Twofaced Technology

Lyla Fujiwara '10, English 65, The Cyborg Self, Brown University (Fall 2006)

Really, who wouldn't want Wolverine style finger blades? Or if that's not your cup of tea, how about the ability to virtually experience Cyberspace? In the novel Neuromancer, Gibson proposes some radical, but appealing, technological advances. Yet the reader is only allowed to dwell on the blissful what ifs of the future for so long before Gibson displays the harsh duality of technology; that it is a double edged sword. There is always a trade off, and often we must lose something that we find natural in order to advance. It is up to the reader to decide when the cost becomes to high:

"And it was like real?" she asked, her mouth full of cheese croissant. "Like simstim?"

He said it was. "Real as this," he added, looking around. "Maybe more."

The trees were small, gnarled, impossibly old, the result of genetic engineering and chemical manipulation. Case would have been hard pressed to distinguish a pine from an oak, but a street boy's sense of style told him that these were too cute, too entirely and definitively treelike. Between the trees, on gentle and too cleverly irregular slopes of sweet green grass, the bright umbrellas shaded the hotel's guests from unfaltering radiance of the Lado-Acheson sun. A burst of French from a nearby table caught his attention: the golden children he'd seen gliding above river mist the evening before. Now he saw that their tans were uneven, a stencil effect produced by selective melanin boosting, multiple shades overlapping in rectilinear patterns, outlining and highlighting musculature; the girl's small hard breasts, one boy's wrist resting on the white enamel of the table. They looked to Case like machines built for racing; they deserved decal for their hairdressers, the designers of their white cotton ducks, for the artisans who'd crafted their leather sandals \and simple jewelry. Beyond them, at another able, three Japanese wives in Hiroshima sackcloth awaited sarariman husbands, their oval faces covered with artificial bruises; it was, he knew, an extremely conservative style, one he'd seldom seen in Chiba. [Gibson, 124]


1. Case compares the teenagers to "machines built for racing" who "deserve decals" for their various cosmetic enhancements. What is Gibson saying by making this statement?

2. Why does Case consider the virtual world more real than the one before him? How does Case define reality?

3. Plastic surgery, hair dye, and even clothing: all examples of humans using technology to conceal reality. Does our society justify this concealment as natural? How far fetched is the concept that humans will be using "genetic engineering and chemical manipulation" as the next step in the quest for beauty?

4. What do you think of the "extremely conservative style" that the Japanese women are sporting? What, if anything, do you think Gibson is saying about the Japanese society and gender roles?


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

Cyberspace OV Cyborg  Mona Lisa Overdrive

Last modified 17 September 2006