Death by Computer

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

Throughout history, religion has always played a large role in human culture and development, and it has influenced the rise and fall of people, wars, and empires. In Gibon's Mona Lisa Overdrive, people believe in an omniscient and omnipotent God that exists in cyberspace alone. Nobody knows where it came from, but some have seen this God. However, as a God in cyberspace, it has its limits since it can only exist in a realm that doesn't truly exist in the physical sense. In the novel, an A.I. named Continuity explains this paradox to Angie, a character whose life has been influenced by this God.

"The mythform is usually encountered in one of two modes. One mode assumes that the cyberspace matrix is inhabited, or perhaps visited, by entities whose characteristics correspond with the primary mythform of a 'hidden people.' The other involves assumptions of omniscience, omnipotence, and incomprehensibility on the part of the matrix itself."

"That the matrix is God?"

"In a manner of speaking, although it would be more accurate, in terms of the mythform, to say that the matrix has a God, since this being's omniscience and omnipotence are assumed to be limited to the matrix."

"If it has limits, it isn't omnipotent."

"Exactly. Notice that the mythform doesn't credit the being with immortality, as would ordinarily be the case in belief systems positing a supreme being, at least in terms of your particular culture. Cyberspace exists, insofar as it can be said to exist, by virtue of human agency." [129]


1. A God is supposed to have supreme power over human beings, but how can a God be a God when its existence depends on a human construction?

2. What is this God that exists in the matrix? Could it be an A.I. or a supercomputer?

3. Anything that exists in cyberspace is housed in the physical world in something like a hard drive or biochip, so where would this God be housed? Is it destructible then? The passage also mentions that the God might be visiting, but from where does it come?

4. They say that the God's omnipotence is limited to cyberspace, but we have seen how closely the physical world and cyberspace have merged. The Count jacks in and is able to control ships in the physical world through cyberspace. Is the matrix's God omnipotent?


Gibson, William. Mona Lisa Overdrive. New York: Ace Books, 1988.

Cyberspace OV Cyborg  Mona Lisa Overdrive

Last modified 4 October 2006