Cyber Fears

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This week I began analyzing the results from my survey. The aim was to discover the answers to several key questions regarding my research topic about Cyberpunk and Cyber Fears …

  • Are we more accepting of new technology?
  • What kind of fears do we have regarding our current technologies?
  • Do we still have a dystopian view of the future or do we have more positive perceptions?
  • Is there room for the cyberpunk genre to re-emerge in our modern culture?
  • And if so how might it be different?

Originally I was aiming to get around 40 participants, but thanks to Facebook and its mass message capabilities I was able to get 80. This was really exciting because it gave a large range of in depth answers to work with and draw ideas from. Here are some of the trends I noticed…

35% of participants stated they had a negative perception of the future in that they think we are headed towards disaster rather than utopia. This actually contradicts what I had hypothesized. I thought for sure there would be a positive trend in perceptions but the survey showed that the majority had a bleak, dystopic view, reminiscent of classic cyberpunk.

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But then when asked what their perception of cyber technologies was, 50% said helpful and 24% said extremely helpful. Only 6% said they thought cyber technology was dangerous showing a vast drift towards positive perceptions and suggesting a greater acceptance of technological advancement.

When asked their level of fear over technological advancement 50% said not very frightened and 11% said not frightened at all. Only 3% said very frightened again showing a greater acceptance of technology and a low level of cyber related fear.

However,  there were still areas of cyber culture that generated anxiety within the respondents; predominantly in the field of Artificial Intelligence. When asked if there were any current or near future technologies they were particularly worried the most common answer was Artificial Intelligence. Answers Ranged from AI’s killing or enslaving us, to unemployment from AI’s flooding the job market, to the ethics of playing god.

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Others were concerned about their online privacy, online security, drone spying, governments control through wearable technology and social media dependency.  The three issues most concerned about were Cyber Terrorism, Online Privacy and Cyber Security.  From this I have gathered fear is still prevalent when it comes to our perceptions of new technologies and there is growing concern over several key issues.

Due to a lot of mentioning of films in people answers though I have begun to re-shape my thinking in that perhaps it is not people’s fears that shape cyberpunk films but rather films that shape peoples cyber fears.

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Post Modern Cyberpunk

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I have spent the last few weeks looking into the end of the cyberpunk genre and examining modern texts to find any evidence of cyberpunk exiting today. This week I began researching what scholars have said about the post- cyberpunk era. I wanted to discover what themes, aesthetics and other key differences set the post- cyberpunk era apart from traditional (authentic) cyberpunk. What I found is that most scholars come to agree that a key point of differentiation is the concept of hope and positivity.

Lawrence Person argues that post- cyberpunk works use the same immersive world-building techniques as classic cyberpunk but features different characters, settings, and, most importantly, make fundamentally different assumptions about the future.

“Far from being alienated loners, post-cyberpunk characters are frequently integral members of society”… “They live in futures that are not necessarily dystopic but their everyday lives are still impacted by rapid technological change and an omnipresent computerized infrastructure”.

I thought about this with relevance to some of the texts I have been looking at and for most of them this statement rings true. I thought about movies like Transcendence, Ex Machina and Gamer where, as Lawrence has pointed out, the characters all deal with significant issues to do with cyber culture and new cyber technologies, but they do not necessarily live in a dystopic world that has fallen into chaos. Ex Machina for example is not about a rouge AI destroying the world, but rather the ethical issues with creating and discarding artificial life.

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This relates back to my research project as the reasoning behind this increase in positivity may be linked to the idea that people’s perceptions of the future have changed since the time of the cyberpunk era. I want to conduct further primary research into this discovering if people have become more accepting of technological advancement now that cyber-technology is so saturated in our everyday lives. I want to know if they have more positive perceptions of the future and what fears (if any) people have about our current/near future technologies.

I plan to do so with an online survey which I have already created here and am awaiting the results. I have also started some secondary research into this and found this interesting study into people’s biggest fears of 2015. Three of the top ten where cyber technology related which was very interesting.

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I plan to present the findings for my research in podcast style video, where I will discuss concepts, show what I have found and elaborate on my thoughts about the future of the cyberpunk genre.

 

References

Pearson, L 1999, Notes Towards A Post Cyberpunk Manifesto, Slashdot, viewed 4 April 2016, < https://news.slashdot.org/story/99/10/08/2123255/notes-toward-a-postcyberpunk-manifesto>.