Wintermute and Neuromancer, Godlike AIs

Zachary Reiss-Davis, '08, The Cyborg Self, Brown University, Spring 2005

Neuromancer (1984), Count Zero (1986) and Mona Lisa Overdrive (1988) form the three part Sprawl Trilogy (see also the Wikipedia entry). Neuromancer was the first popular cyberpunk novel, and has won numerous awards for its portrayal of a post-apocalyptic future dominated by multinational corporations, genetic engineering and virtual reality. Wintermute and Neuromancer are AIs created by Tessier-Ashpool SA in order to perform specific limited functions under rigid control by Turing Registry Agents. By the end of Neuromancer, Neuromancer and Wintermute merge into a super-being with incredible powers, capable of communicating with similar minds from other plants (specifically Alpha Centauri).

The AIs represented in the novels are difficult to compare to other works because at the start of Neuromancer they are not well-defined and by the second and third books they are more analogous to Gods than to humans. The other two disembodied AIs examined in these pages, Max Headroom and Mycroft Holmes, raise the question of whether they are more or less than human. The post-merger Matrix AIs are so undoubtedly superior to Homo Sapiens that the entire Voodoo religion is formed around them.

William Gibson is the only author examined who does not feel the need to wrap his AIs in pseudo-science for believability. Gibson's lack of any scientific knowledge creates this gap, but it provides him with more freedom in creating his fanciful AIs (and world) than Heinlein, Asimov, or Phillip Dick and the directors of Blade Runner.


Do you agree with the premise that the post-merger AIs are super-human? Are they Godlike? What does something have to be to be those terms?

Do you think that Gibson was influenced by any earlier, more traditional science fiction works when writing this series? Which, and how is that reflected in the novels?

Did the lack of a scientific backing in the Sprawl Trilogy help you become immersed in the novels or make them harder to follow for you? Why?

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Last modified 22 March 2005