A new kind of nature

 

Neuromancer, for me, has proven to be a very uncomfortable read, and I think that stems from an innate understanding of this quote’s implications. Neil Easterbrook suggests that nature has been replaced with artificiality, making technology the new norm. I couldn’t agree with Easterbrook more.

Gibson’s novel is quick to describe – in great detail – the synthetic and technological  components of the environments: the dingy bars, the drugs being taken, the types of devices used. He nonchalantly throws around the names of countless tech mechanisms used without flinching, which makes it seem like a very organic part of their lives. Very rarely do we, the readers, encounter descriptions of the natural environment. It has absolutely nothing to do with the plot.

I was struck by a particular scene in Chapter 10, when Case describes the Rue Jules Verne. He notes that there’s a “recorded blue of a Cannes sky. He knew that sunlight was pumped in with a Lado-Acheson system whose two-millimeter armature ran the length of the spindle, that they generated a rotating library of sky effects around it” (Gibson 123). Later, Gibson writes “The trees were small, gnarled, impossibly old, the result of genetic engineering and chemical manipulation. Case would have been hard pressed to distinguish a pine from an oak, but. . . these were too cute, too entirely and definitively treelike” (Gibson 128). The main character is completely out of touch with the most basic elements on Earth. Case knows more about the technology that projects an image of the sky than the sky itself. The trees around him are inorganic, but he cannot tell you for certain how a real tree might differ. Humanity in Neuromancer has been distorted in a way that makes the natural seem foreign and the synthetic seem default.

This is why I struggle to relate to the book. As the reader, I feel suffocated in a technological zoo. When I am overwhelmed with technology in real life, I can always turn my phone off or go outside. Here, it is so inundated in the characters’ lives and, frankly, their entire purpose, that I cannot escape. I do think Gibson’s removal of nature is a bit of satirical genius, though, and it certainly makes you think.Is our society heading this way? Do humans today really think they are powerful enough to destroy and manipulate nature to this extent? Will this addiction to technology leave behind the people who don’t have the means to keep up with it? Stay tuned.

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One thought on “A new kind of nature

  1. Nice. I wonder sometimes about the “natural” or “physis” side of the opposition. E.g. is “Nature” every really natural? Or, most usually a product of techne/technology? E.g. in how many ways does the “Natural” depend on techne? (Cars to take us there, laws to preserve it, cameras to record it.) Could it be that part of sci fi’s ambition, per Easterbrook, is to actually idealize or refurbish an opposition that doesn’t really exist so simply?

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