Technoscience / Ecomateriality / Literature
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Reading response – 08/09/14

September 8th, 2014 | Posted by Cathy Li in Uncategorized

I will update this after finishing Neuromancer (over the fall break).

 

Neuromancer is the very first sci-fi I have ever read, honestly. So far, NOT so good, and here is why. According to my friend, this work started the generation of “cyberpunk“, which is “subgenre of science fiction in a near-future setting”(Wikipedia). Naturally, Gibson invented his unique language such as “matrix” “crack an AI” and “jack into the cyberspace”, regardless what they actually mean. Also, Gibson is such a name-dropper that he incorperated lots of multi-cultural themes throughout the novel, things like, “a pack of Yeheyuan” (Gibson 108) which is a cigarette that no one smokes anymore, or the “Kandinsky table” or the “Neo-Aztec bookcases” (Gibson 108). I appreciate the effort of his research but he also made this novel so hard for me.

Meanwhile, under current artificial intelligence technology, the novel at the same time raised more questions than it could answer about the nature of cyberspace and human activities about it. In the novel, the cyberspace can be hacked in by one’s mental abilities, shown by Case’s brain damage also damaged his capability of hacking. In Neuromancer, Gibson indirectly showed us what one can do in the cyberspace by giving out very extreme examples such as merging Wintermute and Neuromancer. However, the cyberspace also in a sense resembles the DiVE “physically” because we were physically invited into the DiVE and it is perfectly possible that one lives in DiVE. Same with the Cyberspace: the Neuromancer invited Case to stay in the cyberspace with his dead girlfriend Linda Lee. For all we know, Case is a physical person (he was in Chiba, Japan) and were Neuromancer’s world completely mental, there would be no way for Case to actually “live” there. So the cyberspace becomes this intriguing place that seems to wander at the edge of the physical and the mental.

We also discussed the ethics surrounding artificial intelligence and the advancement of other technologies. Related topics have become the themes of lots of popular animes/mangas in Japan because Japan is extremely advanced in this field. This is also the reason why Gibson set the first scene of Neuromancer in Chiba prefecture in Japan. Related anime (that I’ve watched) include: Mirai Nikki, Steins;Gate, Ivu no Jikan (short, highly recommended). The first two concern time-travelling. The first one is also closely related to the game space concept that we talked about. The last one is related to the ethics of artificial intelligence and it made me emotional in the end.

 

Sources:

“Cyberpunk.” Wikipedia. Wikimedia Foundation, 09 June 2014. Web. 08 Sept. 2014.

Gibson, William. Neuromancer. New York: Ace, 1984. Print.

 

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