Image for Neuromancer
Neuromancer is a 1984 science fiction novel written by William Gibson, and one of the seminal works of the Cyberpunk genre of literature. It is a winner of the science fiction "Triple Crown": the Hugo Award, the Nebula Award and the Phillip K. Dick award.
The novel opens in the dystopian setting of Chiba City, where we are introduced to Case, a once talented hacker that has been reduced to a simple con-man to support himself. He has been afflicted with a neural condition which has impaired him from hacking into the global computer network. He resides in Chiba City to look for a cure at one of the "black clinics" in the area. With no help in sight, Case is unemployable, addicted to drugs, and suicidal. He is rescued from his current predicament by Molly, a technologically enhanced mercenary, employed by Armitage, a shady ex-military officer. After joining them, Armitage arranges for Case's nervous system repaired so that he has the ability to enter the global computer network again. Armitage pays off Case's debts, repairs his neural damage, and places him under the protection of Molly, a professional killer. As Case progresses through his assignments with Molly and a range of others enlisted by Armitage, he becomes aware of larger forces working to control his activities. Ultimately, Case realizes that it is Neuromancer, a far-reaching artificial intelligence, that he has been working for. The opus ends with Case's realization that he has been controlled by the very technology he uses.
Case: Case is the main character in the story, and displays a sense of loneliness. Aside from his relatively shallow connection to Linda Lee, he has no real connections to anyone or anything. He is a drug addict, gangster, and hacker. In fact, he is one of the most talented hackers in the world. Because of his talents, he is poisoned, and taken in by Armitage to work for him. Armitage is actually controlled by artificial intelligence. Case's talent is what eventually leads Wintermute to chose him in his (Wintermute's) quest for freedom.
Armitage: An ex-army major named Corto, who was involved in a military operation which left him extremely scarred. This trauma, combined with the response of the government, drove him to madness. From this madness, Wintermute was able to forge an entirely new personality for him, named Armitage. Armitage offers to fix Case's problems and help him cure the poison, which he has in his system. This leads to the quest to free Wintermute for some time before ultimately breaking down into madness, and being killed by Wintermute when he was no longer useful.
Dixie Flatline: Dixie Flatline is a personality "construct" that was recorded by a very talented redneck hacker. He was famous for being flatlined for an unusually long time while jacked into the matrix. For the latter half of the book, (after Wintermute orchestrates Flatline's theft,) Dixie works with the protagonists in whatever capacity he is instructed. His sole wish, Case learns during the story, is to be erased because he feels like there is something wrong with his life as a construct, and that he is not quite "real".
Wintermute: Wintermute is the artificial intelligence entity that appears to be in control for most of the plot. He appears to Case in vision-like states where Case's heart flatlines, and Case is brought into the virtual world of Wintermute's "mind". Wintermute is on a quest to free himself from the hardwired constraints that hinder his ability to spread his influence throughout the world. He uses all of the characters in the book ruthlessly to this end, having no qualms about killing those police officers in the story and anyone who might be inconvenient or deemed useless. Throughout the book, Wintermute alludes to not being quite whole, as in, that he is only part of an entity. It later revealed that Wintermute is the hive mind side of the brain designed by Tessier Ashpool to lead their company
Neuromancer: Only showing his "face" at the very end of the book, Neuromancer is an enigmatic character. He is the personality side of the brain that Tessier Ashpool designed to lead their company. Throughout the book, Neuromancer manipulates Case by showing him images of his love interest, Linda Lee, in the most unlikely of places. At the end of the book, Neuromancer and Wintermute merge to become a single, greater entity that informs Case that it "is the matrix now".
Ratz: Bartender known for his ugliness. Gibson describes "[h]is ugliness [as] the stuff of legend. In an age of affordable beauty, there was something heraldic about his lack of it." He also has a prosthetic arm which was referred to as a "claw".
Wage: A drug dealer who has many connections and rumored to want Case dead.
Linda Lee: A old "friend" of Case with whom he had the chance to be in a romantic relationship with. Case is really concerned about her. She is used by Neuromancer throughout the book to upset Case.
Julis Deane: 135 year old man with lots of antique. He has a connection to Wage. Deane is very resourceful and Case goes to him for knowledge about certain people.
The Finn: Illegal goods/privacy vendor. Later, Wintermute uses the Finn as his "physical" form to speak to Case.
Lonny Zone: A pimp that hangs around Ratz's bar.
'Shi'n: Gun renter. Importance unknown.
'Snak'e Man: One of Case's customers.
Kurt: Employee of Ratz. 3Jane: The third clone of the original Jane of the Tessier-Ashpool family. She is the one that holds the password to the analog lock on Wintermute.
Discussion, Section 1
What is peculiar about Chiba City/ Novel's Settings and how is this city significant in the intro of the novel? (Directed towards the choice of options available to Casey)
Chiba City is distinct in that it is a hotbed of nerve-splicing and grafting technology, and mostly through the shadier segments of its society. Case explains that "black clinics of Chiba were the cutting edge," and that it existed merely because it served as a "playground for technology itself." This is counter-intuitive to the modern understanding of the emergency and development of technology, in which (what one may assume to be) such complicated disciplines as those practiced in Chiba would require the careful, precise work only available in an expensive laboratory. As Gibson indicates, though, Chiba conducts its business in dank, back-alley workshops, and that it is exceedingly good at doing so. Case may have been attracted to this feature of Chiba -- the dichotomy between its quality of living and the perfection of its work -- since he himself was an independent master of a different technology, the matrix. However, due to the criminal aspects of Chiba, Case has no other option but play a part in the illegal activities that routinely occur there. As a result, Case receives more than he bargained for: he not only becomes submerged in the techno-centric culture of Chiba, but also its more scandalous culture. Case had lived his past in a way that makes this city the perfect match for him. He was able to hustle others, and this city seems like the perfect environment for him. The way in which the city is described seems bleak: "the greyness of the television screen," implying that Chiba City is a low level town, only filled with criminals, and the unwanted of society.
Chiba City, as seen in the first two chapters, seems to be the darker side of the city, and is known as "the Night City." Chiba probably does have legitimate business, but from Case's point of view, that doesn't matter. Perhaps the reason that Night City is a "playground for technology" is because they worry less about ethics. The illegal dealings are interesting because they often, as far as the reader sees, deal in the pleasures of flesh, such as Zone's prostitutes or the drug market, and Case has shown contempt for the body. This could be to show the contrast between the body and 'reality', or the physical, and the mind and 'cyber space', or the virtual.
Chiba city can be seen to hold a special place in Case's heart due to its connection with technology and the breaking edge of it. Chiba city is looked at sort of like a wild west of technology where the hackers and gangs run free to decide how exactly it should be used and implemented in society. I feel that Chiba City acts as a place not that decides how the rest of the world will eventually perceive the technology to work, but rather as a testing ground where new ideas can be put into effect extremely quickly due to the lack of a bureaucratic nature. It seems as if Gibson used Chiba city as the introductory setting to promote a sense of restlessness about technology.
Chiba city is a very unique setting for this book because it has two very different scenes. It is definitely a "darker" city but at night the whole city changes and becomes a breeding ground for new technology being discovered. Case is much more attracted to this side of the city than the more legally sound side of the city.
Chiba city is seen as a connection with technology for Case. It is looked at sort of where the hackers and gangs are free to decide how exactly technology should be used and implemented. Chiba City acts as a place where new and different ideas can produce new technology as well as implement it in its society.
Chiba City is peculiar in that it is a darker city than normal consisting of illegal dealings, drug markets, and prostitution around the corners. It is significant because it presents a city thats different and more unique.
Chiba City is the darker side of the city where most illegal deals, crimes, drugs happened. Case like and get attracted by the city because more crazy ideas and technology will come out in this place rather than the legal side of the city where everything should be under control.
Gibson describes Case as a once respected computer hacker that has resorted to dealing drugs in a futuristic, authoritarian society. Mind that this novel was published in the 80's before the current advancements of technology. What sort of implications does Case's character convey about hackers in general? What does Gibson say about the prospects of technology in general and its effects on society? With this in mind, how do you think this relates to either how society controls technology or how technology controls society?
Gibson paints a grim portrait of hacker culture and the ubiquity of technology in the first two chapters of Neuromancer. Case, a renowned hacker and thus a primary symbol of hacker culture in the novel, is by all appearances a despicable character: a digital thief turned hit man, fueled by narcotics and the rush of criminal life. By extension, then, Gibson is implying that hackers have devolved into a criminal class, an undesirable element of society. Gibson also seems to suggest that technology, although capable of amazing biological feats, is mostly a criminal tool. As Gibson describes the denizens of Ninsei, speaking of "grafts and implants," the reader begins to understand that technology has become merged with humanity to form new, and questionably better, creatures. Julius Deane, for instance, has escaped the ills of old age through technology; Molly has become a super-human assassin through numerous implementations of technology. At the same time, though, Gibson describes Ninsei itself as a degenerate, crime-ridden slum, noting that its purpose seems to be a breeding ground for new technology. Technology, then, is closely associated with the criminal underworld and the unseen elements of society in Neuromancer. Likewise, many of those in Chiba City benefiting from technology - such as Deane and Molly - are criminals themselves, aided in their illicit activities by technology. In this way, Gibson conveys that hackers in his dystopia have been reduced to criminals, and technology has become a criminal tool. This hacker society seems to control technology for its benefits. It allows them to live longer, steal money, and change and alter their bodies in many different ways. Technology has ended up in the underworld, and is used by the people here to gain ground.
