Capitalism on Auto-Pilot

Patrick Nagle '10, English 65, The Cyborg Self, Brown University (Fall 2006)

In William Gibson's Mona Lisa Overdrive, multinational corporations wield extreme influence (including having replaced the governments of some countries) over ordinary people's lives. In today's world, corporations are lead by well-educated executives and teams of corporate managers. In Gibson's future, even this highly specialized management does not suffice. This condition is explained in one of Angela's dream conversations with the Tessier-Ashpools' jewel-encrusted computer terminal:

"Hilton Swift is obliged to implement Continuity's decisions. Sense/Net is too complex an entity to survive, otherwise, and Continuity, created long after the bright moment, is of another order. The biosoft technology your father fostered brought Continuity into being. Continuity is na•ve."

"Why? Why did Continuity want me to do that?"

"Continuity is continuity. Continuity is Continuity's job. . . "


How does Gibson's diction create a paradoxical, ironic tone?

The head's last statement is a particularly revealing tautology. What does it imply?

What other characters and institutions in the cyberspace trilogy obsess over continuity? What are its effects?

Dystopian literature often critiques some element of a real society. What does this passage reveal about Gibson's attitudes toward multinational corporations?

Angie ultimately defies Continuity, using her biotech implant (that Continuity was trying to destroy) to transcend her material existence and normal cyber space. In what way(s) is this ironic? How does this relate to the religious aspect of the novel? (See, for example, Michael Kim's "God in Cyberspace") how is the AI's art consistent with the cultural environment of the Sprawl?

Can we translate Angie's transcendence into a solution for the problems that Gibson perceives in our society?


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

Cyberspace OV Cyborg  Mona Lisa Overdrive

Last modified 4 October 2006