/cyber/ - Cyberpunk & Science Fiction

A board dedicated to all things cyberpunk (and all other futuristic science fiction) NSFW welcome

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How Cyberpunk Did The World Become? Anonymous 08/19/2021 (Thu) 14:59:15 No.197
It’s now 33 years since Neuromancer was published – establishing the cyberpunk timeframe as near-future – and that’s as long as either Alexander the Great or Jesus had in this world. It’s long enough for this essay to look back from the vantage point of 2017 and see how cyberpunk Planet Earth ended up becoming in this timeline. Where Neuromancer and Snow Crash were half right was in their prediction of a matrix within cyberspace that filled the human need for societal interaction. FaceBook and the other giants of social media certainly led the ordinary citizens of meatspace to spend a lot more time in cyberspace, but we are still limited to the bulletin board model. Advancements in virtual reality technology have been limited, to a large part, by the need for extreme amounts of processing power. A VR setup must be capable of generating a sufficient rate of frames per second to avoid latency from the perspective of the user, because this leads to simulator sickness, which decreases the level of telepresence. So nothing really like the eponymous all-encompassing virtual environment in The Matrix, or the metaverse, has yet arisen. Where all of the cyberpunk classics got it right was in the widespread adoption of novel classes of synthetic drugs. Humans have always loved to experiment with consciousness – use of magic mushrooms, cannabis and alcohol all predate the use of writing. So it was fairly predictable that new advances in chemistry would lead to new frontiers in the exploration of mental space. Although most of the chemical enhancement in cyberpunk literature has been for the purposes of increasing martial aptitude, as in Lucifer’s Dragon, most of its use in consensual reality has been psychonautic. In other words, here on Earth people mostly use the new waves of drugs to get high – but that doesn’t make for very good fiction. Blade Runner didn’t foresee much different in the way of human drug consumption, but it did anticipate how close artificial intelligence came to passing the Turing Test. Many people chat with bots on social media without even knowing it – especially in online poker rooms and on large politics pages. Certainly this film, based on Philip D Dick’s Do Androids Dream Of Electric Sheep?, accurately captured the uneasiness of being a human and dealing with something that appears entirely human but for subtle differences. Where the classics tended to get it wrong was politically, especially the diminished role of territorial governments. There seemed to be a glib assumption, perhaps expressed in extremis in Snow Crash, that corporations and the influence of corporations would expand to the point where 20th century-style governments no longer held any power. In reality, hard iron laws like “political power grows out of the barrel of a gun” continue to hold true, and any government capable of raising sufficient taxation to raise an army or secret police will still be a force on the world stage. In the world of soft power, Transmetropolitan correctly predicted that the political landscape would be as shallow and insane as ever. The absurdity of the various political candidates in Spider Jerusalem’s life are an eerily accurate foretelling of the rise of the Donald Trump/Hillary Clinton circus. Corporations have started implanting microchips in their employees, which has been a staple of cyberpunk horror for a long time. My own The Verity Key, however, predicted a different path of adoption for microchips under the skin: I figured that people, especially the technophilic, would adopt it themselves for increased access to private space. It remains to be seen if this will happen – the expense involved in reaching a sustainable critical mass might make private adoption of RFID networks unworkable. Things didn’t really get as dark and dystopic as cyberpunk predicted. This was always the probable outcome for a literary genre that consciously adopted elements of horror from other genres and from film noir. Things really just became weird. Perhaps the most accurate of all – predicting the current obsession with transgenderism – was Joe Haldeman’s The Forever War.
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If there are new avenues of cyberpunk still to be explored, it’s possible that they will feature characters who are unrepentant rebels with regard to questions of cognitive freedom, in particular characters pushed underground by new technologies that make intrusion into the mind possible. That’s one way in which the brilliant anime series Psycho-Pass blazes a new path: from the harder, engineering and physics based sciences towards the biological ones. Much like The Verity Key, the Psycho-Pass series raises the question of what life will look like when neuropsychological technology advances to the point where the private thoughts of every individual have become a public matter. The controllers of the mindreading technology in Psycho-Pass are public entities (or at least government ones), which makes for an oppressive totalitarian atmosphere, as opposed to the nihilistic anarchy of The Verity Key. Probably this timeline became more nihilistic than totalitarian, but who knows what might still happen? With news that remote-controlled drones and tank-like war machines running off AI might soon become cheap enough for terrorists or rogue states to use every day against enemy targets, the most cyberpunk elements of human history, fictional or otherwise, may be still to come.
Many past cyberpunk works include body augmentation that hasn't really materialized in reality. Other aspects such corporate power, metaverse (Internet), environmental degradation, and population crowding have come to fruition. It is likely that robotics, e.g. Boston Dynamics, will need to further mature before robotic body augmentation reaches that visioned in historical cyberpunk fiction.
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>>199 Body augmentation, especially akin to replacing a limb for a better one, has not caught up. Sure, we do have artificial limbs that range from a single digit on a finger all the way to a complete limb. But such things are for the infirmed and not for optional replacement. You could say its due to our quality of batteries; they suck. In practically ever other work of fiction battery technology far exceeds our current technology. Or even if its a jump straight to an actual power generator, its still beyond our knowledge to make something that small and compact that could do so much. But it isn't power that's the main issue: its the connectivity between organic and inorganic. Basically, with no way to properly connect our brain, or the brain of anything, with an artificial prosthetic, means that they'll remain glorified peg-legs or hooks. This "blood-brain,"-like barrier is what keeps artificial limbs that can move as fluid as a living limb, with or without an external power source, from being a reality. It is also probably the same barrier that keeps us from making chips or interfaces that directly affect the mind. Regarding robotics in general, we have yet to cross the uncanny valley. Sure, in an environment where you have no extra notion of who or what is saying something, you can be fooled. But if you can see what you're talking to? You'd have to be blind to mistake a computer for a person in that case. Even current "robots," look like glorified animitronics. As for other topics, it seems works like Brave New World, or 1984 are more akin to our own reality. Specifically with the rise of stuff like "fake news," and other social schemes. Information has become easy to find but the truth, or its accuracy, is getting harder to find.
>>200 >Brave New World / 1984. Strictly speaking, those are not forthright prophecies ordained by the writers of the twentieth. Rather, they are amalgamations of the past adapted to what we believe may be the future. The core of human emotion and physiology has not changed, only the methods able to mend and sculpt such a sub-conscious and the reach of such methodology changed. In ye olden days, you needed to have a charismatic speaker, and to physically interact with those who can be misdirected via some sort of superstition (and thus relying to a higher degree on luck). Nowadays, why take that risk when you can subtly nudge the subconscious via a concerted campaign of information overload and subliminal messaging?
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If you really want to know the answer to your 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, add 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 robber 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. 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 passerby's 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 dont get so caught up in what cyberpunk fiction gets wrong, that you neglect the fact that you live in a cyberpunk reality. It really doesnt matter that none of this wasnt 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 snowcrash 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 whats important to remember.
Open file (59.86 KB 680x492 454.jpg)
If you really want to know the answer to your 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, add 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 robber 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. 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 passerby's 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 dont get so caught up in what cyberpunk fiction gets wrong, that you neglect the fact that you live in a cyberpunk reality. It really doesnt matter that none of this wasnt 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 snowcrash 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 whats important to remember.

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