We all know that Dollhouse is a work of fiction, but let’s assume for a moment that the technology to imprint memories exists today. A bit more difficult, but let’s also pretend for a moment that the episode “Epitaph One” makes any sense. China has found some kind of wave that can be used to imprint people both over the telephone lines and in a blanketed area. All of the necessary neurons in a person’s mind can be rearranged in an instant upon simply hearing this wave. If any of this could someday be technologically possible, what would it mean for humanity?
As long as man has existed, we have worried about our physical health. We can be injured, become sick, and exhaust ourselves. We die when our physical bodies fail to support themselves any longer. Just recently, though, we have begun to find that there are also threats to our mental health. There are constantly new studies that claim that television and video games have adverse effects on our minds, especially as impressionable children.
Dollhouse expands on these threats by suggesting the possibility that one day, as quickly as our physical bodies can be murdered, we will be able to lose our minds in an instant. The characters in “Epitaph One” are incredibly paranoid about any kind of technology, since in this new world any electronic device appears capable of broadcasting an imprint wave. People must fear for their lives not only because of violence, but also because of technology meant to work for us.
Not only can people lose their own minds, but a single person can exist in multiple bodies simultaneously. When we see Mr. Ambrose in Victor’s body tell Topher and DeWitt that the company has begun selling the actives’ bodies, he claims he is currently in ten other dolls talking to ten other Dollhouse administrators. At the end of the episode, Caroline hopes that she will find herself alive.
In this imagined world, identity as we know it ceases to exist. Much as in Down and Out in the Magic Kingdom, the physical and mental parts of a person can easily be separated, and the spiritual part appears to be nonexistent. A person’s body can exist without their mind, and a person’s mind can live on in different bodies, even simultaneously. In the words of one interviewee in “Man on the Street,” if it is possible for this technology to be built, it will be used and abused, and humanity as we know it will be over.
Does anybody else see this kind of technology as the end of humanity as we know it, or could we find some new meaning of identity? Can the body and the mind be so easily separated, or is it impossible to so neatly separate the physical, mental, and spiritual? Obviously no one wants to have their mind permanently overwritten by someone else’s, but would anyone be okay with having their one mind in ten different bodies?