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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Debating the Existence of Cyberpunk Today

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The last two weeks I have been conducting a literature review to see what I could find about the existence of cyberpunk today. My first research objectives was to get a clear definition of what cyberpunk is, so I could create some sort of criteria for examining modern texts.

I came to the consensus that cyberpunk can be defined as the intersection between science fiction and postmodernism. It is a type of science fiction that deals with real world technologies and near futures and sets them against a cyber-fantasy backdrop.

“Cyberpunk is the integration of technology and literature in a world where the gap between science fiction and reality is rapidly closing” (Guven 1995).

From my research of the themes found in the cyberpunk genre and through my understanding of cyberpunk in the films I watch, I made this checklist …

High tech – Low Life

Futuristic Dystopian world

Greed driven corporation or oppressive government system

Visual representations of data

Speculations about the future of existing technologies

A convergence between humans and machines

A brooding out cast protagonist

An anarchist rebellion against dominating oppression

A seedy underground of drugs and crime

Outlandish edgy fashion with punk roots

Noire overall feel

 

My next objective was to delve into the debate that cyberpunk as movement is over.

Bruce Sterling proclaims that cyberpunk is dead because it has become restrained, commercialized, and mimetic. According to him the respected benchmarks’ of cyberpunk no longer offer, “spontaneous back-flips and crazed dancing on the tables”. The settings come closer and closer to the present day, losing the fantasy (Sterling 1998).

“In the age of Neuromancer we could still believe for one charismatic moment that the body could deep-dish its way past screenal telemetry into galactic flows of data presence”…” Jonny Mnemonic is a bitter reminder of the decline of cyberpunk into the present state of hyper-rational technology (Kelly & Kessel 2007, p.8)

Finally using my check list I set out to find any modern day examples of cyberpunk and not just in films and novels but in clothing, music, games and real life people.

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References

Guven, S 1995, ‘The Future in Cyberpunk’, Computer Writing and Research Lab, University of Texas, Austin.

Kelly, J & Kessel, J 2007, Rewired: The Post-Cyberpunk Anthology, Tachyon, San Francisco.

Sterling, B 1998, Cyberpunk In The Nineties, Interzone, viewed 25 March 2016, <http://lib.ru/STERLINGB/interzone.txt&gt;.

Cyberpunks Not Dead

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My favourite movies are Sci-Fi, but more specifically Cyberpunk is my favourite sub-genre of Sci-Fi. Movies like Blade Runner with brooding, gun toting, outcast protagonists and not so far off futures saturated with super advanced mundane technologies, urban decay, power balances and oppression.

Lately I have noticed that there aren’t a lot of new movies like this, unless they are reboots of pre-existing movies. This got me thinking about why this may be the case. Is it simply because the trend is over? Just like fashion trends, movies have always come in waves, that are hot one minute and then gone the next; the current trend being Super Hero Action Blockbusters.

I can’t help but think however, that it could be more to do with the idea that Cyberpunk as a genre formed as a result of man’s fear of technology. Cyberpunk is always set in a near future where technologies that exist at the time are being used in a way that threatens the survival the lower to middle class everyday people.

“It was cyberspace and console cowboys, leather jackets, Zeiss eye implants, modded Russian knockoff prostheses…The future was bizarre and threatening and also strangely real”. Paolo Bacigalupi

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Could it be that we have somehow become less fearful of technology growing up alongside it? We are currently living in an age where technology advances so quickly, we become complacent to it, unimpressed by it and accepting of it. We are also living in the future described by cyberpunk writers of the past, the technologies are real so it’s not exciting or fantastical anymore.

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We have a clearer idea of where our future is headed already having tapped into Artificial Intelligence, 3D Printing and Virtual Reality. Could it be that cyberpunk movies a disappearing  because we have a greater grasp of cyber culture?

What I intend to examine for my research project is the idea of modern day Cyberpunk. I want to form a clear definition of what cyberpunk actually is as both a genre and a culture and I want to pose the question ‘can cyberpunk exist today’ and if so what kind of dystopian visions do we hold for our current technologies? To do this plan to look at recent texts and hold them against a set of cyberpunk criteria.

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