Immortal ROMs

Kenneth Coane '10, English 65, The Cyborg Self, Brown University (Fall 2006)

In Neuromancer William Gibson creates a futuristic world where computer technology shapes everything people do. From the concept of cyberspace to implants in the human body, one aspect seems to stand out, the idea of computer programs that can think. Paulie McCoy, a character often referred to as the construct, is a person's consciousness preserved in a set of ROM chips. The idea of immortality and the implications of such an existence can be seen in relation to man preserved in computer memory below.

Cyberspace, as the deck presented it, had no particular relationship with the deck's physical whereabouts. When Case jacked in, he opened his eyes to the familiar configuration of the Eastern Seabord Fission Authority's Aztec pyramid of data.

"How you doing, Dixie?"

"I'm dead, Case. Got enough time in on this Hosaka to figure that one."

"How's it feel?"

"It doesn't."

"Bother you?"

"What bothers me is, nothin' does."

"How's that?"

"Had me this buddy in the Russian camp, Siberia, his thumb was frostbit. Medics came by and they cut it off. Month later he's tossin' all night. Elroy, I said, what's eatin' you? Goddam thumb's itchin', he says. So I told him, scratch it. McCoy, he says, it's the other goddam thumb." When the construct laughed, it came through as something else, not laughter, but a stab of cold down Case's spine. "Do me a favor, boy."

"What's that, Dix?"

"This scam of yours, when it's over, you erase this goddam thing."


Discussion Questions

1. Through a simple conversation between Case and Dixie, Dixie's perception of himself and the world around him is discussed. While Dixie can remember, past events and how to do things in cyberspace, does it seem that perhaps his emotions were not preserved? How constraining to a personality would the lack of emotions be in a digital replica of a person be?

2. Does Dixie seem like more of a computer program than a person?

3. With death being a triviality as discussed by Matt Haxby in Two bit or not two bits, how successful or complete does digital life after death seem to be?

4. Could the cold sensation that Case feels whenever Dixie laughs be a reoccurring connection to the fact that Paulie McCoy is technically dead?

5. Could the tormenting sensation of a phantom-limb like in Dixie's discussion of a friend with a missing thumb be a metaphorical reason for Dixie wishing for his own destruction?


Gibson, William. Neuromancer. New York: Ace Books, 1984.

Cyberspace OV Cyborg  Mona Lisa Overdrive

Last modified 29 September 2006