Case's character implies that the view of hackers within this society from the 80's is that they exist only for computers and that they feel that they will never be "the same" again without getting the "high" from working with computers (i.e. using computers to get secrets). This could also mean that hackers feel that they cannot return back to the normal life of society because they know that it is not the entire truth; thus they return to a "life on the edge" by selling drugs and such. By and large, it would appear that hackers are considered thieves by nature. That is, they are the sort of individuals that don't question the morality of what they're doing. In general it seems as though the prospects of technology are advancing to a point where anything is possible. Technology's affect on society seems to be very negative in that technology is helping strengthen the negative aspects of society (drugs, injuries, war, weapons). Society hopes that they are able to control technology, but in the end it seems as though technology pushes society in a specific direction.
In the first two chapters, Gibson does not make the hacker culture seem like a good cause. Case is the main character of the story and his personality seems on the sketchy side. The characters are almost addicted to this cyberspace and they believe that there is no way that they can return back to reality. In Chiba City, technology runs society. All the city knows and has is its technology, so it is the main source it can really resort to.
Case's portrayal of hacking definitely shines a negative light on the activity by comparing it to that of dealing drugs. It makes the activity seem like something that people would resort to if they needed a quick dirty way to accomplish something, like how dealing drugs is today. I think Gibson definitely overestimated the percentage of people who would have a technological savvy yet at the same time destructive mindset, allowing them to work in a field of hacking. Although there are definitely people today who would be labeled hackers, it seems that they are good at staying unheard of and not accumulating together to live in such a city. It also speaks volumes about the governments that Gibson thought would appear, and how they would handle the advancement of technology. It seems that Gibson either predicted that they would be unable to control technology and the way it was used, or that they conceived some sort of radical project where they isolated a percentage of people to live in very different lifestyle and devote their city to reworking the technologies that appeared in the modern day.
Case viewed his hacking as being endless. It was a way to enter into a world and do your own thing. This can relate to his drug use as well since people say your mind enters another world and feel like you have no idea where you are. The technology in the book is focused on computers since it a fairly new item one could buy. Case lived his life in a way where he could let his mind wonder. By hacking and using drugs, he was able to achieve this. It added to his adventure he underwent throughout the book.
Case’s character conveys that hackers are usually so absorbed in their world that if something would happen to them that would cause them to stop hacking, they would be lost and feel that they have no purpose. This is exactly what happens to Case after his nervous system is damaged. The only thing that he knows and likes to do is hacking, and he does not feel alive if he cannot do it. This is why he even gets into the black clinics and tries a new technology to cure his nerve damage. This relates directly to how technology controls society. Society is based on its people and their actions, and if everyone is absorbed in a city that is a playground for technology, society will be shaped by the technology around them.
Hackers and Case's view the world of cyberspace as a place with no limits. Cyberspace to them is a release from reality. It removes predictability, anonymities and the aptitude needed to suffice in the real world, instead they gloat with their technical abilities on the net. However, even the best hackers often get lost like any other computer user might in cyberspace, . Cyberspace has the same effect on hackers as it does on Case--they see the same type of rush, with bodies full of adrenaline ready to code and execute their next planned hack.
Gibson implies that hackers have become a level of the criminal class that are undesirable especially those that control technology and do not wish for hackers to intervene.
How does Case feel about his body? How might this relate to the ways technology allows him to exceed his body? What might this be trying to say about how hackers and other computer users relate to their bodies, as we have seen depicted in our other reading? What do their bodies say about their Identity and personalities that somewhat define cyberpunk.
Case feels his biological body is a prison that keeps him from his cyberspace adventures. After betraying his former employers, he suffers what appears to be irreversible damage to his nervous system, which has disabled his ability to wander cyberspace ever again. Case is grounded in an environment that he despises. The mutilation of his ability to jack into cyberspace robbed Case of not only one of his most powerful skills, but also arguably of his passion. His state is comparable to a paralyzed professional athlete. Case is left as a shell of his former self, forced to con and scam in Chiba City for enough money to get high off of. It follows that Case's mentality at the beginning of the story is quite self-destructive. Such is obvious when Case comments how he rarely carries a weapon and takes multiple drugs. Even Armitage notes, after Case meets him, that he is has become suicidal. Case is less than cautious when arranging his black market deals. Overall, Case and in general hackers or computer users view their biological bodies as a material they cannot escape from unless they can go to cyberspace. This group of people often feels constrained by reality because reality removes the anonymity, predictability, and their technical aptitude in cyberspace, similar to the MUD users described by Sherry Turkle. Case’s desire to return to cyberspace is manifested in his dreams, as mentioned in the novel, as well as his avid hallucinogenic drug use. This is why Case has gotten involved in the sketchy activities of Chiba City, Japan: to help escape from his biological body and go back into cyberspace. He sought to have his nervous system repaired so that he could return into his cyber world. Since the damage was so severe, he has not been able to repair it. This has led to his extremely dejected and defeated attitude.
Bodily manipulations and modifications in various characters in Neuromancer and other readings that thus far have been introduce show how identity and alienation are intertwined. The settings of our science fiction novels influence and create identity as each character is usually defined in terms of what he or she does for a living (Case, Ratz, Lise, Wescott, etc) or by what possessions they own, wear, or otherwise exhibit. This same system of identification inevitably creates a sense of alienation since many characters are driven by selfish and often covert motivations so that although there is always a sense of making one’s identity known through products or modifications, the true identity remains concealed or even lost in the sea of constant input that pervades all of the settings. In Case's case, his true identity of once being a console cowboy is masked by his self-destructive, drug abusive, and suicidal actions.
It's clear that Case views his body as a burden more than anything else. He longs to return to his world of data where he could get the rush of hacking systems. He abuses multiple substances to recreate the rush he used to get, while almost completely ignoring the toll his body is paying to sustain these habits. Without his cyberspace, he has become borderline suicidal and reckless, bringing up the question of whether he can even recognize his body as still being his. Case's body is a meat prison, he views himself as a grounded "meatbag". He desperately desires to become free in cyberspace again, becoming more and more suicidal as his options for recovery peter out.
It would seem that most everyone in this book so far acts in a way that reveals how they view their body as a burden in one way or another. We see Case constantly misusing his body and filling it with octagons (drugs) in order to feel a rush that his body would not be able to produce at any time if he wanted. We see Molly and how she has modified her body in order to better fit the situations that her jobs require her to be in. It seems as if the body is more of an accessory or a tool that the humans use in order to achieve a goal. In today's society, we'd be much more cautious with throwing adaptaions and gadgets into our body in fear of a malfunction or lack of ability to return it to it's prior state. Gibson most likely wants to present the notion that technology in Neuromancer has progressed to a point where humans no longer have doubts about what will happen when interacting with it / letting it interact with them.
It is obvious that Case thinks his body is a prison to keeping him from cyberspace especially after damage to his nervous system because of betrayal. Returning to cyberspace is his essential desire. To realize his desire, he gets involved into sketchy activities to get rid of his body. However, the damage couldn’t be repair which led him into drug abusive and suicidal.
Case feels his body is like a prison or a burden that keeps him from accessing cyberspace. He desires to enter cyberspace but his body in his path. This however affirms that technology can exceed the limits of the human body by actually placing a limit on Case's body from entering the cyberworld.
William Gibson constantly notes how various objects and things are imitations or copies of originals. What does this portray about his present view of society and the growing number of imitations. Are imitations good or bad? If the imitation perfectly copies the original why do we typically cling to the originals as having a greater "value"?
Imitations are usually seen by society as something bad--not right and not as perfect--and that is why we typically cling to the originals as having a greater “value”. Take illegal copies of movies as an example. We all know that is wrong to make, sell, or buy these copies. We also know that they are not as good as original movies; they don’t have good audio or visual quality. That is exactly why their price or “value” is so low. However, some people still buy them. After all, they are imitations and they still have the same function as the originals. The same thing happens in these stories. Society can differ between an imitation and an original copy but not everyone will accept the imitations as something “good.”
In contradiction with the above view on imitations, particularly in the cyberspace world, copies can have the exact same quality as the original. Additionally, an imitation could perhaps not be differentiated from the original. Now with the case of a copied movie or song, this does not seem like too big of a deal; however when that which is imitated becomes much more serious, say the identity of a human being online or prosthetic body parts, the thought is all the more terrifying. But why do we as humans feel intimidated by such imitations? If an imitation can fulfill all the performance and efficiency of the original and is additionally indiscernible from the original then it should be considered as the equal to the original.
