Friday, February 21, 2014

Cyberpunk, the next generation (annotated)

William Gibson first published his now-classic dystopian Sci Fi novel, “Neuromancer” in 1984. This year was a very prophetic and ominous year, especially for dystopian tomes, as it was the very year that another novelist, George Orwell… set as democracy’s expiration date, in his novel… Nineteen Eighty-Four. …“As literary political fiction and dystopian science-fiction, Nineteen Eighty-Four is a classic novel in content, plot, and style. Many of its terms and concepts, such as Big Brother, doublethink, thoughtcrime, Newspeak, Telescreen, 2 + 2 = 5, and memory hole, have entered everyday use since its publication” (Wikipedia). Orwell’s work, published in 1949, was of course the granddaddy of all modern dystopian tales.

Orwell’s novel, and its infamous character, the global party leader: “Big Brother” …reflected collective fears emerging from post-WWII, of: unbridled Nationalism, censorship and surveillance. And of course, as in all good Sci Fi, Nineteen Eighty-Four served as a cautionary tale of an unpredictable future. Since its publication, “1984” has stood the test of time, to become the definitive work on dystopia. It continues to have relevance today, particularly for its examination of global government surveillance and the effect it visits upon the novel’s population.
Gibson’s Neuromancer has been credited for establishing “cyberpunk” as a literary genre, and as being the archetypical “Cyberpunk” novel. It appears that, like Orwell’s “1984,” Gibson’s “Neuromancer” is destined to become the definitive work on the new (and improved!) dystopia.

Neuromancer explores a dystopic near future where a handful of powerful families, via their manifold mega-corporations, security firms, paramilitary and artificial intelligences, control the planet and its off-world stations. Neuromancer also presents the reader with the archetypical “console cowboy” or computer hacker, the quintessential cyberpunk, possessing singular talent and wondrous technologies. It is the cyberpunk, either alone or in legion, who wage electronic war against “the machine” or the machinations of the powerful dominator elite.

Interestingly, “cyberpunk” is a word coined by Gardner Dozois, the science fiction writer and past editor of Asimov's Science Fiction magazine, to describe the fiction of William Gibson. The term “went viral” in the late 1980’s and early 1990’s, to become the definitive cultural icon of the emerging information age. The term has fallen out of favor in the twenty-first century, as being dated, clique and somewhat “campy.”

Cyberpunk 2.0
In a classic example of life imitating art, the next generation of cyberpunk is none-other than… Anonymous. Anonymous (used as a mass noun) is a loosely associated international network of activist and hacktivist entities. Collectivly, they/it represent the first globally operational generation of cyberpunk. Anonymous seeks mass awareness and revolution against what the collective perceives as corrupt entities… while attempting to maintain anonymity.

This brief history of Anonymous was taken from Wikipedia…

According to white supremacist radio host Hal Turner, in December 2006 and January 2007 individuals who identified themselves as Anonymous took Turner's website offline, costing him thousands of dollars in bandwidth bills. As a result, Turner sued 4chan, eBaum's World, 7chan, and other websites for copyright infringement. He lost his plea for an injunction, however, and failed to receive letters from the court, which caused the lawsuit to lapse.

On January 14, 2008, a video produced by the Church of Scientology, featuring an interview with Tom Cruise was leaked to the Internet and uploaded to YouTube. The Church issued a copyright violation claim against YouTube requesting the removal of the video. In response to this, Anonymous formulated Project Chanology... calling the action by the Church of Scientology a form of Internet censorship.

On January 21, 2008, individuals claiming to speak for Anonymous announced their goals and intentions via a video posted to YouTube entitled "Message to Scientology," and a press release declaring a "War on Scientology" against both the Church of Scientology and the Religious Technology Center. In the press release, the group states that the attacks against the Church of Scientology will continue in order to protect the right to freedom of speech, and end what they believe to be the financial exploitation of church members.

On February 10, 2008, about 7000 people protested in more than 93 cities worldwide. Many protesters wore masks based on the character V from V for Vendetta (who, in turn, had been influenced by Guy Fawkes), or otherwise disguised their identities, in part to protect themselves from reprisals from the Church.

It was these actions taken against the Church of Scientology that brought world-wide notoriety to Anonymous. In the ensuing years, Anonymous has ebbed and flowed in its recognition and effectiveness. However, it is its very amorphous nature that allows Anonymous to thrive in our contemporary, over-mediated information age. It is precisely this de-centralized, spontaneously plural disorganization that befuddles law enforcement, in their attempts to “neutralize” or for that matter, to even understand Anonymous.

*How fast are you? How dense?
Cyberpunk is curious. Cyberpunk is tenacious. Cyberpunk is resilient. These are essential qualities of survival for the twenty-first century. The ability to retrieve (read: hack) and interpret (analyze) information is vital in navigating the modern world. It is in the interpretation of data that the cyberpunk’s survivability and opportunity resides. Deep thinking and the ability to “connect the dots” is what keeps the cyberpunk one step ahead of the authorities.

This is where the true value of cyberpunk dwells... critical thinking and the ability to convey intricate and complex information in a concise format. This is the power of poetry… relating complex intellectual and emotional content in an articulate manner. Poetic imagery is dense. It imparts a lot of information, in few words.

What’s good about cyberpunk is that it’s fast and dense. It has a lot of information. If you value information the most, then you don’t care about convention. It’s not, “Who do you know?” …it’s “How fast are you? How dense?” It’s not, “Do you talk like my old friends?” …it’s “What do you have to say?” It’s not, “Is this comfortable?” …it’s “Is this interesting?”

Cyberpunk is poised for a comeback. Cyberpunk 3.0 is about to impact our world in a big way. Whether it will take the form of the ever re-spawning Anonymous… or assume a new, as-yet unrecognized form… get ready. Cyberpunk is the response… the first line of defense… to the systems of control, the dominator culture… the machine. The creativity and resilience of cyberpunk is quite likely the “agent of change” that will act as a catalyst of evolution. It may be that cyberpunk was “sent here” from who knows where… to save our sorry ass.

…for Cyberpunk is also a changeling... a quick-change artist. Cyberpunk morphs as needed and stands upon the fulcrum point of social change. The next generation of cyberpunk is about to hit the “execute” button. As we all know, change occurs at an exponential rate in our modern world. Change is the one constant in Universe... it is the one thing we can truly count on. And as the (relatively) old saying goes… “In an evolving universe, he who stands still… moves backward.”

Another time-honored saying serves as a warning to the powers that be… to the machinations of the powerful dominator elite…

“What goes around, comes around.”


* this sub-title comes from the archivally important article, titled: What is Cyberpunk? …by Rudy Rucker.

PDF of Neuromancer