Corporate Identity

Zachary Reiss-Davis, English 65, The Cyborg Self, Brown University Spring 2005

In Neuromancer, William Gibson focuses most of his insightful visions on the way that new technologies are affecting what makes up a human being and the sense of self. In the following passage, Gibson instead writes about the ever-increasing reach and power of the corporation that he saw when he wrote the novel in 1984, and has clearly continued through today. Just as Gibson ties his vision for new technology to human identity, he does the same thing for corporate power.

Power, in Case's world, meant corporate power. The zaibatsus, the multinationals that shaped the course of human history, had transcended old barriers. Viewed as organisms, they had attained a kind of immortality. You couldn't kill a zaibatsu by assassinating a dozen key executives; there were others waiting to step up the ladder, assume the vacated position, access the vast banks of corporate memory . . .

Phobic vision of the hatching wasps, time-lapse machine gun of biology. But weren't the zaibatsus more like that, or the Yakuza, hives with cybernetic memories, vast single organisms, their DNA coded in silicon? . . .

Case had always taken it for grated that the real bosses, the king-pins in a given industry, would be both more and less than people. He'd seen it in the men who'd crippled him in Memphis, he'd seen Wage affect the semblance of it in Night City, and it had allowed him to accept Armitage's flatness and lack of feeling. He'd always imaged int as a gradual and willing accommodation of the machine, they system, the parent organism. It was the root of street cool, too, the knowing posture that implied connection, invisible lines up to hidden levels of influence [Gibson 196]


1. When Gibson wrote Neuromancer, many people in the United States were fearful that we were losing our status as the economic superpower to several Asian Countries, especially Japan. Do you think that is true today, and why or why not? Either way, how does that connect to the focus Japan and South Korea have had on emerging technologies in their exports?

2. In regards to the description of corporations as "vast single organisms, their DNA coded in silicon," do you agree or disagree? Specifically, speak about companies such as McDonald's, Starbucks, or Wal-Mart which have a distinctive look to their outlets in which every single detail is encoded in a manual somewhere.

3. Do you feel that people tend to submerge their personalities into the corporate persona, or do the people who choose to hold those positions in corporations just naturally have matching personalities?

4. In the last sentence of the passage, Gibson seems to imply that the attitudes and behaviors of street hoods and drug dealers is very similar to that of corporate board-members. Is this statement reasonable to you, and why or why not? If you agree, does the thought perturb you?


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

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Last modified 14 February 2005