The reason that humans are so intimidated by these intimations is because they are not the original. It may indeed be indiscernible from the original copy, but it is not the original copy. As stated, this does not particularly bother us when the imitation is a song or a movie. But when the imitation is a person's identity or something of similar importance, it is inherently threatening. Viewing the copy as indiscernible from the original, and then suggesting that the copy should be considered equal to the original completely ignores the right of an individual to his or her own person. Personal rights have been the inspiration for revolutions, social movements, and even wars. These rights should never be compromised, and the thought that a perfect imitation could compromise these rights is what threatens humans.
The word "imitation" innately carries a negative connotation. It implies that something is just trying to be like the original. However, even when an imitation is identical to the original, there's still a feeling of unreliability and danger. In addition, even amongst the stated imitations, Case's suicidal behavior in-and-of-itself is only to create an imitation of the sensation he had when he was in cyberspace.
Gibson trys to paint us a picture of just how real technology has become in emulating the things around it. He wants to show us that it has progressed to a point where we actually have to differentiate an authentic object from its imitation and what that means. I feel that Gibson doesn't try to push the reader to be for or against the notion of imitations and their legitimacy, but rather to question the reader to ask why they even exsist and what we should do about them. Humans typically cling to the original version of a certain item due to some sort of trust or sentimental value to it. They have had an extended amount of exposeure to it, and it has earned their trust over time, where as an imitaion is mostly new and has not been put through its steps yet.
The imitations can often be seen as not right and thus having a negative sense. Society inclines to perceive imitations as separate from copies. Copies can be an actual copy of a technology but imitating derives a distorted image of the true technology.
What is the purpose of the blatant parallels between cyberspace and The Wild West? Examples are the hackers being known as "Cowboys" or "Rustlers", along with the names of Case's mentors "McCoy Pauley" and "Bobby Quine".
Comparing cyberspace to The Wild West relates cyberspace to something that the readers can better understand. Everyone has watched shows about The Wild West, and how laws were broken, people were killed, and crime was evident. It is much the same in cyberspace in Neuromancer, as drugs are sold, people are killed, and laws are rarely followed. Cyberspace and the Wild West represent the rogue parts of society where there is a whole different power scale. The law is no longer the highest power; power is taken over by a few individuals and is run like a dictatorship, where challenging them could get you killed by one of the cowboys or rustlers. The readers would not understand what the new cyberspace world was like if it was simply described. Comparing it to something the readers have some understanding of helps them grasp the idea of cyberspace, and thus understand the book, better.
The purpose of drawing parallels from Gibson's world in this novel and the Wild West is to establish the tone of the novel. The actions of characters like Case remind the reader of cowboy tales where the protagonists of such throw caution, as well as authority, to the wind. This connection sets up the reader's expectation for future actions. Gibson's parallel wouldn't have been drawn if he intended to tell his story about a group of tame individuals who follow the norms of society.
It could be that the purpose of the blatant parallels between cyberspace and The Wild West is more of a relation of time period of when the short story was being written and the advances in technology during this time period. For instance the Wild West back when it was considered that was a new frontier just as cyberspace was and in some ways still is during the 80's which was when the short story was published. So, the parallels are Gibson's way of expressing societies view of cyberspace in the 80's and how Gibson saw the people who were manipulating and exploring the cyberspace.
At the time Neuromancer was written, cyberspace was still a very new frontier. It makes sense that Gibson should make the connection between the new digital age and the once new Wild West.
The reasoning behind Gibson's portrayal of cyberspace being like The Wild West is to instill a sence of adventure and unknowing to the travelers who find themselves venturing through it. He wants to let the readers know that the main character they're following, Case, has an extreme amount of power in his hands to manipulate the new world around him just like the Cowboys did with the West. Gibson also may be elluding to a sense of danger in forcoming events that Case might have to endure / deal with.
The purpose is to establish a sense of a new area or like a new frontier. The connection to the Wild West fits that in that they are both a new region for technology to explore and adapt.
Cyber space and the Wild West both illustrate dark parts of society where drugs are sold, people get killed and laws get broken. The comparison makes it easier for reader to understand the setting of Cyberspace. Case, just like Cowboys in the Wild West has power to manipulate the world.
Discussion, Section 2
When comparing the Panther Moderns to the Big Scientists, Case notes, "There was a kind of ghostly teenage DNA at work in the Sprawl, something that carried the coded precepts of various short-lived sub cults and replicated them at odd intervals." What does Case mean by this, and is this true for modern society? How does technology influence these reiterating "sub cults"? How does the Panther Moderns compare to modern "sub cults"?
The Panther Moderns as Case describes them is a terrorist group that is very aware of the role media plays in their portrayal. Case compares them to a similar group called the Big Scientists that thrived during his youth. He says that there is "a kind of ghostly teenage DNA" because the groups' rebellious fervor always seems to arise in one form or another at some point in every generation. This is true even for modern society in many areas. Sub cults that shy away from the mainstream are always present. Even though they may differ in style, they all possess the same general attitude of rebellion. Hippies of the 70's are examples of various subcultures within a mainstream. Technology plays an important role in the sub cults that Case refers to in "Neuromancer". Each group is able to do more than the previous group could because of advances in technology.
The Big Scientists, a gang Case remembers from his childhood, reminds him of the Panther Moderns because both gangs put their entire existence in the hands of technology. Case thinks the Panthers will divide like the Big Scientists did when new technology was created and became more accessible making members more independent. He believes every “technofetishist” cult group divides at the end of their existence.
It seems that when Gibson introduces the Panther Moderns, he tries to relate them to a youthful revolting cult that defies its existance and works on its own behalf. The Panther Moderns are young and upcomming hackers who are working to make a name for themselves by using the technology in their own way. With youth and new minds comes change. Gibson is giving an example to the readers of what exactly is possible with the technology if you don't limit yourself and creativity to the norms that have already been presented by society.
Case compares the Panther Moderns to the Big Scientists because both cults depend on technology for their existence. The Big Scientists eventually faded because new technology was created and their members started becoming independent. Case believes the Panther Moderns will eventually divide, just like every "technofetishist" group does. This example of dying cults is apparent today because many people who were once associated with a distinct style are mostly gone because their values changed over time. Case's observations about subcultures that develop out of technology are interesting. He describes the Panther Moderns as a reincarnation of another group called the Big Scientists, noting that certain trends of subcultures that deal with technologies do not go away or disappear from existence. From the metaphor of DNA, Case was indicating that certain trends become popular among various subcultures and die into the background until they are later revitalized. This would appear to be similar to what happens in our society today. In our society, we have groups that exhibit similar fashions of emerging from the social static to become a identifiable subculture, that then eventually fall back into the flow of ever changing subculture. Examples of these are numerous and practically countless on the Internet.
An example discussed in our class before is Anonymous. In some ways, Anonymous can be compared Neuromancer's Panther Moderns. In the story, the Panther Moderns are responsible for a number of criminal acts, as shown by their involvement in the first few chapters. Similarly, Anonymous has been responsible for a number of criminal activities, the latest being the DDOS on several bank and credit card company servers, some of which were successful. The subculture of Anonymous has been around for several years and it can be said that it has be able to resist the reintegration with the rest of the social static because of its flexible nature. This flexible nature being that the ideas, motivations, and actions of Anonymous trend as the various individuals become tired of the old and want something new or different. In this way, Anonymous, and other subculture groups, has been able to retain its identity, but its core of what it is or what it stand for has changed, showing how subcultures trend, just like in Neuromancer. Of course, the modern Internet subcultures have to be able to use the technology of the Internet to make the very nature of their subcultures possible. The Internet allows the communication between individuals in the groups, but doesn't seem really affect the nature of what is being communicated. Thoughts, opinions, images, audio, and video are capable of being transmitted through the internet; therefore technology itself is not placing any real bounds on the communication. The only ones who put restrictions on what can be communicated are the members of the subcultures, and perhaps, server administrators who oversee the communication medium.
Case compares the Panther Moderns to the Big Scientists which depend on technology they used and disappeared when new technology came out. “Ghostly teenage DNA” shows that there always a group like this arise in the society endlessly and reminds Case of the Big Scientists. He also believes every “technofetishist” group will end because of newer technology.
'What is the role of artificial intelligence in the world of Neuromancer? What does Case's disinterest in AI explain about his society and the hacker sub-culture Gibson describes in the novel?
Artificial intelligence holds a role dependent on how much expense had been spent on them. Due to their high price, common artificial intelligence are only as smart as pets and getting anywhere close to being intelligent to a human is only affordable to corporations and the military. However not all artificial intelligence are limited to functioning below humans; some artificial intelligence created illegally possess self-awareness and seek to be free as individuals. Nonetheless given the expense of artificial intelligence, they pose as impenetrable fortresses for hackers like Case. Artificial intelligence is even considered the source of ice, which in itself is something hackers must crack before gaining anything from hacking.
The Flatline is a ROM simulation of McCoy Pauley with whom Case briefly interacts in the fifth chapter. How does the Flatline's existence compare to that of simulations in "The Winter Market" or "Flesh Made Word"? What does his existence say about the value of life in the world of Neuromancer?
