William Gibson and The Internet


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The words "Internet" and "world wide web" are becoming everyday use these

days, it has exploded into the mass market of information and advertising. There

are bad points about the "net" as well as good points, this relatively new

medium is growing at such a rate that the media have to take it seriously.

This new form of communication was mainly populated by small groups of

communities, but now that it is getting much easier to access the web these

groups are growing.

The word Cyberpunk is nothing new in the world of the "net" and to science

fiction readers , and it is this term which names most of the online

communities . Within the Cyberpunk cultures there are sub cultures such as

hackers, phreaks ,ravers etc.. all have a connection with new technologies. The

term Cyberpunk was originated in Science Fiction Literature, writers such as

William Gibson tell stories of future worlds, cultures and the Internet.

it is William Gibson and the cyberpunks who have carried out some of the

most important mappings of our present moment and its future trends during the

past decade. The present, in these mappings, is thus viewed from the persceptive

of a future that is visible from within the experiences and trends of the

current moment, from this perpscetive, cyberpunk can be read as a sort of social


Chapter 1

Internet history

The Internet is a network of computer networks, the most important of

which was called ARPANET(Advanced Research Projects Agency NETwork), a wide area

experimental network connecting hosts and terminal servers together. Rules were

set up to supervise the allocation of addresses and to create voluntary

standards for the network. The ARPANET was built between October and December

1969 by a US company called Bolt, Beranak and Newman (BBN), which is still big

in the Internet world. It had won a contract from the US Government's Department

of Defence Advanced Research Projects Agency , or ARPA, to build a network that

would survive a nuclear attack. Only four government mainframe computers were

originally linked up, Unfortunately, ARPANET was also dependent on the

involvement of hundreds of US computer scientists. Because the ARPANET was a

military project, it was managed in true military style - the project manager

appointed by ARPA gave the orders and they were carried out. It was therefore

easy to tell who "ran" the network. By 1972 it had grown to 37 mainframe

computers. At the same time, the way in which the network was being used was

changing. As well as using the system to exchange important, but boring,

military information, ARPANET users started sending e-mail - to each other by

means of private mail boxes.

By 1983 ARPANET had grown to such an extent that it was felt that the

military research component should be moved to a separate network, called MILNET.

In 1987 the system was opened up to any educational facility, academic

researcher or international research organisation who wanted to use it. As local

area networks became more pervasive, many hosts became gateways to local

networks. A network layer, to allow the inter operation of these networks was

developed and called IPA (Internet Protocol). Over time other groups created

long haul IP based networks (NASA, NSF, states...). These nets too, inter-

operate because of IP. The collection of all of these inter operating networks

is the Internet.

Up until 1990 the Internet was only a complicated and uninteresting text

format of communication and most of the people using the net were either

Computer programmers, students, Hackers, Societies, Governments officials and a

few artists interested the digital media.

Everything changed in 92 when a British programmer came up with "Mosaic",

a text and graphic based window (web browser) into the net, this programme was

simple to use. The basic structure was in simple page form, Just click on a

button, word or picture and you could cross half the world in seconds, it was

also simple to construct a page. Over the last couple of years, anyone who had

a computer and Internet account has created their own "Web page".

The growth of the Internet, those machines connected to the NSFNET

backbone has been extraordinary. In 1989, the number of networks attached to the

NSFNET/Internet increased from 346 to 997, data traffic increased five-fold. The

latest estimate, is that 200,000 to 400,000 main computers are directly

connected to NSFNET, with perhaps a total of eleven million individuals able to

exchange information freely. The Internet is still growing and companies are

developing new tools and programmes to speed up the communications so that

immense amounts of data can be transferred in seconds.

"The future of the 20th century, of the 21st century, will be the net.

Its awesome. But on the net, you still have to have someone on the

other side. The poor nerd who sits in front of the computer just

talking to themselves - that's kind of sad. It's the contact that's important,

interpersonal, interactive communication." [T.Leery (observer

29/5/94) p16]

Internet Cultures

Over the years since the Internet first began, many clubs, organisations,

cultures and societies have grown and congregated on the net. This is probably

because to many users it is a cheap form (even free) of world wide communication,

the new technology has link with their ideas and also because of the freedom of

expression the Internet gives. No single government body or organisation owns

the net and because of its size, no one can fully govern and censor the


So called "hackers" also part of the "Cyberpunk" group, were one of the

first groups of individuals known on the Internet, these were mostly male

students studying computer science, trying to break into government computers or

anywhere they were not supposed to be. Most hackers live by this set of rules,

First, access to computers should be unlimited and total: "Always yield to the

Hands-On Imperative!". Second, all information should be free. Third, mistrust

authority and promote decentralisation. Fourth, hackers should be judged by

their prowess as hackers rather than by formal organisational or other

irrelevant criteria. Fifth, one can create art and beauty on a computer. Finally,

computers can change lives for the better.

