The Cyborg

Cyber Space and Critical Theory

Snow Crash

A Cyborg Manifesto

Last modified April 12, 2005


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A Cyborg Manifesto vs. Snow Crash

Neal Stephenson’s Snow Crash and Donna Haraway’s Cyborg Manifesto are very different works. After I had read a couple pages of Snow Crash , I was hooked and could not put it down. It was a thoroughly enjoyable novel to read and presented some interesting ideas, in ways that make the reader mumble words such as “sweet!” and “awesome!” aloud while reading. Once I’d gotten through a couple pages of Haraway’s Cyborg Manifesto, on the other hand, I lost all motivation to keep reading and almost lost the will to keep living.

On the other hand, there are parts of A Cyborg Manifesto that resonate with Snow Crash. Haraway comments that “Our machines are disturbingly lively, and we ourselves frighteningly inert” (Haraway, 152). However, in the world of Snow Crash humans themselves are programmable machines so we as machines are disturbingly lively, even against our will, while we as individuals are powerless.

Similarly, the scene in Snow Crash in the cargo container shows our machines making our choices for us,   preempting our free will. Y.T.’s dentata remains a mystery for most of the novel until we eventually discover that it is a small electronic hypodermic needle containing powerful sedatives that she places in her vagina in case someone tries to rape her. Not only is Raven unaware of it, but she herself forgets about its existence in the heat of the moment. In the words of the Manifesto , “Modern machines are quintessentially microelectronic devices: they are everywhere and they are invisible. Modern machinery is an irreverent upstart god, mocking the Father’s ubiquity and spirituality” (Haraway, 153). Modern machinery (the dentata) has disrupted one of the most ancient and fundamentally human processes. without regard for the people involved, the emotional or spiritual context, or anything other than the input that it was designed to recognize and respond to.


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