Memory and Storage

Greg Halenda '08, English 65, The Cyborg Self, Brown University (Spring 2005)

In William Gibson's Neuromancer, the protagonist Case frequently confronts sentient computers and even humans like McCoy Pauley who have been digitally preserved. With the advent of digital technology, it has become possible to store unbelievable amounts of information in areas that take up almost no space. Even if we cannot store great minds digitally as in Neuromancer, the ability to store and retrieve digital information still has a profound impact on our lives. In the following passage, Gibson and an AI discuss memory:

"It's all there. Or anyway all the parts of it you ever saw. This is memory, right? I tap you, sort it out, and feed it back in."

"I don't have this good a memory," Case said, looking around. He looked down at his hands, turning them over. He tried to remember what the lines on his palms were like, but couldn't.

"Everybody does," the Finn said, dropping his cigarette and grinding it out under his heel, "but not many of you can access it. Artists can, mostly, if they're any good. If you could lay this construct over the reality, the Finn's place in lower Manhattan, you'd see a difference, but maybe not as much as you'd think. Memory's holographic, for you." The Finn tugged at one of his small ears. "I'm different."

"How do you mean, holographic?" The word made him think of Riviera.

"The holographic paradigm is the closest thing you've worked out to a representation of human memory, is all. But you've never done anything about it. People, I mean." The Finn stepped forwards and canted his streamlined skull to peer up at Case....

"Can you read my mind, Finn?" He grimaced. "Wintermute, I mean."

"Mind's aren't read. See, you've still got the paradigms print gave you, and you're barely print literate. I can access your memory, but that's not the same as your mind."


1. If we really do store as much in our memory as the Finn claims, but have such limited ability to access it, then what are the ramifications of considering our very minds as mediums?

2. How does the ability to store unlimited amounts of information in high-fidelity code change the ways in which we preserve things?

3. If we are increasingly becoming like "cases" for our mind as Case's meat body is for his, how does this affect we desire to store digitally versus what we prefer to store mentally?

4. Will a mind ever be penetrable by invading hackers, or is it truly disparate from any sort of digital storage device?


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

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Last modified 13 February 2005