One group i came across in an article call themselves the "Extropians",

they want to be immortal and travel through space and time. They are also

libertarians who want to privets the oceans and air. One member Jay Prime

Positive wants to upload his consciousness to a computer "I'd probably want to

spend most of my time in data space......i imagine having multiple bodies and

multiple copies of myself. I have problems with gender identification, so I'd

definitely have a female body in there somewhere".

The group have many idea's of the future. You perhaps never considered

the idea of setting loose molecule-sized robots in your body to clean out your

arteries.(see nanotechnology).

A floating free state banged together out of old oil tankers (similar to

the sprawl described in Gibson's "Mona Lisa overdrive", a place where freedom

and unrestrained intellect could reign and you could finally get the government

and tax man off your back. the Extropians want to go beyond the limits of

nature and biology and move on up to the stars, they believe that computers have

kick started the human evolution.

Chapter 2


The term "Cyberspace" was first coined by the sci-fi writer William

Gibson in his 1984 novel "Neuromancer". Gibson first identified the emergence

of Cyberspace as the most recent moment in the development of electromechanical

communications, telematics and virtual reality. Cyberspace, as Gibson saw it,

is the simultaneous experience of time, space, and the flow of multi-dimensional,

pan-sensory data: All the data in the world stacked up like one big neon city,

so you could cruise around and have a kind of grip on it, visually anyway,

because if you didn't, it was too complicated, trying to find your way to the

particular piece of data you needed.

Cyberspace. "A con sensual hallucination experienced daily by billions


legitimate operators, in every nation... A graphical representation of

data abstracted from the banks of every computer in the human system.

Unthinkable complexity. Lines of light ranged in the non space of the

mind, clusters and constellations of data. Like city lights,


- William Gibson, Neuromancer.

At the core of Cyberspace is the Internet.

The psychologist/guru Timothy Leery interviewed by David Gale in 1991, is

very clear about Cyberspace :

"What were talking about is electronic real estate, a whole electronic

reality. The problem we have is to organise the great continents of

data that will soon become available. All the movies , all the TV ,

all the libraries, all recordable knowledge... These are the vast natural

crude oil reserves waiting to be tapped, In the 15th century we explored the

planet, now we must prepare once more to chart, colonise and open up a

whole new world of data. Software becomes the maps and guides into

that terrain".

The interesting thing about Cyberspace is the way it creates the idea of a

community. Every subculture needs an image of an outsider's community to cling

to, to run to. For the Cyberpunk, this community doesn't actually have a place.

It can be accessed everywhere by modem, but its the nearest thing on earth.

Cyberpunk subculture is the first subculture which doesn't have a particular

place of congregation . There are now hundreds of bulletin boards around the

world which have a Cyberpunk style, where young cyberpunks discuss the latest

hardware and software. It is familiar to most people as the "place" in which a

long-distance telephone conversation takes place. But it is also the treasure

trove for all digital or electronically transferred information, and, as such,

it is the place for most of what is now commerce, industry, and human


Cyberpunk History

Cyberpunk literature, in general, deals with unimportant people in

technologically-enhanced cultural "systems". In Cyberpunk stories' settings,

there is usually a "system" which dominates the lives of most "ordinary" people,

be it an oppressive government, a group of large, corporations, or a

fundamentalist religion. These systems are enhanced by certain technologies ,

particularly "information technology" (computers, the mass media), making the

system better at keeping those within it inside it. Often this technological

system extends into its human "components" as well, via brain implants,

prosthetic limbs, cloned or genetically engineered organs, etc. Humans

themselves become part of "the Machine". This is the "cyber" aspect of Cyberpunk.

"Cyberpunk hit the front page of the New York Times when some young

computer kids were arrested for cracking a government computer file.

The Times called the kids "cyberpunks" From there, the

performers involved in the high-tech-oriented radical art movement

generally known as "Industrial" " [ R.U Sirius (Mondo 2000) 64 ]

In the mid-'80s Cyberpunk emerged as a new way of doing science fiction in

both literature and film. The first book "Neuromancer"; the most important film,

"Blade Runner".