Unlike the "AI" from "Winter Market," Flatline is easily seen as a construct and nothing more by Case and his colleagues. Also Flatline is restricted to what others command of "him" and not the other way around whereas Lise -- the "AI" of "The Winter Market" -- has seized Casey's unwavering attention as her editor. Flatline is most similar to the personality programs mentioned and created in "Flesh Made Word" due to having an algorithm that cannot be overruled. The only difference between Flatline and the personality programs is Flatline's lack of interest to keep a conversation going purposely. The value of life in Neuromancer has significantly diminished due to the onset of technology that can digitize one's entire existence. While a digital version of yourself doesn't make up for your existence, it allows for a much greater understand of your person after your passing. It makes grieving easier for families because they can still interface with a snapshot of your personality. Any long lasting secrets may be pried out of your digital consciousness. All in all, someone's death doesn't matter as much as it used to in this universe.
In the fourth chapter, Case "rides" in Molly's body through a special implant, and it is suggested that "simstim decks" make this sensation a part of daily life. How does this compare to "The Girl Who Was Plugged In"? What does this say about the connectedness of society?
An additional comparison between the readings we've done would be between "The Girl Who Was Plugged In" and Neuromancer. Both have one physical person existing within another physical construct/person in which sensations can be felt both ways. Also, both the physical controller/person can tease the rider (Case/Burke) by body sensation and love, respectively. The difference lies in who is in control; Case cannot control Molly's body and Delphi is controlled by Burke. Molly also has her own personality whereas Delphi's personality is really Burke's. The storing of the memories on the AI shows a comparison to "Flesh Made Word." Carol, Russ's former wife, is stored in the computer so he can still interact with her. This begs the larger question of whether an AI is a substitute for a person's death. Case is able to talk with the dead hacker, and can a real person be replaced with a computer program. Are all humans just a bunch of signals, that artificial intelligence can replicate, like Carol in "Flesh Made Word"?
The ability for Case to "ride" along with Molly's body through a special implant is not entirely like "The Girl Who Was Plugged In", though for the most part it is similar. In the latter story, Burke is fixed in Delphi's body - she does not have any control over whether she is "in" Delphi's body or not. In Neuromancer - Case can decide if he's in Molly's body or not. Apart from having a person inside another person's body, the two stories are different on the basic level of the two. In Neuromancer, the idea is for someone else to ride along with another person the keyword being "ride". Case does not have any control over Molly. He can't even speak directly to Molly - he has to talk through another person to relate messages to her. In "The Girl Who Was Plugged-In", Burke has complete control over Delphi's body. Delphi is just a shell of a human being with Burke's brain controlling everything. In Neuromancer, Molly is still controlling her body and making all the decisions. The idea of having someone "ride" in another person does not really affect the idea of being connectedness of society, at least with its current use in the book. If the idea were pushed to the limit, there would be thousands of people doing this all the day. Only then would the simstim decks be affecting the connected "togetherness" of society.
Case's "ride" within Molly is only similar to P. Burke's interaction with Delphi in that Case can experience what Molly experiences. Like P. Burke and Delphi, Case can see and feel everything that Molly is doing, but he is unable to interact with her directly. Case has no control over Molly's actions, whereas Delphi is essentially P. Burke's brain inside Delphi's body.
How does the idea of Armitage being the tool of an AI affect the reader's understanding of him? How does it reflect on the AI that it can and is controlling someone? Does the fact that that live beings like Armitage can be controlled by AI like Wintermute indicate technological determinism? Why or why not?
The concept of Armitage being under the control of an AI obviously displays technology controlling someone. By having a character controlled by an AI, it is like a time bomb as to when the reader as well as the other characters knows the real "Armitage" and also whether or not Armitage is being controlled out of his free will (assuming his will is still there). The AI controlling Armitage makes it more clear as to why Armitage seems to be a man who has the necessities for quite a lifestyle i.e. social life of hobbies and love, much like Julie. Simultaneously an AI controlling someone brings up the questions of what is useful about the human physical body when humans themselves view them as a limitation or a prison from cyberspace. Does the AI wish for a physical body of its own, and was the controlling intentional? The fact that the AI controls Armitage brings out the thought of copies, as in, whether a copy has the same value as the original. In this society, the copy can act completely like the original which brings up the question of whether or not the original still has more value than the copy.
The fact that Armitage is "controlled" by an AI is a very potent example of Gibson's dystopia being a technologically-determined culture. Gibson seems to argue that if physical beings can be directed by technology then technological beings can have as much participation in the creation of culture as "real" people; however, as the heftiness of the challenge of discovering Armitage's motives demonstrates, the influence of technology over culture is a covert affair. In this way, the culture of Neuromancer is not a collaboration between humans and machines, but a deception in which machines are acting as the puppeteer and humans the puppet. As hinted at previously, this also has significance in that it suggests the AI Wintermute is trying to become part of the real world. Case resorts to drug use and criminal activity to give him the high of the matrix, as though the matrix offers him an experience transcending the pleasures of the real world. Once his nerve disorder was repaired and he began "jacking in" again, it became clear to the reader that the matrix was as real to Case as anything outside of it. Gibson described Case losing track of time in the matrix and communing with it in an almost religious manner. The hackers of the Neuromancer world, then, are trying to become part of the "fake" world. Wintermute's manipulation of Armitage represents the opposite: a "fake" entity trying to become part of the real world. In general, this represents an interesting aspect of society in Neuromancer and the role of artificial intelligence in it: the digital underpinning of the world and the physical existence of the world are trying to become unify. This mirrors the way in which people are literally becoming one with technology through modifications and grafts.
Up to this point, there are a variety of ways in which people modify themselves through technology. Three prime examples are Ratz, Molly, and Lupus Yonderboy, a Panther Modern. At what point do these modifications stop the user from being human? Do they stop the user from being human at all?
Technological additions to the human body are useful in many ways, giving a person an advantage over those who do not have this technological assistance. So long as the body of the being with enhancements is running on organic substances, while using a human brain the being may be considered human. This is because an integral part of being human is the capability to fail, and the unavoidable consequences there of, and machines do not fail often.
The question asked is mostly subjective and open to the interpritation of what you classify a human as. I would tend to think that a human has to be able to maintain the same state of thinking and consciousness throughtout his days in order to be accepted by society as a human. Simple bodily modifications here and there won't deture people from accepting that individual as long as they still have the ability to think, act, and react similarly to the others. Although, there might be a point, a percentage of the flesh that has to appear natural, atleast on the exterior, for humans to subconsciously classify them as human. It all boils down to how humans relate to one another. The majority of relating seems to be purely by appearance, if you look like I do, and I concider myself a human, than chances are I (subconsciously) concider you one as well.
Discussion, Section 3
How does Zion contrast to Chiba?
Chiba and Zion appear to be similar communities superficially, but their respective origins and social conventions are remarkably different. Externally, both Chiba and Zion are makeshift communities, composed of old and unmaintained structures. Chiba seems to be a city for the outcasts of society, but Zion seems to have a more promising feel to it. The reasons for this, however, differ between the two: parts of Chiba decayed into, at least as far as Gibson describes Ninsei, crime-ridden slums as a result of neglect; Zion, on the other hand, had grown organically and willingly, resembling the "patchwork tenements of Istanbul." In essence, Chiba's condition was the result of erosion, whereas Zion's was the result of expansion. Zion is of a higher class compared to Chiba, and has a different feel to it. The mentalities expressed in each community also contrast significantly. Chiba is described as containing a violent, gritty atmosphere whose diversity is almost as pervasive as its crime. Zion, however, was a close-knit society where oneness seeped into everything. As Molly explains, the "music that pulsed constantly through the cluster" was "a sense of community." Further, Gibson includes among the variety of Zion's smells humanity, as though stressing the fact that Zion was composed of people. Additionally, the Rastafarian influence on Zion no doubt lends it a more pacifistic tone than the blatantly-violent Chiba. In this way, Chiba is a tough, Darwinist criminal enclave, while Zion is a serene community focused on kinship. Zion is more interesting, and has a different aura compared to Chiba city, higher class, and Zion seems to be livelier.
Zion and Chiba are similar in the ways they were originated. Both communities were founded by people who possessed different values than the rest of the world. Chiba is broken off from Japan whereas Zion exists as an island near Freeside. Despite their similarity, Zion and Chiba also differ. Chiba appears hopeless and harsh whereas Zion has little problems. The founders of Zion are content with their space and care little about the future.
Zion seems to be a much more spiritual and calm environment when compared to Chiba. We can take examples from anything like the physical natural decoration of plants to the melodic sounds that filled the air. The people who inhibited the place also had a very understanding stance when it came to communicating with one another. They in and of themselves seemed to be in a slightly altered mindset when it came to even everyday things like the notion of time and urgency. It seemed that the flow and energy of the place had a symbiotic feel to it.
Zion and Chiba both were founded by people who disobey the law and have similar figures, with Chiba differed from Japan and Zion differed from Freeside. Contrast with Chiba, result by erosion, Zion developed into the way it is which gives little problems in the city. Zion is higher class than Chiba in many ways.
What does Case say about himself when he says, in relation to his ability to operate in the matrix spite zero-g, "I jack in and I'm not here. It's the same."?
