Aside from its bizarrely accurate foresight, Neuromancer is an interesting novel because of the questions and ideas that it brings up regarding the relationship between humans and technology. In a mere set of decades, our society has transformed from a largely disconnected, isolated set of communities to a thoroughly interconnected digital network; in some way or the other, we are constantly transmitting or receiving data in our daily lives. Whether it is the infrastructures of our cities (traffic, navigation, consumerism, etc.) or keeping ourselves updated on our array of electronic devices, urbanized areas are almost completely dependent on technology. Additionally, the technology we are using is tending towards a more profound integration into our biological systems; new inventions are changing the way we perceive information from our environments. The implementation of QR codes, “Google Glasses,” and other marvels that augment reality are steps toward the complete unification of man and machine.
This is an idea that Neuromancer focuses on for the majority of the novel. Where exactly is the delineation between human and technology? As we become more dependent on our devices to orient ourselves in our changing environments, will we lose the characteristics that we currently consider makes us “human?” The characters in Gibson’s novel all feature some sort of technological miracle; they have been able to cure their drug addictions, develop veritable superpowers (fingernails, cybernetic implants), and even achieve immortality. Additionally, Gibson introduces characters who are able to willfully suspend their consciousness or jack into an alternate form of reality, “the matrix.” Such examples represent the extremes of technological integration – it is understandable that Gibson chooses to represent the characters’ reliance on technology similar to drug dependence.
The reader may find it very difficult to classify certain characters as human or technology. Most notably, Dixie Flatline – who is deceased but has his mind and consciousness stored onto a ROM – is able to interact with Case and Molly and the other characters of the novel. Would we consider him a human? Though he is not the physical manifestation of McCoy Pauley, he is still able to access his mind. Perhaps he is not human because he cannot create or learn new thoughts. This distinction could be a vital part of the definition of a human being. Additionally, characters that have serious prosthetics (Molly, for example) cause readers to wonder how much technological additions/replacements would be necessary to cross the threshold of man to machine. When does a character like Molly cease being human and become a super intelligent bio-computer?
We probably will not have such drastic technological advances as presented in Gibson’s novel in the foreseeable future. However, these examples illustrate important phenomena that are occurring in our present lives: we are co-evolving with the technology that we produce at an alarmingly fast rate, which has both useful benefits (such as increased perception and function) and dangerous risks of total dependence on technology and a lack of a separate, human identity.
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