"what's most important to me is that Neuromancer is about the present.

its not really about an imagined future....." [William Gibson (MONDO

2000) 68]

William Gibson is widely considered to be the father of "Cyberpunk", dark

novels about hi-tech computer bohemians and underground renegades. His first

novel, "Neuromancer", bears the distinction of winning the Hugo, Nebula, and

Philip K. Dick awards. The first to win all three.

William Gibson parlayed off the success of his first SF 'Cyberpunk'

blockbuster Neuromancer to write a more complex, engaging novel in which these

two worlds are rapidly colliding. In his novel Count Zero, we encounter teenage

hacker Bobby Newmark, who goes by the handle "Count Zero." Bobby on one of his

treks into Cyberspace runs into something unlike any other AI(artificial

intelligence) he's ever encountered - a strange woman, surrounded by wind and

stars, who saves him from 'flatlining.' He does not know what it was he

encountered on the net, or why it saved him from certain death.

Later we meet Angie Mitchell, the mysterious girl whose head has been

'rewired' with a neural network which enables her to 'channel' entities from

Cyberspace without a 'deck' - in essence, to be 'possessed'. Bobby eventually

meets Beauvoir, a member of a Voudoun/cyber sect, who tells him that in

Cyberspace the entity he actually met was Erzulie, and that he is now a

favourite of Legba, the lord of communication... Beauvoir explains that Voudoun

is the perfect religion for this era, because it is pragmatic - "It isn't about

salvation or transcendence. What it's about is getting things done ."

Eventually, we come to realise that after the fracturing of the AI

Wintermute, who tried to unite the Matrix, the unified being split into several

entities which took on the character of the various Haitian loa, for reasons

that are never made clear.

Now other writers like Bruce Sterling and Pat Cadigan have emerged. There

is even a 'overground' Cyberpunk magazine called Mondo 2000, as well as a host

of tiny desktop published fanzines.

A fundamental theme running through most Cyberpunk literature is that (in

the near future Earth)commodities are unimportant. Since anything can be

manufactured, very cheaply, manufactured goods (and the commodities that are

needed to create them) are no longer central to economic life. The only real

commodity is information. The bleak, 'no future' landscape of punk rock and

post-apocalyptic movies like Blade runner and Mad Max, and imagined a way to

escape from the street-level violence these films referred to.

Along with Neuromancer, Blade Runner together set the boundary conditions

for emerging Cyberpunk: a hard-boiled combination of high tech and low life.

As the William Gibson phrase puts it, "The street has its own uses for

technology." So compelling were these two narratives that many people then and

now refuse to regard as Cyberpunk anything stylistically and thematically

different from them.

Literary Cyberpunk had become more than Gibson, and Cyberpunk itself had

become more than literature and film. In fact, the label has been applied

variously, promiscuously, often cheaply or stupidly. Kids with modems and the

urge to commit computer crime became known as "cyberpunks or Hackers", however,

so did urban hipsters who wore black, read Mondo 2000, listened to "industrial"

pop, and generally subscribed to techno-fetishism. Gibson had become more han

just another sf writer; he was a cultural icon of sorts.

[Gareth Branwyn] posted the following description of the Cyberpunk world

view to the MONDO 2000 conference of the WELL (see glossary):

A) The future has imploded onto the present. there was no nuclear

Armageddon. There's too much real estate to lose . The new battle

field is people's mind's.

B) The megacorp's are the new governments.

C) The U.S is a big bully with lackluster economic power.

D) The world is splintering into a trillion subcultures and designer

cults with their own languages, codes, and lifestyles.

E) Computer-generated info-domains are the next frontiers.

F) there is better living through chemistry.

G)Small groups or individual "console cowboys" can wield tremendous

power over governments. corporations, etc.

H) The coalescence of a computer "culture" is expressed in self-aware

computer music , art, virtual communities, and a hacker/street tech

subculture. The computer nerd image is passe', and people are not

ashamed anymore about the role the computer has in this subculture. The

computer is a cool tool, a friend , important, human augmentation.

I) We're becoming cyborg's. Our tech is getting smaller, closer to us

and it will soon merge with us.

J) [Some attitudes that seem to be related]

*Information wants to be free.

*Access to computers and anything which may teach you something about

how the world works should be unlimited and total.

*Always yield to the hands-on imperative.

*mistrust authority.

*promote decentralisation.

*Do it yourself.

*Fight the power.

*Feed the noise back into the system.

*Surf the edges.