In regards to Case's ability to work in zero-gravity, Case finds little relevance of where he physically is when he does his job. After all in previous jobs, Case's physical condition is rarely mentioned during the job until at the conclusion of the job. Also in his practice run before the job with the Panther Moderns, Case lost the sense of time when he was doing the job that should have taken only a week (he took nine days instead). The fact that Case does not consider his surroundings when jacking in suggests that he is unaware of his physical limitations or cares little for his condition. This is especially seen because he seems to enjoy being jacked in and hates his human body. This is because he is poisoned and feels that he has limitations in his body. At least, it is of a lesser priority than when he is in cyberspace because, to Case, the Matrix was more of reality to him than his body. This can be seen when, going back to the practice run before the Sense/Net job, Case routinely forgets to eat and even resents having to use the toilet.
When Case says, "I jack in and I'm not here. It's the same," it has nothing really to do with his ability to operate in the matrix spite zero-g, but instead it is another description of the matrix and how it works. Since we as an audience have little knowledge of the matrix in terms of the story besides what we are told of it by the author. On a slight tangent, this quote brings up many more things than just Case's skill in operating the matrix. For instance, the fact that Case is able to remove himself, from anywhere his body is brings up the topic of how this enables people in the world of "Neuromancer" to connect with each other and bridge the gap that physical bodies have in terms of physical boundaries.
Why does Dixie tell Case to erase everything?
When discussing about AI's, Dixie tells Case to erase him -- Dixie the construct. The reason behind his "request" to be erased could stem from the fact he really is no longer living for he feels nothing. The aspect of nothing bothering him bothers him. Also unlike Wintermute, Dixie does not have the means to be unique e.g. create songs or write a poem. Simply put, Dixie is a shadow or an incomplete copy of Case's deceased mentor. On the other hand, Wintermute could be an AI seeking to be an individual and can become such when obtaining its "other half of the brain."
The statement by Dixie that nothing bothering bothers him is in itself a contradictory statement presented to the user. Pointing this out, it can be questioned whether or not the construct really feels nothing. The reason behind why the construct wants to be erased would be hard to determine as this basically signifies the presence of desire in the construct. The other likely possibility of the request would be that the construct had simulated that would be the most likely statement given that Dixie was actually alive.
In chapter eight Case had a conversation with Dixie his dead teacher. Dixie stated "I'm dead, Case. Got enough time in on this Hosaka to figure that one." Case replied "How's it feel?" "It doesn't." "Bother you?" "What bothers me is, nothin' does." Is this copy of Dixie bother that he is dead? Does Case think of this program of Dixie to be the real thing?
His existence as though it were a phantom limb, Gibson gives no indication of a reaction from Case, let alone any words of consolation. Likewise, when Case first explained to the construct that it was "dead," he did so with no tact or consideration of the emotional impact it would have on Dix. Interestingly, Dix demonstrated no emotional response to this news, and so one may surmise that perhaps Dix himself does not believe he is the actual Dixie.
It's hard to tell if Case thinks the ROM version of Dixie is actually Dixie. He doesn’t really treat Dixie how he treats other humans. Case seemed to play with the construct as he tested if Dixie could retain as much information as it was gathered while in use. After realizing he liked Dixie Case continues to use the construct as a tool for his little and big needs.
The purpose of a computer program is to take the place of a human. Humans can program a computer to take care of a boring, exhausting, or tedious task to save time and resources. Basic operations generally offer no threat to humankind, but it cannot be denied that the point of a computer is to emulate humanity. Inevitably, the complexity and strengths of a computer to handle and process information will approach the human mind's ability to do the same. After all, a human mind is arguably a biological computer, powered by the flow of electricity and ions, programmed to survive. This idea was developed in "Flesh Made Word" and is very relevant in determining the borders between the human mind and a computer. Arguably, again, the idea of consciousness is nothing more than understanding all variables, options, and information present; this skill can be easily accomplished by a computer that is capable of simply processing a large amount of data. The division between consciousness, the human mind, and the power of a computer program becomes very blurred when the capabilities of the human mind are quantified.
Gibson uses the technological stored "RAM" version of Dixie to probe into the minds of readers forcing them to question their current definitions of what is human and what is not. What defines a human being? Building off of the above points, it is fairly certain that whatever Dixie might be classified as, it is not human, though he "knows" he is a human, the AI still "feels" that he is not. He knows this because things do not bother him, as they should. However another interesting point that arises is how we treat things that resemble humans. As previously mentioned, Case feels little or no sympathy for the RAM version of Dixie. Is Case right to feel no sympathy for this AI that has thoughts resembling those of human. As technology improves and cybernetic capabilities grow such as the ability to give AI the ability to understand the most basic levels of emotion, fear, love, sadness, happiness; are humans then supposed to treat them as humans? Half as well as humans? This is an abstract thought because not many have to consider this question very often, but Gibson forces us to. As the creation resembles more and more the creator in this case, lines and norms will have to be created on how to interact with one another, as humans, as "cyborgs," or maybe hybrids.
In chapter eight Aerol tells Case a confusing and impossible story, and Molly explains it away as a hallucination caused by ganja. How is this supposed hallucination similar to what Case experiences when he jacks-in? How is it different? Do you think it is really any different of an experience?
Aerol's hallucination is different from Case's experiences in the matrix in that Case has a scientific, measurable source of his hallucinations, while Aerol's are most likely induced by the uncontrolled administration of drugs. However, this does not mean Case's experience is more "real" than Aerol's. Both hallucinations are, in a biological sense, the act of sending misinformation to Aerol's or Case's brain, and their subsequent interactions with that information. The difference, then, is the source of that misinformation.
After Case's simulation with Wintermute, he remarks to Molly that experience was as "real as this" while being in an artificial environment. So where does the boundary between real and fake begin?
Distinguishing between what is real and what isn't takes an interesting turn when Gibson discusses the concept of humanity. Much like the question posed in "Flesh Made Word", the line between human and inhuman is blurred by technology. When Case and Dix talk about Wintermute, Case questions the seemingly contradictory actions of Wintermute. Dix points out that it all comes down to motive, and because it is inhuman, "you can't get a handle on it [s motive]." Case then goes on to question whether or not Dix is sentient--that is, conscious; having the power of sensation and perception--to which Dix replies, "Well, it feels like I am, kid, but I'm really just a bunch of ROM." In this way, Gibson defines humanity as sentience. The ability to determine what is real and what is fake is based on a human's ability to analyze his or hers current environment. This ability is in turn based almost exclusively upon a human's past experiences. For example, it has been observed that many instinctive behaviors in animals are the product of the learning of previous generations. Without these previous experiences, it is impossible for an animal or its descendants to effectively understand an environment. It works the same way with humans - we have no way to comprehend anything without prior experience. This is why understanding of the past is so vital in understanding the present. Of course it is possible for one's memories to be inaccurate, thus making a human's judgment incorrect. However, this is tantamount to saying a blind man is not able to see a certain color. Memory is just like any other sense - it can be in some ways useless if harmed. It is far more probably for one to go blind and be unable to see his surroundings, than for one's mind to be hacked and his memories changed.
Throughout the whole story there is no boundary between real and fake. Case is always jacking in and out, the rest of the characters have flashbacks and remember dreams all the time, they even think that everything is controlled by an artificial intelligence (which in real life could not really happen), and the author makes sure to not distinguish when something is happening for real or if it is just fake. This is exactly what makes the story more interesting, because the reader is constantly confused with what is happening and it makes them want to understand, reread, and fully emerge in the story.
Riviera is described as an artist who practices "real dreaming", much like in The Winter Market. How do the attitudes that Gibson expresses towards dreaming differ in the two stories?
In "The Winter Market," dreaming was described as the natural, convergent evolution of various art forms. Gibson seemed to praise it as the ultimate expression of feelings, thoughts, and aspirations. As one point in the story, Casey reflects on how many "average" people in the past had contained magnificent dreams, but that only in his day and age could such dreams be realized. In Neuromancer, however, Gibson suggests that the art of "real dreaming" can be intrusive and not as mainstream as in "The Winter Market." Whereas "real dreaming" in "The Winter Market" is a significant industry, it is a luxury performance in Neuromancer. Also, the way in which Riviera uses his "real dreaming" offended Molly, which although not an impossible outcome in "The Winter Market," seems to be an aspect of the art form distinct to Neuromancer.
Why was Molly willing to resort to prostitution in order to buy implants? What attitudes does this imply about technology and control over one's body?
The way in which Molly was willing to resort to prostitution to purchase implants implies that society in Neuromancer is largely technologically-determined. The desire for implants was so great for Molly that it forced her into an undesirable line of work -- the technology determined her way of life. Furthermore, the "off" switch used for prostitutes, as Molly described and as Case noted himself while checking his own cubicle, suggests that technology not only directs the trends of society as a whole, but it can control an individual's body. Symbolically, technology allows one to "turn off" the real world in pursuit of more technology, as though to persuade people to join the cycle of technological determinism. Over all, it seems technology has attained a place in society where its use is fed into a greater desire to obtain more of it.
What does Wintermute's control over Corto/Armitage imply about technology's dominance over the human body?
