Downloaded Personalities

Michael Kim '10, English 65, The Cyborg Self, Brown University (Fall 2006)

Immortality is a concept that has always fascinated humans. People worshipped immortal beings and believed in life after death. In William Gibson's Neuromancer, McCoy Pauley's personality was downloaded onto a ROM cassette, preserving his memories, mannerisms, and skills. Although he gained immortality by being recorded, he later asks to be erased and therefore freed. Furthermore, his construct was called predictable because it was merely a set of data that could not be added to or modified. In gaining immortality, Pauley's personality stagnated and he lost his humanity.

It was disturbing to think of the Flatline as a construct, a hardwired ROM cassette replicating a dead man's skills, obsessions, knee-jerk responses. (74)


1. Flatline is a human's personality downloaded onto a machine. Would this construct be considered human or machine? Is a person defined by their "meat machine" or by their personality? Does this apply to people in comas?

2. Although Flatline is now just data, is he still more "human" than Neuromancer or Wintermute?

3. Existentialist philosophy defines human by their rationality. Therefore, would Neuromancer and Wintermute be considered human since they are rational?

4. If humans are able to be downloaded, will cowboys like Case do that to remain perpetually jacked in and escape the physical world?



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

Cyberspace OV Cyborg  Mona Lisa Overdrive

Last modified 23 September 2006