Although interacting with the DiVE was certainly an eye-opening and exciting new experience, as our class pointed out, it did have a number of shortcomings, including poor graphics, lack of stimulation of all five senses, and the fact that only one person was really interacting with the environment at a time. However, it did serve as a good starting point for a discussion on the limitless possibilities that virtual reality and technology in general can potentially have for us in the not so distant future. Neuromancer depicts a future that is so immersed in the digital and the virtual that it is at times hard to separate which parts are “real” and which parts are “merely virtual”. One fascinating example of how virtual reality is used in Neuromancer is known as the “simstim”, a piece of technology that is perhaps one of the best examples of the blending of the real and the virtual. It allows the user to experience a reality that is not merely “invented”, like that of the DiVE and other contemporary virtual reality systems, but is the reality behind the eyes of someone else. The first time this is used in Neuromancer is when Case uses the simstim to experience the world from Molly’s eyes as she goes to meet a man named Larry, a member of the Panther Moderns, in order to successfully infiltrate Sense/Net to get the ROM housing Dixie Flatline. The vividness of the simstim is made clear by Case’s first reaction to using it – “for a few frightened seconds he fought helplessly to control her body. Then he willed himself into passivity, became the passenger behind her eyes” (Gibson 56). The exciting thing about this brain-to-brain connection is that it doesn’t seem at all farfetched given what is going on today. In fact, we have made some inroads into brain-to-brain connections between animals already. According to our reading in Neurofutures, “the Nicolelis lab has experimented with transferring the brain state of an animal – in this case a hooded rat – to another rat through a direct brain-to-brain interface” (Lenoir 12). The example of the simstim is also interesting to apply to Hayles’ reading. According to Hayles, “embodiment then takes the form of extended cognition, in which human agency and thought are emeshed within larger networks that extend beyond the desktop computer into the environment” (Hayles 3). The simstim is a particularly good example of embodiment since through it, our cognition does not only extend out to our surrounding technological enviornment, but it can even extend to be inside the cognition of someone else! It turns out that applications of virtual reality in the future might even force us to give up the one place we feel we will always have privacy – inside our own minds.
Gibson, William. Neuromancer. New York: Ace, 1984. Print.
Hayles, Katherine. How We Think: Digital Media and Contemporary Technogenesis. Chicago: U of Chicago, 2012. Print.
Lenoir, Tim. Neurofutures. Open Humanities Press. http://livingbooksaboutlife.org/pdfs/bookarchive/Neurofutures.pdf