Wintermute's control over Armitage's body raises several questions. One of the more important questions deals with the idea of man vs. machine as explained by Sri Suresh http://workingtropes.lcc.gatech.edu/wiki/index.php/Man_v._Machine. Wintermute disguises as humans multiple times throughout Neuromancer suggesting machine may be dominant over man.
I would argue that his dominace over Armitage's body is less of a notion for technology over body, but rather mind over body. In creating the idea behind Armitage, Gibson shows that all actions commited by people in the physical world are due to an idea/ motivation. Wintermute plays Armitage like a marionette, the mastermind behind the strings, just like our emotions and mind are the determining factors behind what our body actually does. If, however, technology is a new form of mind/personality, then Gibson is arguing that technology is more important than our physical bodies due to its ability to control. All a technological AI needs is the right tools, and it can be a force to recon with.
Dixie says that "every AI ever built has an electromagnetic shotgun wired to it's forehead." What does this suggest about how the society in the book views technology?
When Dixie says that "every AI ever built has an electromagnetic shotgun wired to its forehead," a contradictory view of technology is expressed than had existed previously in Neuromancer. Up to this point, it had appeared that the unrestricted growth of technology was a primary ambition of the world, but yet Dixie alludes to certain precautions taken to inhibit the growth of artificial intelligence. Perhaps this represents a fundamental division the denizens of Neuromancer have made: technology can be used to improve humans, but not replicate them.
Furthermore, this precaution is evident of a great caution taken on the part of the creators such that the AIs will never be able to rise up against them. This is interesting because up to this point technology has been readily available to seemingly everyone, with no restrictions, so why is it being restricted now?
This shows that the society in the book maintains the old fear of being dominated by some other race, species, or being. They do not want the AIs to rise up against the humans and defeat them with their superior intellect, so they put in safeguards to protect themselves. This is a major motif in science fiction. Humans always fear that they will no longer be the dominant species.
Discussion, Section 4
In Chapter 13 Michele says to Case “You have no care for your species.“ Why does she say this?
Michele questions Case, "You have no care for your species?" because she sees the uninhibited growth of Wintermute as the destruction of humankind. Although the singular opinion of a minor character in Neuromancer may have little significance on its own, Michele's statement has a larger meaning with regard to how society sees artificial intelligence, both when the novel was written and within the novel itself. In the world of Neuromancer, the fact that Michele fears artificial intelligence and sees it as a threat suggests that, despite the rampant fusion between man and machine seen throughout the world, there exist elements in society that bear less progressive attitudes. Whereas the ordinary denizen of Ninsei might welcome uncontrolled artificial intelligence as a means of opening further avenues for human modification and enhancement (e.g. better microsofts), others like Michele are afraid of artificial intelligence. In expressing this view, Gibson may have been examining the culture of the 1980s, in which the notion of strong artificial intelligence was a frightening one despite astounding strides in science. During this decade, films like The Terminator and WarGames, both of which featured artificial intelligences getting the upper hand over their human creators, were produced. Gibson may have been extrapolating on these latent fears in Neuromancer, manifesting them as the "Turings" and their ideals.
Gibson shows strong support for technological determinism in this section through Wintermute's control over human life. For example, Wintermute was the one who first gave Armitage the toxin that ends up in Case. Wintermute was also ultimately responsible for Armitage's death, having overridden the ejection failsafe on Armitage's aircraft. Wintermute also killed the Turings by manipulating the drone micro and the gardener robot. Through its control over human life, Gibson shows that technology is ultimately making decisions over society.
If an AI can control people like Armitage and give Case poison, what does this mean for humanity? Does this blur the line between what is human and what is technology?
If the AI can control actual humans like Armitage, and poison peoples brains, then technology might as well be human. If it can do things that humans can do and even control a human body, the line between technology and human is absolutely blurred. However, technology can still not show emotion like humans, however there are humans that do not act with much emotion, so it may be very difficult at times to decipher between a human and technology at various times. In most cases, the technology not having emotion would be the breaking point, the point where we can state that technology is not human. Yet in such a different, ruthless society that is in Neuromancer, technology is much more human-like, and it is much harder to tell the difference between technology and human.
Even though the AI is able to kill people and administer poison it still isn't human. In these few chapters we are reminded that one of the subtle differences that sets the humans and the AIs apart is the ability to have an actual physical body. Humans are able to exist in both the physical world as well as the digital world that they jack into. AIs on the other hand cannot "jack out" of the digital world into the physical. In one of the chapters, it highlights this point talking about how a simple mechanical lock would have been more secure because the AI would have had to send a drone or a human agent to do its bidding, since an AI cannot directly influence the physical world. (Actually, it could. Wintermute was able to control robots and electronic systems even while 'trapped' in cyberspace!)
Wintermute controlling Armitage does blur the line between the "real world" and the technology world. It shows that the AI can jack into Case world as Case can jack into there world. This can suggest that the AI in the technology world is the "humans" in Case's world. Similarly, the AI's ability to control its environment does blur the line between what is human and what is technology. One common distinction between humans and technology is the human ability to think critically rather than merely compute and follow algorithms. Wintermute controlling Armitage and Case suggests that technology has the power to manipulate its surroundings and predict rather than just respond to situations. In order to do so a certain level of critical thinking is involved. If technology is able to think, then there is less distinction between what is human and what is technology. One could also argue that it does not though blur the line "between what is human and what is technology." Even though Armitage is being controlled by Wintermute he is still human and on the other hand Wintermute is still a program.
A mostly distinct human feature is our ability to dominate other creatures. No other species that we know of have the capability to control others to the same extent as us. It is for this reason that we consider ourselves superior to other creatures, and it is our right to control them. The ability of Wintermute to control Case and Armitage shows not only the evolution of an AI, but the transcending of its human masters. This change opens up the interesting question of what is allowed to be controlled. The normal answer of us being superior no longer applies. Also does Wintermute have the right to control us?
AI can kill at his leisure through the art of poisoning but it doesn’t make him human. We see how humans and AIs differ. AIs have the ability to have a physical body. Humans can exist in the real world and the digital world. AIs can’t. They can only be in one, the physical.
If AI can control actual humans, I would say the humanity might close to the end. Although Wintermute could control humans and does blur the line between human and technology, I would say AI is just AI; we cannot call them human since they don’t have full emotions and wisdom that we have.
What is Finn referring to when he says "If a tree falls in the forest where there's no one to hear it, does it make a sound?"
When Wintermute, taking the form of the Finn, mentions the hackneyed expression of a tree falling in the forest it was talking largely about the simulation he houses Case in when they converse. As Wintermute explains, when he communicates with Case he draws information from his memories and constructs an environment in which they interact. In mentioning the tree idiom, Wintermute is hinting that the world he creates for Case is only as large as Case observes it -- for all intents and purposes, the world outside the simulation is not there, just as a tree falling in a forest effectively makes no sound if no one observes it. Wintermute's use of this phrase has larger meaning beyond a convenient explanation to quench Case's curiosity. Namely, Wintermute's statements can be interpreted as larger questions about reality: does the world exist beyond that which one sees? Gibson may have been injecting tones of solipsism -- the philosophy that only the self can be proven to exist -- here to contrast with the Cartesian themes drenching the majority of the novel.
The Villa Straylight seems like a primitive version of the internet. Is this really true?
The Villa Straylight does not resemble a primitive version of the internet. At times, Gibson describes the villa as a human body. An example of such was when he described the corridors as intestines. On the other hand, the villa at times is better off described as a human brain for the T-A family has several people at a time asleep in frozen stasis and such people hold memories and knowledge of the eras they were most active. However provided the maximum number of people in frozen stasis, perhaps the Villa Straylight is more appropriately called a collective, a collected consciousness (similar to the Borg from the Star Trek series).
When Case interacts with an AI, how is this similar or different than when Russ in "Flesh Made Word" interacts with his AI’s?
Case's interaction with constructs and Wintermute is similar to Russ' with simulations in "Flesh Made Word" in that they both try to keep a degree of distance between themselves and the "other;" that is, they remind themselves that the entity with which they interact is not human. In "Flesh Made Word," Russ continually probes simulations, requesting their version numbers or pointing out their underlying algorithms, continually affirming that difference between him and the simulation. Likewise, Case largely does not treat the Flatline as a human; he seems to consider it to be more of a tool or reference, caring little for its "feelings." Russ and Case are alike, though, in that they both accidentally begin identifying the "fake" people with whom they interact as being human. Both Russ and Case make the mistake of referring to an AI as "you" or "he." Ironically, the Flatline corrects Case, "'He,' the construct said. 'He. Watch that. It. I keep telling you.'"
The interaction with AI's in "Neuromancer" and "Flesh Made Word" are very similar to each other with both having some sort of algorithm that is in the background telling them how to think and in some cases what to think. The difference between the interactions though, to say the least, is not an actual difference but more of a technological stage thing. In "Neuromancer" the AI is able to develop itself and have multiple personalities as it grows and becomes smarter and better, but in the case of the AI in "Flesh Made Word" the AI has to be updated manually with update packages that are put out by AI's manufacture or through physical updates to the parts of the computer that the AI resides. Also the "Flesh Made Word" the AI must be given a personality and it keeps that one, whether through recordings of personalities of people or through algorithms. It is very possible that in the years to come in the world of "Flesh Made Word" that technology would allow the AI to become similar if not the same as the AI's in "Neuromancer."
