I have previously blogged about Sci-fi and The Internet of Things, but there I was discussing the science fiction portrayal of an highly interconnected dystopia, and the potential dangers of the internet.
Today I want to talk about sci-fi and technology again; but looking more specifically at ‘cyberpunk’ and its conceptualising of technological advancements in society.
Cyberpunk looks to a future where information technology is wealth and knowledge is power. Most cyberpunk texts are set in a post-industrial era with a rigid status quo and an oppressive corporate power.
One of the most famous, and potentially most influential of this niche sub-genre is Gibson’s Johnny Mnemonic which was first written in 1981 and produced into a film in 1995 (but the plot was substantially changed). Of all of Gibson’s cyberpunk works ‘Johnny Mnemonic’ captured the attention of people, and did not just invoke their fears of technology, but provoked discussion.
David Tomas suggests that Gibson;s cyberpunk works have provided an opportunity for the discussion of “preliminary observations on the interaction between advanced technologies, human identity and marginal oppositional cultures.” (pg 187).
It is this idea that science fiction allows and facilitates discussion that is particularly interesting to me. While I previously understood Sci-Fi to explore the role of technology, predict the advancements and present the dangers I never considered the possibility of it’s ability to facilitate discussion.
Tomas quotes Gibson as saying: “apprehending the present seems to require the whole Science Fiction toolkit” (pg 187). It is interesting that those literary techniques used by sci-fi authors to invoke extrapolation and technological discourse are not just literary tools but are now needed to communicate day-to-day life.
What were once fictional depictions of the future are slowly making their way into our reality. Consider the genetic modification in Brave New World; the bio-technology in Blade Runner; the piecing together of men in Frankenstein.
Science fiction is sensitising us for the changes to come, and Gibson’s Cyborg worlds are an exploration of the ethics, morals and laws of the social and biological changes that may be coming…
Gibson, W. (1988) “Johnny Mnemonic”, Burning Chrome, Grafton, London, 14-36
Tomas, D. (2000) ‘The technophilic body: on technicity in William Gibson’s cyborg culture’, in Bell, D and Kennedy, B (eds), The Cybercultures Reader, Routledge, London: 175-189.