Cryptic Corruption

Karen Kayfetz '08, English 65, The Cyborg Self, Brown University Spring 2005

Distinctions between the living and the dead, the human and the artificial, blur together in William Gibson's novel Neuromancer. Humans can interact by means of an artificially constructed cyberspace; AI can infiltrate human communication networks by mimicry; the dead can live on through computer simulations or approximations of themselves. As a result it is more and more difficult to keep track of who is responsible for what and even if there is a who or just an it. In the following passage the Finn relates an extreme example of this quandry to Molly and Case.

"Freeside," the Finn said. "The spindle. Turns out they own damn near the whole thing. The interesting stuff was the picture we got when the cowboy ran a regular go-to on the news morgues and compiled a précis. Family organization. Corporate structure. Supposedly you can buy into an S.A., but there hasn't been a share of Tessier-Ashpool traded on the open market in over a hundred years. On any market, as far as I know. You're looking at a very quiet, very eccentric first-generation high-orbit family, run like a corporation. Big money, very shy of media. Lot of cloning. Orbital law's a lot softer on genetic engineering, right? And it's hard to keep track of which generation, or combination of generations, is running the show at a given time."

"How's that?" Molly asked.

"Got their own cryogenic setup. Even under orbital law, you're legally dead for the duration of a freeze. Looks like they trade off, though nobody's seen the founding father in about thirty years. Founding momma, she died in some lab accident…" [Neuromancer pp. 73-74]


1. If you could be cryogenically frozen, and declared legally dead for the duration of the freeze, under what circumstances might you consider being frozen?

2. How, if at all, is this situation analogous to corporate (or mob) based corruption today?

3. How does the complexity of this organization affect Molly and Case's mission at Freeside?

4. The Freeside base is in the shape of a spindle. Do you think that Gibson was implying anything with this imagery? What could that be?


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

Cyberspace OV Cyborg  Mona Lisa Overdrive

Last modified 14 February 2005