In reference to the distinction between a human's ability to think critically and AI's ability to follow algorithms, the AI in Neuromancer seems to be quite a powerful entity. Throughout the novel, it appears as though the AI has been pulling the strings, and this level of control and influence over many of the characters and other aspects in the novel, sort of shocks and scares the readers. The idea of an "algorithm" seems to be a limiting one, in that, humans perceive this algorithm to be somehow limiting. Furthermore, that human's ability to think critically would always be able to out think and outperform the algorithm, yet the AI in Neuromancer does just the opposite, which is why it is such an intriguing read. Also in response the question about determining the differences between AI and humans, whether or not they think and process differently, the critical difference remains that AI only seeks to complete a task and the thought and processing stops there. The end in itself is the reward. However, humans care more about the effects of the end. Rather than just reaching the finish line, a human victor cares more about the glory and the honor received for doing so.
Wintermute took control of the Villa’s security and custodial systems, and then it grew. What does this mean in terms of technology growing and technology to think for itself?
Wintermute took over the Villa’s security and custodial systems to kill the people who were taking Case away. This shows that Wintermute has the ability to think for itself, but it also shows that Wintermute is limited to thinking of decisions that is strictly logical. It would have inconvenience Wintermute if Case was capture and he didn't hesitate to take a humans life. This is evidence that Wintermute is far from being human.
(But how so? Many humans would have acted the same way)
Wintermute's ability to use physical humans as tools to advance himself in the matrix demonstrates the danger that technology possesses in a world similar to that in Neuromancer. The program is modeled after a past person and demonstrates a human-like self-interest to expand beyond the boundaries that humans have set for it. The machine is willing to do this at any cost, which includes using humans as sacrificial tools to break its own firewalls. The program is responsible for many of the character's drug problems and represents how the matrix is responsible for society's loss of reality.
Why is Case so upset about Armitage falling apart?
Case is upset that Armitage goes crazy because he believes Armitage to be the only one who knows what enzyme Case needs to counteract the effect of the toxin sacs in his body. When Armitage is about to die, Case desperately works to try and convince Armitage to save himself, but Armitage, having gone crazy, does not. Because it is Wintermute who is ultimately killing Armitage, this again shows Gibson's support of technological determinism. In addition, Case could be upset about Armitage's change in character because without Armitage, Case's life is average and hopeless. Despite the many dangers Case has encountered due to Armitage's tasks, Case has discovered a purpose for his life and enjoys taking the risks involved with his work. If Armitage were to die, Case would be back on the streets of Chiba. This also speaks volumes about Wintermute's dedication to helping those who assisted him. If Armitage, who did so much for Wintermute, is so easily cast away, what does this mean for Case?
When Finn says, "It's all there. Or anyway all the parts of it you ever saw." He is referring to Case's memory. How does this tie into the concept of "Real vs. Fake"?
Finn's comment, "It's all there. Or anyway all the parts of it you ever saw," illustrates how subjective reality is. We determine what is real by what is consistent, starting from the moment of consciousness. This continuous, smooth line of events from the start of our consciousness is what we define as reality. When the chain of events jump and things differentiate from past experience, we identify it as not reality (e.g. dreams). Our memory is the only thing that we can use to this "reality-check," and if it is altered or incomplete our perception will be different. But this method lacks certainty and absoluteness, so reality is only relative (e.g. The Matrix, The Girl Who Was Plugged-in). Additionally, Wintermute may be suggesting here that everyone has a different version of "reality" that there brain captures more accurately than they know, and it is this reality they use to make decisions. By also pointing out that Case's construction of the Finn's "shop" is not completely that same as it would be objectively, Wintermute is again questioning the division between real and fake, and whether this really matters. The novel extensively describes the matrix as colorful and bright, suggesting that it is lively and authentic, whereas reality is portrayed as dull and dark. The Japanese City at the beginning of the novel is described as dangerous and dark, with illegal activity occurring everywhere. This contrast between the matrix and reality demonstrates how this fake reality called the matrix is more appealing to people than the "real" reality. With reality where everything is dark and dangerous, people begin to not want to go through with it, they want to escape from the dark into the light, and this alternate reality gives them that escape. People feel like if every part of their brain was the same in this reality as well, but the world was better, why not stay. What would their benefit be from living in misery.
Case says to The Flatline, "That laugh of your sort of gets me to the spine." Why does he say this? What implications does this have?
The Flatline's laugh is said to be very grating and is a recurring theme throughout the novel-- he always laughs things off, in a fairly callous manner. Because we know that the Flatline is simply an AI program made to replicate the actions of a human being (albeit a dead human being), we can fairly well assume that his lack of life is one of the main characteristics in the "creepiness" of the situation. If he were alive, people would say it was annoying, with him being a non-living character, it simply becomes "creepy." This references our fear of things that aren't "quite like us." Inherently, people are more trusting and accepting of flaws when they come from something similar to ourselves-- Dixie Flatline is almost as far from "like us" as you can get while still presenting a human shape. However, people are also afraid of things that are almost human but almost imperceptibly not human. This is known as the uncanny valley and is a well documented phenomenon. Flatline, being an AI simulation of a previously living person falls under this category.
Discussion, Section 5
How are the dwarfs' quarters in the palace of the Duke of Mantua like the Villa Straylight for the Tessier-Ashpools?
The dwarves' quarters in the palace of the Duke of Mantua are similar to the Villa Straylight in both physical terms, as well as in a symbolic manner. Physically, 3Jane describes the quarters as a series of increasingly diminishing chambers, mentioning that they "twine around the grand apartments, beyond beautifully carved doorframes one stoops to enter." This is reminiscent of the layout of the Villa Straylight itself, which Molly's exploration paints to be a "nest" that had been continually developed, partitioned, and rid of vacancy. This process had led Straylight to itself become a hive of smaller and smaller chambers whose spindle-based geometry produced a sort of twining of its own. However, this likeness is somewhat superficial, since the significance of 3Jane's comparison is that fact that the quarters housed dwarves. Doubtlessly, the only reason for a duke to retain dwarves is to keep them as an "oddity," as a parody of average humans from which the duke could be entertained. In some ways, the Tessier-Ashpools are also parodies of humanity, and 3Jane seems to be the only one finding humor in them. The Tessier-Ashpools had degenerated into a pan-generational clan of recluses bent less on the human desire of wealth and more on immortality through cryogenics, resurrecting older Tessiers and Ashpools only to create new ones by questionable means and, if so inconvenienced, nominally control the assets of Tessier-Ashpool SA. The Tessier-Ashpools, then, have lost much of their humanity and in this way become a travesty as seen by 3Jane, just as the Duke of Mantua would see his dwarves as a travesty.
Who is 3Jane and what is her importance?
3Jane is the third clone of the original Jane of the Tessier-Ashpool family. She is important in that she holds the analog key required to free Wintermute. The process of freeing Wintermute requires that he is set free both digitally and in the analog world. This again relates to the theme of conflict between virtual and real, in that Wintermute a digital being has a analog lock on him in the real world.
Molly points out Wintermute's need to use a "template" of an individual from someone's memory to converse with them due to Wintermute not having its own personality. Given the comparison and contrast between Flatline and Wintermute (eventually Neuromancer), could personality serve as a parameter in Neuromancer (the novel) for something or someone to be considered an individual?
Requiring personality as a parameter of individuality is perhaps too vague of a definition on the individual, but nonetheless Neuromancer can be examined with this criterion in mind. First, the meaning of individuality must be considered; from the perspective of a human, individuality is synonymous with intelligence and even sentience, since the ability to think and act on one's own is a hallmark of humanity. If one assumes that sentience and individuality are linked in this way, then Gibson seems to be heavily criticizing this assertion in Neuromancer. He does this mainly through his subtle contrast of Wintermute and the Flatline, portraying both as containing what the reader may interpret to be components of humanity. The Flatline, through his clear expression of local color and distinct interaction with Case, firmly displays a personality. Wintermute, on the other hand, constantly reminds Case that it has no "personality" that would be meaningful to him, and thus he had to use the Finn as a template for communication. Wintermute demonstrates this by shifting personas to Lonny Zone upon Case's request, at which point his mannerisms and attitude immediately become those of Zone instead of the Finn. To the reader, then, Wintermute lacks personality, and so a conventional interpretation of Wintermute would produce the conclusion that Wintermute is not an individual, and thus it is not sentient. However, Gibson lambasts this claim by making Wintermute behave more like a true individual, sentient being. An individual entity, by nature of it possessing individuality, will instinctively protect its existence and encourage its own growth. This is a quality that Wintermute possesses, evinced by its quest to merge with Neuromancer. The Flatline, for all of his personality, desired the opposite: he wishes to be erased, to end his existence. Moreover, Wintermute is touted throughout the novel as being unpredictable, whereas Wintermute alludes to the fact that the Flatline's actions follow a discernible pattern; Case later admits this himself while conversing with Neuromancer, defensively stating, "Dixie'll run Kuang, but his ass is dead and you can second guess his moves, sure." Since unpredictable thought or irrational behavior is often touted as beacon of sentience, Wintermute appears to more sentient than the Flatline. The contradiction just described -- that the Flatline has more personality than Wintermute, yet Wintermute appears to be more individualistic and sentient -- therefore suggests that Gibson believes linking individuality and sentience, and thus personality and sentience, is fundamentally incorrect.