[(MONDO 2000)65-66 ]

Cyberpunk Culture

Science fiction deals with issues as diverse as the clash between religious

fundamentalism and the consumer society, abortion and the church, life support

for the terminally ill. or the freedom of the individual in the age of on-line


William Gibson, whose brave new world is seen as in a state of impermanent

decay compared to "Cyberspace",The "virtual world" already in embryonic

existence in the Internet global computer network. In Gibson's latest novel,

Virtual Light, a pair of designer sunglasses holds all the data on plans for

property scam involving the rebuilding of post-quake San Francisco. Gibson's

"heroes" are a handful of neo-punks and derelicts. His Future world is a grim

approximation of today's social and technological trends, a graphic debunking

of the progress principle.

In the 20th century, the Net is only accessible via a computer terminal,

using a device called a modem to send and receive information. But in 2013,

the Net can be entered directly using your own brain, neural plugs and complex

interface programs that turn computer data into perceptual events" . In several

places, reference is made to the military origin of the

Cyberspace interfaces: "You're a console cowboy. The prototypes of the

programs you use to crack industrial banks were developed for [a military

operation]. For the assault on the Kirensk computer nexus. Basic module was a

Nightwing microlight, a pilot, a matrix deck, a jockey. We were running a

virus called Mole. The Mole series was the first generation of real intrusion

programs." [Neuromancer].

"The matrix has its roots in primitive arcade games... early graphics

programs and military experimentation with cranial jack" [Neuromancer].

Gibson also assumes that in addition to being able to "jack in" to the

matrix, you can go through the matrix to jack in to another person using a

"simstim" deck. Using the simstim deck, you experience everything that the

person you are connected to experiences: "Case hit the simstim switch. And

flipped in to the agony of a broken bone. Molly was braced against the blank

grey wall of a long corridor, her breath coming ragged and uneven. Case was

back in the matrix instantly, a white-hot line of pain fading in his left

thigh." [Neuromancer].

The matrix can be a very dangerous place. As your brain is connected in,

should your interface program be altered, you will suffer. If your program is

deleted, you would die. One of the characters in Neuromancer is called the

Dixie Flatline, so named because he has survived deletion in the matrix. He is

revered as a hero of the cyber jockeys: 'Well, if we can get the Flatline, we're

home free. He was the best. You know he died brain death three times.' She

nodded. 'Flatlined on his EEG. Showed me the tapes.'" [Neuromancer].

Incidentally, the Flatline doesn't exist as a person any more: his mind

has been stored in a RAM chip which can be connected to the matrix:

Cyberpunk is fascinated by the media technologies which were hitting the

mass market in the 80s. Desktop publishing, computer music and now desktop video

are technologies taken up with enthusiasm by Cyberpunks..

The rapid evolution from video-games to virtual reality has been helped

along by the hard core of enthusiasts eager to try out each generation of

simulated experience. The multimedia convergence of the publishing industry,

the computer industry, the broadcasting industry and the recording industry has

a spot right at its centre called Cyberpunk, where these new product

experiments find a critical but playful market.

Cyberpunk is a product of the huge batch of technical and scientific

universities created in the US to service the military industrial complex. Your

typical Cyberpunk is white, middle class, and technically skilled. They are a

new generation of white collar worker, resisting the yoke of work and suburban

life for a while. They don't drop out, they jack in. They are a example of how

each generation, growing up with a given level of media technology, has to

discover the limits and potentials of that technology by experimenting with

everyday life itself.

In the case of Cyberpunk, the networked world of Cyberspace, the

interactive world of multimedia and the new sensoria of virtual reality will all

owe a little to their willingness to be the test pigs for these emergent


There is also a tension in Cyberpunk between the military that produces

technology and the sensibility of the technically skilled individual trained

for the high tech machine. Like all subcultures, Cyberpunk expresses a conflict.

On the one side is the libertarian idea that technology can be a way of

wresting a little domain of freedom for people from the necessity to work and

live under the constraints of today. On the other is the fact that the

technologies of virtual reality, multimedia, Cyberspace would never have existed

in the first place had the Pentagon not funded them as tools of war.

On the one hand it is a drop out culture dedicated to pursing the dream of

freedom through appropriate technology. On the other it is a ready market for

new gadgets and a training ground for hip new entrepreneurs with hi-tech toys to


Cyberpunk's fast crawl to the surface has included not only pop music

(industrial, post industrial, techno pop, etc.), but also television (MTV,

Saturday morning cartoons, the late "Max Headroom" series, etc.) and movies

("Total Recall," "Lawnmower Man," the Japanese "Tetsuo" series, etc.). A bi-

monthly magazine called Wired, aimed in part at the Cyberpunk set and financed

in part by MIT Media Lab director Nicholas Negroponte. And the principals of

Mondo 2000 .

