Study Guide

Neuromancer Freedom and Confinement

By William Gibson

Freedom and Confinement

But [Case] also saw a certain sense in the notion that burgeoning technologies require outlaw zones, that Night City wasn't there for its inhabitants, but as a deliberately unsupervised playground for technology itself. (1.71)

The citizens of Night City think they are breaking all the rules, but the system wants them to so the system can profit later. Remember Napster? It broke the rules by letting people download songs for free and was deemed illegal for its efforts. Then Apple took that idea, renamed it the iTunes store, charged for the songs, and raked in billions of legal dollars. Night City is the Napster of the future.

"You have fifteen toxin sacs bonded to the lining of various main arteries, Case. They're dissolving. Very slowly, but they definitely are dissolving.

[…]

You have time to do what I'm hiring you for, Case, but that's all. Do the job and I can inject you with an enzyme that will dissolve the bond without opening the sacs." (3.26, 28)

Case is free to go wander cyberspace again, but his boss tells him where and when. He's traded in one confinement for another one. It's like when you have a bunch of free time but no money to do anything. So you get a job and now you have money but no free time.

Travel was a meat thing. (5.55)

Case finds his body confining, and cyberspace is the release. We'll see if Case changes his mind on this later in the novel.

It was called dub, a sensuous mosaic cooked from vast libraries of digitalized pop; it was worship, Molly said, and a sense of community. (8.32)

For the Zionists, their music expresses their freedom from the rest of the world because it's theirs. They made it, so it represents something special for them. The dub music plays an important role later in the story, so keep an eye, erm, ear out for it.

Cyberspace, as the deck presented it, had no particular relationship with the deck's physical whereabouts. When Case jacked in, he opened his eyes to the familiar configuration of the Eastern Seaboard Fission Authority's Aztec pyramid of data. (8.48)

Case sees cyberspace as a way to go anywhere, do anything. Still, the world of cyberspace has rules. Case is just better at going around or usurping these rules that he is at doing so in the real world.

"Wait a sec." Case said. "Are you sentient, or not?"

"Well, it feels like I am, kid, but I'm really just a bunch of ROM. It's one of them, ah, philosophical questions, I guess." (10.103-104)

The ROM construct grants the Dixie Flatline freedom from death, but he can't store memories or alter himself for the better. Just imagine, never dying but never changing either. Eesh. The world would feel like a never-ending rerun. The thought just gives you the heebie-jeebies, doesn't it?

"You guys," the Finn said, "you're a pain. The Flatline here, if you were all like him, it would be real simple. He's a construct, just a buncha ROM, so he always does what I expect him to. My projections said there wasn't much chance of Molly wandering in on Ashpool's big exit scene, give you one example." (17.38)

Free choice makes it hard for computers programs to really understand humans since computer programs can only make the decisions within the confines of their algorithm. Human beings, however, can make completely random decisions on the fly, from watching Family Guy all Saturday night, to going for a drive, to cooking the last corndog in the fridge because it's there. What if the computer program doesn't have a corndog-cooking algorithm? Too bad, so sad.

Lady 3Jane Marie-France Tessier-Ashpool had carved herself a low country flush with the inner surface of Straylight's hull, chopping away the maze of walls that was her legacy. (18.3)

3Jane attempts to free herself from her family legacy by renovating the inside of Straylight, her family's home, to fit her liking. Yet, she's still living at home with her family and at her age… awkward.

"You killed my father," 3Jane said, no change whatever in her tone. "I was watching on the monitors. My mother's eyes, he called them." (18.69)

One of the richest, most powerful families in the solar system, and they cannot find freedom because they confine themselves. Irony's the best.

None of this was real, but cold was cold. (20.51)

Even in the most advanced of virtual realities, our bodily evolution and all too human instincts still control us. No matter how realistic our XBOX 360s get, we're still going to need to take bathroom breaks and eat dinner. Hopefully not at the same time mind you.