancestral genres. It reshapes its influences by letting disparate ideas collide and creates something fresh from the wreckage. Its not unique in its subversion of transhumanist idealism or Lovecraftian racist tropes, but the way it combines these separate issues in a seamless if ambiguous whole is entirely original.
Bloodborne is both a cyberpunk dystopia in which the end point of self-directed evolution is not a disembodied mind, but a slug or a squid, as well as a tale of cosmic horror where that dubious degeneracy stems not from shady outsiders or social outcasts, but squarely from within organised mainstream religion and science. It shares with cyberpunk an awareness and distaste for the unequal power dynamics in a world governed by the amoral ambitions of hegemonies, but, like Lovecraft, looks backwards to our distant origins rather than to the future. And soBloodborne transcends its influences, and challenges us on new planes of existence.
- Dublin Theatre Festival reviews: The Great Hunger, and To Be A Machine - Irish Examiner - October 8th, 2020
- To be a Machine review: Experimental format well-suited to plays core theme - The Irish Times - October 8th, 2020
- The Honorable Dr. Dale Layman, Founder of Robowatch, LLC, is Recognized as the 2020 Humanitarian of the Year by Top 100 Registry, Inc. - IT News... - September 4th, 2020
- Transhumanism: The cyborgs and biohackers redefining ... - August 10th, 2020
- Silicon Valley, the start-up incarnation 4/5. Palmer Luckey, the geek who needed to make sure the army supremacy of the West - Pledge Times - August 5th, 2020
- Hi John. Will artificial intelligence replace humanity by 2084? - Eternity News - July 23rd, 2020
- The benefits and risks of AI and post-human life - Independent Australia - April 26th, 2020
- Whats the best way to prepare for the apocalypse? Dont ask these guys - Telegraph.co.uk - April 23rd, 2020
- Cosmodeism: Prologue to a Theology of Transhumanism - Institute for Ethics and Emerging Technologies - April 3rd, 2020
- Meet Ai-Da, the worlds first AI artist, who is almost human - Dazed - April 3rd, 2020
- What is transhumanism, or, what does it mean to be human ... - March 31st, 2020
- What is transhumanism? | CARM.org - March 31st, 2020
- Transhumanism: Pros and Cons - iGyaan - March 31st, 2020
- Zoltan Istvan: The Transhumanist Candidate - Roads and Kingdoms - March 17th, 2020
- Sleeve Into Altered Carbon: The Role Playing Game - Nerdist - March 17th, 2020
- Being alive: Institut Franais presents 'The Night of Ideas' - Daily Sabah - January 30th, 2020
- The 2010s were the decade of trans - The Spectator USA - December 21st, 2019
- Seattle faith groups reckon with AI and what it means to be truly human - Seattle Times - November 12th, 2019
- Transhumanism - Britannica.com - June 3rd, 2019
- Transhumanism | Conspiracy School - June 3rd, 2019
- Transhumanism Is TemptingUntil You Remember Inspector Gadget ... - June 3rd, 2019
- Transhumanism - RationalWiki - June 3rd, 2019
- What is Transhumanism? - GenSix Productions - June 3rd, 2019
- Elevating the Human Condition - Humanity+ What does it mean ... - June 3rd, 2019
- transhumanism | Definition, Origins, Characteristics, & Facts ... - February 8th, 2019
- Transhumanism | Future | FANDOM powered by Wikia - February 8th, 2019
- Transhumanism - reddit - December 28th, 2018
- Transhumanism: The History of a Dangerous Idea: David ... - November 8th, 2018
- Transhumanism - H+Pedia - hpluspedia.org - July 16th, 2018
- Transhumanism - Mercurial Essays - July 16th, 2018
- TRANSHUMANISM Feral House - July 16th, 2018
- Transhumanism: The Anti-Human Singularity Agenda - July 16th, 2018
- Transhumanism by Dorian Mays on Prezi - July 16th, 2018
- What is Mormon Transhumanism? And is it Mormon? | Interpreter ... - July 16th, 2018
- Transhumanism Has Opened the Gates of Hell-Steve Quayle and ... - July 16th, 2018
- Transhumanism: Genetic Engineering of Man - the New ... - July 6th, 2018
- Transhumanism | social and philosophical movement ... - May 21st, 2018
- Transhumanism Is Despair Its an Ersatz Version of ... - May 21st, 2018
- Transhumanism - Catholicism.org - May 12th, 2018
- Transhumanism Foreign Policy - May 8th, 2018
- Hidden In Plain Sight - 4 Movies That Expose The Globalist ... - March 23rd, 2018
- Transhumanism Is Not Libertarian, It's an Abomination - The American Conservative - August 22nd, 2017
- TRICOAST ENTERTAINMENT RELEASES FIRST ... - Digital Journal - Digital Journal - August 9th, 2017
- Pop music moves a step closer to eternal life - The Columbian - August 5th, 2017
- How the death of EDM brought pop music one step closer to eternal life - Washington Post - August 4th, 2017
- The MetroSpiritual: Creating super-humans through Transhumanism is becoming a reality - New York Daily News - July 29th, 2017
- Luton hate crime probe over St Thomas's church graffiti - BBC News - July 26th, 2017
- Fringe movements key to changing the world - Winnipeg Free Press - July 22nd, 2017
- Putting Infants Down Like Dogs - First Things - July 22nd, 2017
- Review: Poem 88's Correspondences series brings us back to balance - ArtsATL - July 7th, 2017
- Little Atoms at Wilderness - Little Atoms - June 29th, 2017
- Futuristic Thriller State of Mind Gets 15 Minutes of New Gameplay Footage - DualShockers - June 21st, 2017
- Peter Thiel is Funding the Comeback of the Woolly Mammoth - Inverse - June 21st, 2017
- The body electric - Arkansas Times - June 8th, 2017
- 4 life-changing emerging technologies to get excited about - Born2Invest - June 7th, 2017
- Transhumanism Is Just Fancy Sex-Shaming And Self-Loathing - The Federalist - April 8th, 2017
- Transhumanism: The World's Most Dangerous Idea? - March 11th, 2017
- The Reality Principle - Institute for Ethics and Emerging Technologies - March 11th, 2017
- Transhumanism Conference at Samford University - March 3rd, 2017
- Touring transhumanism 'To Be a Machine' - Maine Edge - March 2nd, 2017
- 'To Be A Machine' Digs Into The Meaning Of Humanity - WPSU - March 1st, 2017
- Buddhism and Transhumanism - Lankaweb - February 23rd, 2017
- Zoltan Istvan on transhumanism, politics and why the human body has to go - New Atlas - February 22nd, 2017
- Sociologist: 'Capitalism 2.0' about to slay liberalism's sacred cow - WND.com - February 8th, 2017
- Trexit?: Transnationalism and Transhumanism and why They ... - January 13th, 2017
- Transhumanism | Bioethics.com - January 3rd, 2017
- Transhumanism in fiction - Wikipedia - December 23rd, 2016
- WHAT IS TRANSHUMANISM? - Nick Bostrom - December 10th, 2016
- Transhumanism | Foreign Policy - December 10th, 2016
- Hidden In Plain Sight 4 Movies That Expose The Globalist ... - December 8th, 2016