Shaping Identity in William Gibson's Neuromancer
The number “one” is not a thing. Math has no definitive reality. Numbers are a social construct, a system of symbols designed to express the abstractions through which properly developed societies explain aspects of reality. It follows that, as humanity seeks to understand more of what it is to exist, bigger numbers are needed. Soon, we need machines to understand the numbers. Society plants a base on information technology, efficiency, and a mechanical precision that is startling. What is desirable in a product is distilled to a formulaic essence and packaged neatly. Humans, too, are boiled down to science. Glossy shots, red lipstick, concrete biceps, and an ever-decreasing waistline set the standard. People are reduced to little more than the sum of their parts, a pair of matchstick legs, a rippled midsection, the right shoes and right make-up. Information technology makes the dissimilation of these trends mercilessly easy: In response to the Atkins Diet, tens of thousands of Americans strike carbohydrates from their diets. A cell phone that simply calls someone is archaic at best; people need infinite text messaging and a built-in digital camera (with no roaming charges) so that they can e-mail pictures of their new car to their friends in California, New York, or Antarctica. Jessica Simpson mistakes canned tuna for chicken and millions of viewers laugh at her in unison. Still, “one” is not a thing. These societal constructs chip away at the very humanity of the people who live amidst them. In William Gibson’s Neuromancer, a motley cast of characters face this cold steel reality, that their humanity is being systematically stripped, and that even attempts to take advantage of the seemingly positive facets of cyberculture can turn on them. It is only when they come to direct blows with this hulking information society that they can find a form of redemption.
In Gibson’s cyberpunk world, technology and humanity simultaneously clash and meld, creating a society in which humans scramble to interact with technology, using it to gain footholds or augment their actual physical bodies. Humanity, in a sense, ceases to be defined by being human – The Ashpools and Hideo, for instance, are clones, their DNA unoriginal, replicated like the numbers and symbols that make up the infinite information networks of the Sprawl. More apparently, Dixie Flatline is nothing more than a computer program hacked and grifted from a corporation, but he is virtually the only major character in the book that treats Case like a friend without a motive behind it, aside from Linda, who is relatively unimportant to the flow of the story after her initial involvement. (Damyanov) Through this relationship, Dixie gains at least a semblance of humanity, while Case is drawn ever closer to technology. Dixie himself illuminates the question of human intelligence during a conversation with Case:
“…Me, I’m not...