"The micro technology that, in Cyberpunk, connects the streets to the

multinational structures of information in Cyberspace

also connects the middle-class structures of information in

Cyberspace also connects the middle-class country to the middle-class city".

[S.R Delany (Flame Wars) 198]

Cyberpunk tends to fill some of us with uneasiness and even fear.The X

Generation is made up of Slackers, Hackers (a.k.a. Phreakers, Cyberpunks, and

Neuronauts). They are Ravers and techno- heads. According to most demographers,

we are more street smart and pop-culture literate, and less versed in the

classics, ethics, and formal education (especially in areas like geography,

civics, and history: areas where we appear to be, in short, an academic

disgrace.) We are said to have less ambition, less idealism, less morals,

smaller attention spans, and less discipline than any previous generation of

this century. We are the most aborted, most incarcerated, most suicidal, and

most uncontrollable, unwanted, and unpredictable generation in history. (Or so

claim the authors of 13th Generation. ).

"The work of cyberpunks is paralleled throughout eighties pop culture :

in rock video ; in the hacker underground; in the

jarring street tech of hip-hop and scratch music...."

[Bruce Sterling (MONDO 2000) 68]

Cyberpunk and Technology

In Gibson's world, Cyberspace is a con sensual hallucination created within

the dense matrix of computer networks. Gibson imagines a world where people can

directly jack their nervous systems into the net, vastly increasing the intimacy

of the connection between mind and matrix. Cyberspace is the world created by

the intersection of every jacked-in consciousness, every database and

installation, every form of interconnected information circuit, in short, human

or in-human.

Cyberspace is no longer merely an interesting item in an inventory of ideas

in Gibson's fiction. In Cyberspace: First Steps, a collection of papers from

The First Conference on Cyberspace, held at the University of Texas, Austin, in

May, 1990, Michael Benedikt defines Cyberspace as "a globally networked,

computer-sustained, computer-accessed, and computer-generated, multidimensional,

artificial, or 'virtual' reality." He admits "this fully developed kind of

Cyberspace does not exist outside of science fiction and the imagination of a

few thousand people;" however he points out that "with the multiple efforts the

computer industry is making toward developing and accessing three-

dimensionalized data, effecting real-time animation, implementing ISDN and

enhancing other electronic information networks, providing scientific

visualisations of dynamic systems, developing multimedia software, devising

virtual reality interface systems, and linking to digital interactive television

. . . from all of these efforts one might cogently argue that Cyberspace is 'now

under construction.'"

Cyberpunk in TV and Cinema

One Film "WAR GAMES" was based on a college student who hacked into the Us

defence computer and started a simulation program of a nuclear attack on Russia,

which looked like the real thing to the Russians. In the near future a British

film call "Hackers" is to be released, directed by Iain Softley (BackBeat). Also

soon to be released is "The Net" starring Sandra Bullock (Speed) and a Gibson

Cyberpunk thriller called "Johnny Mnemonic" a $26 million science fiction movie

based on his short story, and starring Keanu Reeves as the main character.

Directed by Robert Longo. The film also stars Ice-T, Dolph Lundgren, Takeshi

Kitano (of the cult "Sonatine"), Udo Kier, Henry Rollins and Dina Meyer.

William Gibson also wrote the screenplay of his original story which was

published in the anthology "Burning Chrome". "Johnny Mnemonic" goes into wide

release in Dec 1995.

The film Blade Runner, loosely based on Dick's novel Do Androids Dream Of

Electric Sheep, is set in early 21st century Los Angeles. Among the enormous

human cultural diversity evident, five , synthetically designed organic robots -

replicants - have escaped their slave status on an off-world colony. These

replicants are the property of the Tyrell Corporation, and have extremely high

levels of physically and mental development. The Tyrell Corporation, ensuring

that the replicants do not develop the emotional capacity of their human masters

genetically engineer a four- year life span. Tyrell Corporation, on the basis of

this slavery, uses the market slogan 'More Human Than Human'. And like those who

settled earth's New World in the seventeenth century, they expect slave labour."

Whilst this commentary is certainly true, a further elaboration can be made on

the technological nature of the replicants; they were, for all intents and

purposes, a new life-form.

