Cyberpunked Future

In almost all Cyberpunk or Cyberpunk-ish (master) pieces in literature, comics, movies, games or whatever media exposure we think first when it comes to this genre, the settings is familiar. Dark atmosphere in both social and technological aspect of the story with "Dystopian" surroundings and thin distinguished line between all characters within, no matter whether they are good or bad. I can't tell exactly why, but despite all the prosaic backgrounds and used stereotypes, I actually like this literary "movement", perhaps because of the fact that people can't be really divided into good and bad per se. We all are combination of all possible adjectives out there and their summary is what makes us what we are. Actually, this is more accurate and closer to the truth compared to the "normal" or "usual" fiction with its ordinary hero-villain relations and idealized characters. Of course, like in any other genre, there are many poor and unmentionable works but also couple of those master pieces, like in the world of movies, the famous Ridley Scott's "Blade Runner" or "Neuromancer" by William Gibson, in the world of science fiction novels.

What is Cyberpunk?*

Surely, the mantra of almost all Cyberpunk science fiction is advanced technology, placed in not so far future, exploiting the ultimate fate of humans along with major role of corporations that are developing and deploying it to the people. Actually one of existing nature of nowadays corporation-technology pair inspired me to start writing this post in the first place and perhaps some of you already guessed, it is current stage of social networks and the meaningless world they became after promising couple of years after their invention. In my case, the beginning of socializing the internet, was somewhat inspiring by establishing and experiencing new virtual friendships and the new way of spreading ideas along with simple feeling of participation of something futuristic and big. However, after years of maturing, it all went downhill and I started to recognize my social time spending online as a simple waste of time. The endless and useless news feeds without quality conversations replaced the great main idea with shallowness of new social behavior behind "like" buttons and their alternatives along with commercializing the whole thing. It went that far bellow the good taste that with some of networks, you can even buy somebody's like or force people to read your piece not by its quality but rather by buying appropriate keyword. In past couple of years I found myself too many times in front of the screen rhetorically asking one simple question "Why, on Earth, am I reading this?" and often wondering what happened with my own interests and why I stopped searching them directly and instead waiting for them to appear on social network feeds?

Anyway and eventually I figured out that moving on away from this and I can freely say sort of "cyberpunk-like networks" that was efficiently narrowing down my mind, required simple thing of deleting my social accounts and all of my "virtual history". Well, after all, I wasn't too surprised when I realized that this is not entirely possible. With some networks, deleting is not the option at all, only "deactivating" your presence and leave it intact on the company's servers for who knows what reasons. With others, you can't even deactivate your account without deleting other useful services that are too heavily connected. With all of those with actual "delete" button, you have no proof that your virtual past is really deleted and not just hidden behind the wall of corresponding corporation's data center. After all the efforts, you have to ask yourself whether or not this behavior is the dawn of the Cyberpunk future we read in novels or just a curved present that is going to eventually fade out and be replaced by something new. I truly hope something will change in this arena in the future for the better but at this point of time I am not seeing any hope and really doubt it. Sometimes I am having this feeling that social internet was much better and honest back then when it all was in academic stage without online corporations and their active commercializing of the content.

Blade runner by Ridley Scott**

But enough with social networks, after all, they don't deserve that much attention at least in this post. Instead, let's get back to the Cyberpunk and see how authors of the genre deals with future evolution of the almighty internet and computers of the tomorrow. To be honest, it seems that the major background of every piece actually IS directly connected to the fuse of the humans and technology. If we just enumerate technology behind the scenes in the Cyberpunk world, coated in heavy noirish detective story with a little or heavy emotional connection between main characters and with lots of not-necessarily futuristic weapons and tough fights, we can see one possible (or plausible if you will) vision of near future where humans can easily become nothing more than just a slaves of advanced technology and mediocre lives within the system that can't be possible to escape from. Just take for instance Gibson's prediction of futuristic internet that will continue to "offer opportunity to waste time, to allow us to wander aimlessly, to daydream about the countless other lives, the other people, on the far sides of however many monitors in that post geographical meta-country we increasingly call home". Cyberpunk worldwide network would also be responsible for the very existence of Artificial Intelligence, or AI's, Matrix like Cyberspace with vivid Virtual Reality where will probably most of today's social networks end to eventually, Robots and various machines that will be doing boring things for us, Cyborgs with applicable neural interface with host computer augmented by nanotechnology and like in "Altered Carbon" by Richard Morgan, potential ability to digitize full personality or entire consciousness and store it for eternity into home computers or even other bodies.

Now, interesting question is should we consider Cyberpunk as a pure entertainment or we could safely put it in the same basket with original and genuine Science Fiction as it was in Jules Verne's or Arthur Clarke's time with expectation of some of its predictions to become true? Well, if you ask me, event though we are facing here with dark predictions rather than something good and promising for future generations, we simply can't rule it out. We are already taking technology for granted and if this trend continues I can't see how can we avoid all its dark sides. Invention of AI and nanotechnology along with super fast quantum computers will bring us inevitable breakthrough foundation for the society humans will not going to be in charge with fully. However, I don't think we should afraid from upcoming and remarkable inventions in science and technology. It will change our lives yes, but surely it doesn't have to be all bad. Actually I think it will bring more benefits to us than side affects. So, no, I truly want to believe that dark settings from Cyberpunk will not become true. Not on a great scale I don't think so. Will see. Well, maybe not you and me, but some future generations for sure.

Altered Carbon***

However, what I am more afraid of are humans themselves. The corporate part of the story. Many villains in Cyberpunk's are hidden behind the corporations and their agendas and the natural question pops to mind of as is there any real danger of transferring the power from political system of nowadays democracy and the world divided into countries and racial or religious or industrial or whatever blocks there are in existence today into corporations and their pure financial interests? Or to put it in simple words, is it possible that in any futuristic world scenario, future companies compared to today's Google, Microsoft, Apple, Gazprom, Wal-Mart, China National Petroleum, Leading German Car Manufacturers, AT&T, or any other industry lords you can find in below reference page, can be strong enough to take over the power and completely restructure the worldwide system? I am sure this is very hard to imagine from this point of view in current time, but I am still attacked by goosebumps every time I give I thought to the possible world in the future where current political system weakens enough to the point that it could becomes vulnerable to the ultimate collapse with all the corporations waiting in behind with their jaws opened and ready. If you browsed my blog before you probably already know that I blame politicians and politics in general for all the dark times in the history of mankind, but if I could think of anything even dangerous than that, then it would definitely be bunch of wealthy people behind the catchy corporate names with only profit in their minds and the only goal to grow even bigger and wealthier than all the competition. Perhaps the best examples of what might happen if this scenario becomes true are in Cyberpunk's TV shows "Almost Human" by FOX and "Continuum" by Showcase.

In the end, Cyberpunk, indeed, almost every time looks like Sci-Fi on the edge with ideas not very plausible for the near of far future, but still if we think of the humankind just couple of centuries ago and what it evolved to in, astronomically, very short period of time I wouldn't be much surprised if the world of our descendants are going to be completely different than our own.

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