Study Guide

Neuromancer Technology and Modernization

By William Gibson

Technology and Modernization

The sky above the port was the color of television, tuned to a dead channel. (1.1)

From the first line, we can see the importance of machinery in this world. It's so prevalent that it's used metaphorically to describe something as technology-free as the sky.

Cyberspace. A consensual hallucination experienced daily by billions of legitimate operators, in every nation… A graphic representation of data abstracted from the banks of every computer in the human system. (3.94)

That's one doozy of a definition. The term "consensual hallucination" is really more problematic than it seems at first glance. A hallucination expresses the idea of something not real, but if it isn't real, then should more than one person experience it? Maybe there's more going on here than we'd assume at first glance.

[T]he cyberspace matrix was actually a drastic simplification of the human sensorium, at least in terms of presentation, but simstim itself struck [Case] as a gratuitous multiplication of flesh input. (4.2)

We can see the division between the computer world and the human "fleshy" world. It's an important division to note. As any Farmville addict can tell you, sometimes it doesn't feel like there's much of a separation between the two, but keeping them straight would seem to be kind of important when it comes to keeping yourself sane.

"You can go for a walk, you wanna. It's all there. Or anyway all the parts of it you ever saw. This is memory, right? I tap you, sort it out, and feed it back in." (14.72)

Cyberspace may be a representation of pure data. And memory is also data of sorts. So what if you could just record memory into a digital form? Would humanity use it to better itself or would we all just constantly relive our summer vacations? Check out the "Memory and the Past" theme section for more.

Case listened to the silence of the hall, punctuated by the soft clink of the candelabrum. Candles? Straylight was all wrong… A place grown in upon itself. (15.21)

In a world replete with technological wonder, a technology as simple as a candle becomes weird and abnormal. Yes, technically a candle is a type of technology as well. After all, it's a harnessing of a natural resource for human purposes—just like a silicon chip.

But weren't the zaibatsus more like that, or the Yakuza, hives with cybernetic memories, vast single organisms, their DNA coded in silicon? (17.16)

Computers and modern databases grant organizations like the Yakuza the human traits of memories and DNA. Does this mean they can also propagate and reproduce? Would they effectively be immortal? Maybe. If information is power, people are secondary.

The Villa Straylight was a parasitic structure, Case reminded himself, as he stepped past the tendrils of caulk and through Marcus Garvey's forward hatch. Straylight bled air and water out of Freeside, and had no ecosystem of its own. (19.1)

The complicated inner-workings of Freeside make the Straylight's theft of its resources hard to notice. It allows those who run the technology to take what they want from those who access it. Like how Facebook and Google take the personal information of their users and sell it to ad agencies. Can you think of any other examples of this happening in your life?

"She imagined us in a symbiotic relationship with the AI's, our corporate decisions made for us. Our conscious decisions, I should say. Tessier-Ashpool would be immortal, a hive, each of us units of a larder entity." (19.39)

The old wish for immortality, eh? Where once people sought alchemy potions or fountains of youth, now they desire technology to grant their wishes. But could computers and machinery succeed where magic once failed? When we consider some of the wonders of modern medicine, it sure seems like it.

[…] as [Linda] pulled [Case] down, to the meat, the flesh the cowboys mocked. It was a vast thing, beyond knowing, a sea of information coded in spiral and pheromone, infinite intricacy that only the body, in its strong blind way, could ever read. (20.86)

Notice that the language describing their sexual encounter is similar to the descriptions of Case's experience in cyberspace. Case loved cyberspace but wasn't so keen on the "meat" of the body. Do you think the language suggests a change for him?

"I'm the matrix, Case."

Case laughed. "Where's that get you?"

"Nowehere. Everywhere. I'm the sum total of the works, the whole show." (24.25-27)

What does this mean for the future? Well, we'll leave that for you to decide after you finish reading.