"Max Headroom was the most amazingly Cyberpunk thing that's ever been on

network TV. Max started out as an animated VJ for a British

music-video channel. In order to introduce him, a

short film was made.....Entertainment with all the corners filled in . I think

that's what a lot of Cyberpunk writing is .......Television is

the greatest Cyberpunk invention of all time" . [Steve Roberts

(MONDO 2000) 76]


One man who has his own theory about the net is Kevin Kelly (exective

editor of Wired), he combines ideas from chaos theory, cybernetics, current

thinking on evolution and research into computerised artificial life with his

own experience of on-line culture. His main argument is that we're 'the Neo-

Biological Era'. The line between the made and the born is being blurred;

machines are becoming biological and the biological is being engineered.

The reason is that we have reached the limits of industrial thinking.

Linear cause and effect logic is no good for figuring out the hugely complex

systems (phone networks, global economies, the Internet) that we have created,

so we've begun to look instead at natural systems. After years of tapping mother

nature for food and raw materials, we're now mining her for ideas.

One scenario of the Internet he is playing with is that the net might

die. "You can imagine a situation in which there's 200 million people on the

Internet trying to send E-mail messages and the whole thing just grinds to a

halt. Its own success just kills it. In the meantime, a telephone companies

steps in and offers E-mail for $5 a month, no traffic jams and its reliable. i

hope it doesn't happen but it's a scenario one has to consider". eorge Gilder of

the Hudson institute stated "there is about to be a revolution, born of nothing

less than sand, glass and air, and yet it was one which would have an incalcuble

effect upon us all.

From sand will come microchips offering super computing power on slices

of silicon smaller than a thumbnail and cheaper than a book.

From glass will be fashioned fibre-optic cables that will flash

information of any size at lighting speed.

In the air, frequency bandwidths of practically limitless size and

available at virtually no cost will permit the wireless transmission of any kind

of digital data from anywhere to anywhere, instantly.

Timothy leary the man who coined the phrase "turn on, tune in and drop

out" in the 60's thinks that the future of the 20th and 21st century, will be

the net."Its awesome. But on the net. you still have someone on the other side .

The poor nerd who sits in front of the computer just talking to themselves -

that's kind of sad. It's the contact that's important, interpersonal,

interactive communication. We're hard wiring global consciousness, we're moving

towards a global mind. a global village. Soon we'll develop a global language.

People will communicate with pictures not words".

Jean Baudrillard described the emergence of a new postmodern society

organsied around simulation, in which models, codes, communication, information,

and the media were the demiruges of a radical break with modern societies.

Baudrillard's postmodern universe was also one of hyperreality, in which models

and codes determined thought and behavior, and in which media of entertainment,

information, and communication provided experience more intense and involving

han the scenes of banal everything life. In this postmodern world, individuals

abondoned the 'desert of the real' for the ecstasies of hyperreality and a new

realm of computer, media, and technological experience.

Visions of the Future

Gibson's vision is of a multi-dimensional space inhabited by vast "data

structures", where glowing and pulsing representations of data flow within the

ubiquitous computer/ telecommunications networks of military and corporate

memory banks.(see Johnny Mnemonic)

During the 80's, the Cyberspace vision was being fleshed out in the work

shops and laboratories of silicon space , of seeing it, being in it, touching

and feeling it, flying through it and hearing it were being developed. The

inter-relationship between the vision and the practical, working "virtual

reality" machines (such as W industries ' Virtuality and VPL's Reality built for

two) were on sale in both the us and Britain by 1990. By 1994 cheap headsets and

programmes were available to mostly anyone.

The Cyberpunk future includes the likes of a computer-generated artificial

environment known as virtual reality. (Not so futuristic, perhaps: VR arcade

games are already here.) It includes dreams of virtual sex. (Not so futuristic,

either: text based "sex" already exists on computer networks. Call it Phone

Sex: The Next Generation.) It includes further developments in robotics,

artificial intelligence, even artificial life. More to the point of punk, it

includes "smart drugs," legal substances that allegedly increase mental


"someday be possible for mental functions to be surgically extracted from

the human brain and transferred to computer software in a process he

calls "transmigration". the useless body with its brain tissue would then

be discarded, while consciousness would remain stored in computer

terminals, or for the occasional outing, in mobile robots".

[Hans Moravec, mind children : the future of robot and human

intelligence(Cambridge, MA, 1988),108]

Cyberpunk fiction characters are hard wired (see JohnnyMnemonic), jack into

Cyberspace, plug