Lit 80, Fall 2013

Neuromancer: Novel Response

September 6th, 2013 | Posted by Mithun Shetty in Uncategorized - (0 Comments)

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.

Neuromancer-Novel Response

September 5th, 2013 | Posted by Zhan Wu in Uncategorized - (0 Comments)

Computers and digital media as we see them nowadays were uncommon during the early 1980s. Many people struggled at concepts such as the personal computer (PC), the internet, networking etc. Thus it was not odd at all that William Gibson’s science fiction novel “Neuromancer” was met with huge fanfare and gave people the opportunity to glimpse into the world of digital technology they have never experienced before.

When Neuromancer first came out, it was undeniably the avant-garde in the digital science fiction genre. Although novelists before Gibson’s time were talking about similar thoughts in their writings, their ideas were bound by factors such as politics and economic depressions. For instance, although the book “1984”, written in 1932, does talk about possible technological advances in its future, its general atmosphere is majorly shrouded in political oppression and people’s fear of democratic socialism. Neuromancer is a true science fiction novel in that readers can genuinely appreciate the high-tech world and all of its consequences (if not aftermaths) without being limited by the social and political context as is in the real world.

Furthermore, the book also introduced brand new terminology that we now seem to be especially familiar with. One of Gibson’s breakthroughs with Neuromancer was the introduction of the word “cyberspace”. In fact, the word would have a long-lasting impact on the entertainment industry around the globe even decades after it was introduced. Movies series such as “The Matrix”, “The Terminator” etc. not only heavily relied on “cyberspace” as a world surrounded by artificial intelligence (AI), but also extended the boundaries of the word into virtual reality etc.

The cyberpunk genre seeks to combine “high tech and low life” [1], a phenomenon which was prevalent in the 1980s. Neuromancer itself, with a lucid story, provokes questions that people eventually had to answer as more and more technological advancements at that time period came into being. Will people eventually misuse the advancements of science? (i.e. Case, despite having implanted organs that stop him from metabolizing drugs, uses new organs to get back into his drug life.) Will people get punished in unusual ways in the future? (Case gets his CNS damaged after stealing from his employer.) Do AI’s ultimately become much smarter than mankind? (The superconsciousness as a result of the merge between WIntermute and Neuromancer.) Can AI’s possibly overpower people? (Wintermute kills Armitage/Corto.) Though it seems that the book is answering yes to all these questions, the author’s main intention is to lead the reader into reflecting how life in the 1980s can coexist with emerging new technologies, and how this coexistence can develop in a positive way.

In a nutshell, Neuromancer was a stunning novel, “an archetypal cyberpunk work” [2] that not only includes an entertaining plot, but also reflects upon its time of new technological inventions.


[1] Anonymous. (2009). What is cyberpunk? Cyberpunked: Journal of Science, Technology, & Society. Retrieved from http:\\

[2] Seed, David (2005). Publishing. Blackwell. p. 220.

What is Human?

September 5th, 2013 | Posted by Shane Stone in Uncategorized - (2 Comments)

In Neuromancer readers encounter humans with modifications that pose the question “What is human?”  First off,  the genetic, mechanical, and biological modifications that people undergo do not make them any less human. You have to consider the context in which these modification are occurring. In this version of Earth, these modifications appear to be a common occurrence and although they seem strange to us, the modifications are a norm rather than taboo. In fact, I believe there is a parallel between the characters like Molly and Julius with modern people and their modifications. The Lizard Man and Cat Man have made many modifications to themselves to be something else. Even though our society sees this as taboo, we do not question their humanity. These modifications are similar to how Molly made changes to herself because she wanted to be something else, something more than a prostitute. These modification are a bit more extreme, but like I mentioned the context must be considered.  In comparison to Julius, you can look at anyone who has had a series of Botox Treatments and other plastic surgeries to maintain a more youthful appearance. Rather that plastic surgery, Julius has found a way to stay youthful without changing his looks. Actually, one could argue that he is more human than the people today who have all of these surgeries, but that’s just because a lot of times it can look unnatural. In my opinion, modifications can be made as long as they remain a biological being. I suggest this as my boundary for modifications because of an episode of “Teen Titans” when the character Cyborg almost loses the parts of him that “make him human.” He knows that although he is part machine that there are still parts of him that make him human, and he like all humans do not want to lose their humanity.


