We Are All Cyborgs Now

human hand and robot hand shakingHello everyone! ‘Tis I, Erik the Reddest, back on rotation. I thought I’d start off this month with a little cultural criticism because I’m an English major and we like to pretend we know something about everything. Oblique 2008 presidential election references aside, the title of this little series has the word “cyborg” in it, so you might surmise I’m going to talk about William Gibson again.

I’ve already talked extensively about Gibson because (full disclosure) he’s the focus of my thesis research. But today’s post will be a little different in application; for instance, I won’t be talking (at least directly) about his fiction.

Techno-poetic Prophecy or Obvious Observation?

While Gibson’s fictional presentations of technologies like virtual reality and the Internet may have captured the imaginations of many of the people responsible for those developments, he is well known for downplaying this effect. It isn’t as if these technologies developed just as his books defined them, and Gibson failed to predict many technologies that to us seem relatively basic (characters us payphones whereas even Star Trek managed to see personal phones in our future).

deka prosthetic arm drinking bottle of water

The amazing progress of prosthetics certainly can’t be ignored, but are we really destined to be like the cyborgs of the Sprawl?

What’s more important to see, however, is what Gibson was trying to do as he wrote these books. Aside from just trying to write the most electric, exciting book he knew how to write in a frantic attempt to not screw up his first book deal ever, Gibson also wasn’t trying to see that far into the future.

The idea of man merged with machine, after all, was not entirely new. Gibson’s early characters were only literal examples of this idea. Many fans of cyberpunk fiction dreamed of grafting super-man robot limbs to our torsos, or plugging silicon chips into our brains, but with only a few exceptions, this practice hasn’t become exactly common.

But if you’re reading this, you’re using some sort of internet-enabled device to access WordPress.com’s servers, automatically. You might be reading this from a laptop or tablet or smartphone, from a desktop computer at work, or at the library. Nearly all of us have constant access to electronic media of some form.

How close do we really have to be to our technology before it is considered part of us?

Distrusting That Particular Flavor

distrust that particular flavor william gibson book cover

While being relatively prolific in fiction, Gibson has also written numerous non-fiction works for various magazines, newspapers, websites, and other online periodicals. In 2012 he had a selection of these collected into an anthology titled Distrust That Particular Flavorfilled with his thoughts from the past 20 years during many changes and movements in culture after his debut novel.

In these articles are thoughts about how we as humans pull things into our beings and make them a part of us, often unconsciously, often to our detriment, but always with great impact on our perception and conception of art, literature, and reality.

If “the medium is the message” as Neil Postman said, then what happens when we as a society get so distracted by our technology that we forget that it is a tool itself used for other means, and not simply tools for tools’ sake? Is the message important anymore, or do we only care about the medium, how the message is communicated?

My next few posts will be dissecting this trend in our approach to technology, using Gibson’s non-fiction as a springboard for discussion. Until then, do you ever think about how your use of technology affects how you experience the world, or how you view yourself as a person? Let me know what you think.


About erikthereddest

I'm a Masters student in English, and I love technology and Science Fiction. I am refining and enhancing my (admittedly novice) writing talents under the sage advice of my friends here at Lantern Hollow Press, and with the great many books I am reading from the best authors I can find.

Posted on October 2, 2013, in Authors, Books, Cyberpunk, Distrust That Particular Flavor, Erik Marsh, Lantern Hollow Press Authors, Neuromancer, Science Fantasy, Science Fiction, Speculative Fiction, Technology, The Sprawl, Universes, William Gibson and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 1 Comment.

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