Max Headroom demonstrates a fear that permeates not only Cyberpunk literature, but the real world: that giant media corporations have or may grown uncontrollably large and influential. While the "Blipverts" in the TV Series cause people to explode and are covered up for profit purposes, real-world networks make an art of snaring viewers with substance but addictive programming.
Also present in the series is the ever-alluring concept of artificial intelligence. The series takes an interesting turn with the virtual Max Headroom personality, which is nothing at all like the character, Edison Carter, upon whose memories it is built. This contrasts sharply with the downloaded personality seen in Gibson's Count Zero, which is to all appearances identical to the man it was downloaded from.
Absolute power corrupts absolutely: a theme that seems to recur throughout cyberpunk sci-fi, whatever its form. If, as in Max Headroom, televisions cannot be turned off, than we are the constant recipients of whatever information the networks decide to display. To an extent this is becoming a concern even today; many families rarely do turn off their televisions, and allow their view of the world to be completely shaped by networks (thus, the recurring joke that 98% of American's don't realize there's a world beyond America.)
1. If televisions were left on all the time, would humans tolerate it, or would it drive them (as I have the feeling it would drive me) into crazed, furious rebellion? It seems to me that there is at least some portion of humanity that requires solitude and quiet every now and again to function.
2. The ability to download someone's mind is powerful. What moral and legal issues would be raised concerning this? For instance, accused criminal's brains could be downloaded to see if they had actually commited a crime, but that would mean someone--possibly an entire jury--could probe his entire memory base.
3. How would brain-downloading technology be used in the world today? Dictators could create even more effective Orwellian societies, but are there positive implications as well?
4. That media is entertainment is an important theme in Max Headroom. To what extent is thsi true today, and is it good or bad?
The Max Headroom TV series (copyright Warner Bros.)
Last modified 14 March 2005