Terminally online in a cyberpunk world?

March 14, 2023    Article    821 words    4 mins read
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We have sealed ourselves away behind our money, growing inward, generating a seamless universe of self. William Gibson, Neuromancer

If you really want to know the answer to this question, look around. Increasingly we live in a world controlled and manipulated via the net, the wired, the metaverse. Where content and creators, programmers and artists coalesce into vast seas of content. Evermore our youth are lost in the infancy of the virtual worlds that our tablets, screens, and now headsets provide. You need not look at the specific technological forms or functions from these stories to see how well they predicted the future. If you look at the broader picture, the broader result of the technological singularity our civilization is undergoing you can see they were dead on.

How do point-of-sale systems work? Via the net. How do modern humans communicate, even those born before the net. Via the net. How do government and military organizations communicate? Via the net. How do criminal organizations and rebel insurgencies communicate? Via the net. How are business and financial transactions, managed, monitored, and completed? Via the net.

Then remember that while one is on the net they are interacting with any number of hidden algorithms, ad trackers, as well as the websites and services they are using. Our entire financial system at this point is essentially just predictive autonomic algorithms trading money and stocks in such quantity on a minute by minute basis that it would make even the rubber barons of the earliest 20th century blush.

At this point farming, manufacturing, logistics, law enforcement, health care, and even the basics of financial transactions are all performed via software and net platforms integrated with other advanced technologies, coalescing and flowing into data centers like vast oceans of information. To live in a modern city is to be supported by an incomprehensible and unimaginable level of technological sophistication supported itself by vast armies of technicians and analysts that barely understand the parts of the systems they work with let alone have any comprehension of these systems as a whole. To live in modern society is to live in the trunk or on the branch of a cybernetic great tree, to live as a an organism supported by a great unliving ecosystem, a jungle of wires humming with thoughts of millions of computers abiding and abetting the whims of their unwitting users tapping away at their terminals never the wiser.

..this is just like life must be for about 99 percent of the people in the world. You’re in this place. There’s other people all around you, but they don’t understand you and you don’t understand them, but people do a lot of pointless babbling anyway. In order to stay alive, you have to spend all day every day doing stupid meaningless work. And the only way to get out of it is to quit, cut loose, take a flyer, and go off into the wicked world, where you will be swallowed up and never heard from again. Neal Stephenson, Snow Crash

And yet, we cant manage to utilize this magnificent monumental achievement, this insane and immense power for anything good. It consumes and devours our youth as they destroy their lives, sometimes literally, sometimes figuratively, and sometimes a bit of both. It makes life inhospitable for those who cannot adapt to the constant hum and drum, the endless input and output through their fragile psyches creating vast communities of homeless and wandering rambling away their days as passers-by stare glassy-eyed into he virtual void. Our communities, our cities, our countries, even our world seems to be perpetually in decay as the ever worsening climate crisis heightens the already present issues of economic disparity. We are used, now, to our cities being on fire, underwater, or covered in clouds of never ending dust. We are used now to seeing the fleeing diaspora of so many desert ruins and trash cities. Used to seeing the foreign man dredge through rivers of trash and toxic sludge for what little metal he can find in the “e-waste” of the modern world all for a scrap of rotten food.

Be careful that you don’t get so caught up in what cyberpunk fiction gets wrong, that you neglect the fact that you live in a cyberpunk reality. It really doesn’t matter that none of this wasn’t written in a book, because it could have all been written in one of these books. The spirit of the world we live in is exactly the same spirit as Snow Crash or Neuromancer, or you name it. The soul of the world written about in those fantasies has come to pass in the modern world and that is what you should take away. You are living in one of these stories and you can either be a wage-slave or something more.

But that is up to you and that is what’s important to remember.