William Gibson’s Neuromancer

“Cyberspace. A consensual hallucination experienced daily by billions of legitimate operators, in every nation, by children being taught mathematical concepts… A graphic representation of data abstracted from banks of every computer in the human system. Unthinkable complexity. Lines of light ranged in the nonspace of the mind, clusters and constellations of data. Like city lights, receding…”

― William Gibson, Neuromancer

This novel is centered on cyberspace and its impact on people all around the world. Case’s livelihood feeds off his work done in the computer systems, hacking information and cracking codes for his employers. This quote signifies how multifaceted a system the computer world is. The unthinkable complexity made me think about the experience I had just attempting to read through the text. I found it interesting how the quote portrays the system with a sense of imagery, enabling a reader to visualize interconnecting streams of light representing the users of the Internet connecting with each other. This analysis can be contrasted to the users of Facebook and how the community is connected through friend requests, likes, statuses and messages.

“Neuromancer” is giving a glimpse on how the future of technology will inevitably doom society. The society in the text allows itself to be directly controlled by technology. There are no signs of positive technology, which is in contrast to what we see in Mark Zuckerberg’s film. The idea of Facebook was seen as a revolutionary idea where people could connect with each other, learn personal tidbits about classmates and hang their dirty laundry on their profile pages for the world to see. Gibson doesn’t give the readers any evidence that the technology used in cyberspace was successful or positive. Case exemplifies what the society of the Matrix eventually becomes, and that is technologically advanced but at the same time all about the materialistic aspects of life. Case only cares about his own wellbeing and his career during his work for Armitage.

I saw that a few of my colleagues found an article that pops up when you type in Neuromancer into the Google search. It was written back in 2009, 25 years after the novel was released. The purpose of the article is essentially looking at what the text got right in terms of the technological world and what it got wrong. The section on cyberspace and virtual reality is the one I focused on, more because it includes the aforementioned quote I discuss above. The idea that the characters in the novel “jack in” to the Internet world and are able to use all of their senses to experience beauty is a segway to what we know as the social networking world. As a Facebook user, we figuratively jack in to the social networking world by signing in to Facebook. We experience visual and auditory sensations but in a much different way than the novel suggests. It’s apparent that Gibson was writing to inform and warn how society was going to be transformed by this new phenomenon that is technology. The biggest difference I see between the novel and the Facebook movie is the vision that is portrayed from each. Neuromancer is suggesting that things are manipulated through cyberspace and the plot is driven by a task for a hacker to break a code in order to merge Wintermute and Neuromancer into one entity.

Mark Zuckerberg is busy dealing with two lawsuits, one with his former best friend, but his idea of Facebook is never questioned in terms of its impact. We see the characters in the film quoted in comparing the old ways of doing things with this brand new idea. In class, we discussed how the old and the young play roles in the film. The quote that Sean Parker says “we’ve lived on farms, and in cities, and now we live on the Internet” shows the shift in perspectives that a couple of decades can provide. The same can be said contrasting Neuromancer and The Social Network, and how the experience of technology is so different through both works.

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