We live in an age where technology that was once considered “futuristic” is now a reality. Computers have become extensions of our independent intelligence, allowing us to access the research of others, have questions answered, become educated, and perform a range of tasks within seconds. The division between mind and machine is also progressively shrinking. With the increasing usage of portable devices such as laptops, GPS systems, and particularly smartphones, we have access to outside sources of intelligence at nearly any place and any time. Dr. Ray Kurzweil, a director of engineering at Google, claims that we could be uploading our minds to computers in as little as thirty years. By doing so, we would be creating, as he calls it, “digital immortality”. We would essentially be extracting our minds, thus conserving all our knowledge and life experiences, allowing our “self” to live on past our biological life span. But would it really “live” on? Or is there more to “living” than just the information stored in our brains? Dr. Kurzweil also discusses creating “mindfiles” that would preserve our personalities as well, posing the question of whether it is possible to create an artificial human. And if so, where is the line between man and machine drawn?

In 1984, William Gibson contemplated the idea of splitting the mind and body through computers in his novel “Neuromancer”. He creates several characters that display human characteristics—such as having a sense of humor, laughing, problem solving, interacting with others, and even having desires—yet whose being is artificial, their intelligence contained within a ROM or computer algorithm. Dixie, for example, would be considered a friend of Cases, a being who he interacts with repeatedly, who relays sarcastic remarks–giving him a sense of personality–and who even has a dying wish. Yet, Dixie is not “human”. Though “he” had once lived, the information from his brain is separate from a body and exists in a ROM. This raises the question—what makes us truly human? Dixie and other characters such as Finn, Armitage, and Wintermute possess qualities that make them individualistic, that allow us to sympathize with them, and that give them depth. They are not just a voice spitting out data; they contain algorithms that allow them to theoretically “think”, to process interactions with humans and respond to them accordingly. Is this enough? Is it the brain, not the body, which makes us who we are? And if this were the case, where it is the information in our brain that makes us who we are, then would uploading that information to a computer—an artificial brain—subsequently maintain our humanistic traits? We become unsettled by the idea of living amongst machines in what could be the near future, but when it comes down to it—are we really that different?


Gibson, William. Neuromancer. New York: Berkley Publishing Group, 1984. Print.

Woollaston, Victoria. “We’ll be uploading our entire MINDS to computers by 2045 and our bodies will be replaced by machines within 90 years, Google expert claims.” Daily Mail. 19 Jun 2013: n. page. Web. 4 Sep. 2013. <>.

Neuromancer Novel Response

September 4th, 2013 | Posted by Sheel Patel in Uncategorized - (2 Comments)

Today, majority of the major operations that occur daily whether in the stock market, newsroom, hospital room, and even the classroom, are being aided or often run by technology and computers. Just as Donna Haraway predicted in her “Cyborg Manifesto,” technology has wedged itself into almost all daily activities in today’s society and has led to the formation of what I believe are two kinds of Cyborgs: people physically connected to machines and technology and those mentally attached to their devices.

The novel Neuromancer by William Gibson delves into this topic of “cyborgism” along with the harmony and often dissonance between man and machine. It poses many theoretical questions that are becoming more and more pertinent today, as the gap between human and machine grows smaller. It poses questions like: what defines something or someone is human? Or regarding how the body and mind is split, especially when technology is engrained directly into the body. One of the biggest questions that has arisen from this novel is whether a new being can be created, whether human, cyborg, or something else and the implications of this. In the novel, this can be seen everywhere and in everyone. A prime example can be seen with Molly, who through extensive surgeries has acquired prosthetics, fingernail implants, and mental switches that render her a ‘super-ninja’ assassin. Is Molly classified as a human? A cyborg? Another character, Julius, also has extensive surgeries done to him, which switch out his DNA and allow him to continue living way past the age of 150. The same can be seen, in a less obvious manner, with Case who through surgeries has obtained new drug resistant organs, along with the ability to zap into cyberspace and a virtual matrix.

All of these technological enhancements or changes to the human body is part of a societal stigma Gibson predicted, in which people would become ‘technologically addicted’ and continue to transform and alter their bodies with technology. Although it may seem crazy for someone to undergo some of the surgeries found in the novel, delving deeper into today’s society elucidates that Gibson may not have been to far off in his prediction. Today, mentally people have become more and more engrained with technology, with micro computers (smartphones) at their side at all times. It may not be a full out addiction, but there are noticeable mental effects that occur from being away from technology that can often be seen as symptomatic for an addiction. Gibson’s theory of completely altering the human body with technology also holds true today with the advent of 3-D printing, especially in the medical field. Today, and definitely in the next decade, scientists will be able to print out fully functional human organs and transplant them into people, just as Case had pancreas and liver transplants. With this advent, along with the computer mapping of the human brain, who is to say a new breed of human, cyborg, or new species can’t be created. The implications of this have very serious consequences on society in all aspects from politics to ethics. Maybe Gibson’s dystopian society wasn’t that far off after all.