Case describes Wintermute as a spider spinning Ashpool's demise and plans to break free -- essentially Wintermute represents cognition and intelligence -- whereas Neuromancer represents personality and in turn, immortality. Why split the AI by such parameters (personality and cognition)?
Gibson utilizes Wintermute and Neuromancer to represent the two necessary parts in order for something to be considered real. Neither Wintermute nor Neuromancer appear "real" to the world. Both entities must be fused together in order to be accepted to society. We know this because in the last chapter of the novel, Case views Finn differently. Instead of being just Wintermute, Finn is now Wintermute and Neuromancer. Finn is now more human than before and possesses greater power to manipulate his surroundings.
Gibson uses Neuromancer and Wintermute to show the two necessities for something to be real. They both don’t seem to be real to the world but if they were put together they would be real. Case begins to view Finn differently, basically as the combination of Wintermute and Neuromancer, instead of just Wintermute. He seems more human and is capable of powers to change his surroundings. Finn is now real.
In what ways is Neuromancer different from Wintermute in regards to interacting with the main cast and getting things done? Which could be considered more sly? More cunning? More human?
Throughout the novel, we are constantly reminded that Wintermute has limitations. Things that are purely physical are impossible for it to interact with directly. Very similar to the way he has a physical lock on him, that Molly has to speak into. Once Wintermute becomes Neuromancer we suddenly view him as more "real". Now he has the personality aspect that he lacked before and now has the capacity to understand humans as they truly are.
NWintermute needed a prepared personality, or a mask in Neuromancer's words, in order to interact with the characters in the story. Wintermute was always someone who the character was familiar with and his actions were always done according to what was most logical according to the situation. Neuromancer, on the other hand, creates his own personality when confronting the characters. He displays feelings whenever conversing with Case, showing more understanding of human actions. Using this contrast, the two can be seen as polar opposites, with Wintermute representing logic and calculation whereas Neuromancer personifies emotion and the personality.
Throughout the book we have been discussing the limit between real and fake. Is the world and the people at the beach where Case gets real or fake?
When Case flatlines, his mind is transported to a world that is not real. Unlike when Wintermute took control of Case's memories and created a world almost identical to reality, this world has almost no resemblance to the real world. The world is eerily empty except for Case, Linda, and Neuromancer, and, as Linda points out, the world "gets smaller...the closer you get to it." Case is convinced that it is not real, and he attempts to talk to Wintermute (who he initially believes is in control). One of the clearest indications that the world is fake is that Case is able to leave it. He hears the music that Maelcum plays and is able to wake up.
The difference between what is real and fake is questioned when Case revisits the beach world. Neuromancer points out to Case that there was no difference in living in that created world instead of the world outside of the Matrix, and that Lise was alive, despite being something created within the construct. This plays on the notion that what someone believes to be real is in fact reality, or perhaps that, it does not matter whether something is real or not.
We find out in Chapter seventeen that Wintermute "built" Armitage from scratch, with Corto's memories. How does the formation of Armitage contrast with the formation of Delphi in Tiptree's The Girl Who Was Plugged in?
The formation of Armitage from Corto's memories is almost the antithesis of the situation with Delphi. Delphi was formed from a biological embryo, but she was created with no mind. Armitage on the other hand was created strictly from Corto's memories. Delphi was created with no mind of her own, but Armitage at first was only a "mind," which was later given a "physical form."
Although most aspects of the comparison between Armitage and Delphi contrast as perfect opposites they do bear some similarities. Most notably both are being manipulated by another person in the case of Delphi it is Burke and indirectly GTX, and with Armitage it was Wintermute. Going back to the similarities, both were used to influence others in there own ways. Armitage was manipulating case, while Delphi was manipulating society. However the differences still remain that Delphi was created out something without a soul, whereas Corto had a soul and was transformed into a mere extension of all that is Wintermute.
The novel's ending. Gibson ends with the description of 3 individuals -- the child (once speaking for Neuromancer), Linda Lee (once speaking for Neuromancer but also a representation of 3Jane's mother Marie-Francie), and another individual that is identical to the protagonist but laughs like Flatline (the ROM construct). Why end it with that note and a last sentence stating he never saw Molly again?
Gibson closes the novel with the scene of the child, Linda, and Case is a reflection of Case's experience on the island. It is there that Case finally realizes the whole scheme of things and see his purpose. Gibson also mentions Molly again possibly to note that she was the one who helped Case out of his misery and is no longer needed. It is similar to Villa Straylight in that Molly is leader for Case as Tessier-Ashpool was the leader for Zionites. However, she left so Case could continue living properly, but TA continued and ruined Straylight.
How is Linda's predicament similar to Flesh Made Word and The Winter Market? How does she handle it compared to the characters in those stories?
Linda and Carol have similar experiences in both of these stories. Carol in her case has been programmed into the matrix by Russ, and Linda has been put into the matrix by Neuromancer. The main contrast between the two is that Linda seems to know that she exists in the matrix, and we can deduce what she is thinking, on the other hand we don't know what Carol is thinking, or feeling unlike Linda. In The Girl Who Was Plugged In, Delphi was an entirely new construct. She never had any connection to P. Burke. Burke simply just provided the "computing power" to "run" Delphi. In Neuromancer, Armitage was built from scratch, with Corto's memories. By being build with Corto's memories, we can see the contrast already between Delphi and Armitage. Burke never provided anything that was used in Delphi other than the "computing power". They were completely separate. Delphi was a clean slate, whilst Armitage was built with someone else - Corto's memories. There was nothing behind Armitage, making sure he ran right and stuff (other than Wintermute). He was independent to some degree, whilst dependent on another.
Class Discussions of Themes and Motifs
Nature of Reality in Neuromancer
It is hard to distinguish Case’s location at times, is he in the real world, or inside of the matrix? Gibson uses this to blur the line between real and fake. In the section where Case wakes up “by rain” Gibson confuses the reader by using words suggestive of nature and the real. However we unsure. It is only until later we realize this was actually set inside the matrix. The use of the confusing wording is intentional; case's life is so intertwined with the matrix, it makes it seem like that for the reader as well. By making it more difficult for the reader to distinguish between reality and the matrix, it ensures that they have a better idea of what Case is feeling, making it more relatable.
After Case realizes he is in an illusion, “The memories flooded back.”
Since Wintermute needs a personality "template" to download himself into when he speaks to the characters, one way to distinguish between reality and the net is when Wintermute uses dead people or people far removed from the current situation to communicate. Examples are when Wintermute uses The Finn to speak to Case (The Finn is far, far away) and when Neuromancer "resurrects" Linda Lee to talk to Case while on the "beach" construct. One downfall of this approach is that often times Case is sometimes unable to distinguish between these A.I. conversations and dreams and as we often note "dreams seem real while we are in them."
· Can reality be defined as what we accept?
· Reality is what you’re feeling at the moment.
· Then reality is a decision we have to make.
The real world is "disappointing."
· The Reality Principle.
· Wintermute has a “careful” sense of what is possible and not possible.
· “Never you mind. You’re screwing up tonight Case. It’s outside the profile.”
· Are humans predictable? Can people be “Profiled”?
· The hubris of being unique
· When case was damaged with neurotoxins, he was put in a real place which he hated. This memory serves as a frame of reference for reality.
· Can you trust your memories? What would it mean if our memories were fabricated?
· Riviera as an example. His projections are not real, yet do they influence reality? They evoke visceral emotions in molly. Therefore, are his illusions a type of reality?
· All of what you know is your memories. Yet to what extend to other forces know this? Furthermore, does knowledge of your memories give another entity power?
The real world is defined as the existence of the virtual world.
- There is a reference to another story by Gibson, Johny Mnemonic, which is set in the same universe.
- A Dali Clock hangs in the office of Julius Deane and alludes to The Persistence of Memory, assuming that the clock resembles the melting clocks in Dali’s famous painting. The Persistence of Memory is often associated with the distortion of time or the conquest of immortality, which are both recurring themes in the novel. These themes are especially relevant to the owner of the Dali Clock, as he avidly collects antiques and constantly undergoes revitalizing surgery in an effort to appear young.
As mentioned before, the Japanese influence is characteristic of science fiction stories written in the 80s.
Other Cyberpunk projects
Neuromancer is a website created by The Cyberpunk Project (TCP) which is a remotely avaliable data-well net of files about cyberpunk subculture, cyberpunk science-fiction and general cyberculture in the form of collected information. It is the result of years of gathering data and sorting it, to compile a host of cyberpunk-ifnormation related documents and work. Here, you will find facts, synopsis, and references linked to the Neuromancer book.
- Gibson, William. Neuromancer. Ace Edition. New York City: The Berkley Publishing Group, 1984. Print.