“Neuromancer” by William Gibson is extremely concerned with technology. The setting of this science fiction novel is in some future world where there is more advanced, complicated, and abundant technology. It is easy to see this narrative as a novel that is imaginative and unlike anything we have seen before. But this world is not far off from our own. Technology, especially modern advances, is developing rapidly, and we often don’t know what it is capable of. Martin Heidegger wrote an essay, “The Question Concerning Technology”, over fifty years ago, but his ideas about modern technology are still extremely applicable. He says, “…Technology is the fate of our age, where “fate” means the inevitableness of an unalterable course” (Heidegger 13). Technology has become so much of a part in the characters of “Neuromancer’s” life, and Heidegger’s essay suggests that our world can become like this in the future.
The world in 2014 may have the means to create a scene like that of “Neuromancer”, but has not embraced the resources and knowledge we have now in order to create it. In his essay, Hiedegger mentions that knowledge to create technology is around much earlier than it is actually created: the ideas are just waiting to be uncovered. He says, “Hence physics, in all its retreating from the representation turned only toward objects that has alone been standard till recently, will never be able to renounce this one thing: that nature reports itself in some way or other that is identifiable through calculation and that it remains orderable as a system of information” (Heidegger 11). People have recently discovered the capability of bringing technology with them everywhere, and a next logical step is making it part of our bodies. In “Neuromancer,” many people have had surgery to make it so. An example is Molly’s glasses, as well as many other parts of Molly. Not only are they permanently implanted on her face, but they can do advanced things such as show her the time (Gibson 32). Case experiences the matrix through Molly and through his own mind, not on some device separate from him. Technology has become an even bigger part of their everyday lives than it is now.
Technology can also become out of control of the people developing it. Halfway through the novel, we have become introduced to an artificial intelligence called Wintermute. When Case comes in contact with it through the matrix, it makes him flat line (Gibson 121). When the intelligence has control over his mind, it tells him that it has coaxed the person who is now known as Armitage back to health, and seems to be mostly in control of his thoughts and actions (Gibson 120). At this point in the novel, the readers do not know exactly what Wintermute is capable of. In his essay, Heidegger discusses technology getting out of control of its human inventors, “Since man drives technology forward, he takes part in ordering as a way of revealing. But the unconcealment itself, within which ordering unfolds, is never human handiwork, any more than the realm through with man is already passing every time he as a subject relates to an object” (Heidegger 8-9). Heidegger implies that people are not in control of what they are developing, that it is fated and destined to happen. It is possible, with modern/ future technology, to develop an artificial intelligence capable of controlling a human. People are and want to continue to be in control of the Earth, though, and the idea of an artificial intelligence controlling us is undoubtedly threatening.
Throughout the novel, the readers are slowly introduced to what modern technology is capable of. At first, we see how deeply technology is rooted in the lives of the characters and how they experience the world through it. We are then introduced to a seemingly extremely powerful artificial intelligence. In his essay, Heidegger tells us that technology like this may be fated to be invented. Looking at both “Neuromancer” and “The Question Concerning Technology”, we can find possible implications of technology in the world we live in today. As readers, this should concern us. The world of “Neuromancer” is not one that seems as enjoyable to live in. Is there anything we can do to stop modern technology from taking control of our lives, like it has in “Neuromancer”?
Gibson, Willam. Neuromancer. New York: Berkely Group, 1984. Print.
Heidegger, Martin. "The Question Concerning Technology." Technology Studies. N.p.: n.p., n.d. 1-23. Web.