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November 2007

November 7, 2007

Dawn of the Cyperpunk Era

Filed under: Books,Commentary — Bob @ 9:14 pm

A news story at Slashdot recently grabbed more of my attention than usual:

Datacenter Robbed for the Fourth Time in Two Years

Thieves broke into the facility and stole computer equipment, and certainly not for the purposes of selling the hardware on the street like stolen car radios or DVD players. Likely the thieves were much more interested to gain access to the hard disks in the resident systems. All the network security products in the world can’t stop them once they have physical access. Identity theft and credit card fraud won’t be far behind this crime.

This story is straight out of a cyberpunk novel in the genre as defined by William Gibson’s Neuromancer or Neal Stephenson’s Snow Crash. Those books and many more like them had a profound effect on my outlook on life. It seems the dark future predicted by that genre is coming true sooner than anyone expected.

Here is another example of the cyberpunk fiction:

Human Organs For Sale

This is somewhat gruesome but not surprising. Easily predicted by anyone familiar with the genre. Ebay might be squeamish but how long before this stuff appears on craigslist?

Here is something else in the same theme: The Science of Growing Body Parts

Another major theme in cyberpunk stories is virtual reality. Now there is a real-world example of that phenomenon for Scott Adams, author of the Dilbert comic strips, various books, and other useless crap:

It’s Like Reality, Without the Screaming

The source of that is Second Life, a virtual reality social network. Sure its primitive technology by comparison to the rich stories written by the great authors of the genre, but everything has a “version 1.0”.

Another strong theme in the cyberpunk genre is the role that corporations play vs. government. We like to believe our utopian democratic society will protect us from evil corporations and oppressive governments.

Certainly untrue. Think about Haliburton, a corporation that has free reign to set its own price for services in Iraq. It acts without any real oversight. A corporation like Blackwater can sustain a private war at the financial expense of taxpayers without so much as a social hiccup.

Consider that the U.S. government believes secret, illegal spying on citizens is justified and the blatant withholding of human rights of un-convicted prisoners is an acceptable way of conducting international politics. And certainly that particular government isn’t the only one to act this way.

The trend is clear, and the outcome will be fascinating. I can’t wait to see it all unfold!

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