Lit 80, Fall 2013

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.