Cyberpunk The Purpose: To approach utopian visions of technological progress with a certain skepticism for government and corporate interests. Landmark Texts: N. Katherine Hayles – How We Became Posthuman: Virtual Bodies […]
The Purpose: To approach utopian visions of technological progress with a certain skepticism for government and corporate interests.
The rise of information technology in the 1990’s had many people excited, but Hayles foresaw a future where our Liberal Humanism–that sentiment endlessly echoed in our literature–would succumb to the eventual singularity of data-driven entities in the posthuman era. Hayley argues that we need to maintain a firm grip on the humanities while also embracing rapid and unpredictable technological revolutions, as our ontological understanding of the world is now more based on patterns and precise data.
Popularized by its movie adaptation, Bladerunner, Dick’s novel about a super-advanced, post-apocalyptic civilization is one of the first to seamlessly blend the beautiful serenity of a utopian future with the nightmare vision of a world gone to hell. About a man who must deactivate six rogue androids, Also included in this novel are several other elements of cyberpunk, including hints of film-noir and detective fiction reminiscent of Raymond Chandler and Dashiell Hammett.
In William Gibson’s technologically-crazed vision of Tokyo, the populace lives in the squalor as mega-corporations control most of the world’s resources and money, and the only ones who can realistically defy these constraints are expert hackers who live in hiding, but nevertheless manage to infiltrate complex security systems. As one of the first novels to completely do away with this “greener pasture” vision of a technologically-advanced society, Gibson would influence a whole new era of subversive science-fiction novels.
While it does a good job at parodying the quirks and clichés of Gibson’s cyberpunk worlds, it nevertheless envisions a world split between the controlling powers and the struggling masses. Like Neuromancer, the main character is a superstar hacker with personality, but much of the novel actually takes place in a virtually reality domain called the Metaverse, where a new computer virus/drug called Snow Crash spreads quickly and threatens the lives of those who encounter it. Written over two decades ago, Stephenson’s novel questions the inevitable rise of technology in relation to issues like urban sprawl, globalization and military privatization.