The year which we have so long awaited is finally upon us. 2013. Finally, our dreams of a cyberpunk-style distopia can be fully realized. Let’s do a rundown, shall we?
Corporate personhood? Check! Finally, the mega-corporations have revealed the iron fists beneath their velvet gloves! Pharmaceutical companies are now pursuing legal actions allowing their salespeople to basically say whatever they want to under the premise that the corporations are exercising their First Amendment rights to free speech. Can Second Amendment rights be far behind? This is like manna from heaven to those of us longing to live in a cyberpunk-fueled future.
Private mercenary armies? Check! Blackwater now seems sort of quaint (they are so 2006), but, with their newly-minted and ultra-sinister moniker Xe, private armies have never been so fashionable! I look forward to hearing rumors of other shadowy organizations such as this in the near (very near) future!
The Net? Check! Sure, it isn’t the virtual reality I’d been hoping for, but Second Life is doing its best. While not really the shady underbelly of society, where net-running uber-hackers wield super-technology in the service of wresting the Truth from those in power, we do have Wikileaks, and Anonymous. Of course, the web needs a bit of an attitude adjustment, since social media tries so hard to make people more connected. What I hope to see in the new year is an anti-social media site, where members can become more jaded, cynical, and disconnected from friends and family alike. Then we’d see some real societal dysfunction! Angry Birds and Farmville just don’t go far enough!
Drones? Check! While not yet equipped with autonomous AI (or so they tell us), drones have the potential to really usher in a new level of intrusive governmental and corporate oversight, which will, hopefully, bring about the sort of repressive techno-regimes cyberpunk writers have always promised, but the real world failed to deliver. Without the booted heel of stylish technological oppression, the sorts of anti-heroes envisioned by William Gibson and Walter John Williams are less likely to rise up against the system.
Vast Systemic Inequality? Check! On this score, the real world has really delivered, and it makes me proud to see it. The ultrawealthy have truly gone the extra mile here, doing their part to bleed the general populace of opportunity, and ratcheting up the desperation quotient to new levels. It think we need to give them their due appreciation for helping to speed the arrival of the cyberpunk future.
Simplified access to excessive firepower? Check! For a group that pretends to be stodgy and boring, the US Supreme Court has really shown its true colors as an elite cadre of cyberpunk-fueled dream-makers. It’s just plain exciting! With their asserting that the right to bear arms is a personal right, and can’t be meaningfully restricted, I can imagine that the emerging cyberpunk underground will be running smuggling rings using cybertanks and ultralight military fighters, while street gangs can finally face off using the very latest smartware.
Out of Control Media? Double-check! When the hosts of business-oriented shows have long segments about religious matters, and reality TV has made winning the presidency a game, you just know that our longed-for future has almost arrived. Presidential debates have corporate sponsors, and are moderated by television personalities. Members of Congress stage elaborate shows for the ever-present cameras in place of boring speeches that try to convince their fellows to switch positions. The cameras just keep sending out whatever passes in front of them, and nobody seems to be responsible for it. It’s absolutely perfect.
But there are problems getting in the way of the rise of the new cyberpunk ideal, too. As Gibson correctly pointed out in Neuromancer, you need a group capable of a shadowy plot, and those in power just seem a bit too bumbling. So we need to encourage a newer generation of shadowy elite to take the reins. With the elections of 2012, I think we can do a lot to further the cause by advancing the William Gibson/Walter John Williams presidential ticket. It can’t fail!
Once in power, these two could more readily make their literary visions come true, to the delight of their many constituents who, like myself, wanted to live in a world of stylish decay, surrounded by a miasma of equal parts melancholy, boredom, and sheer terror. Who wouldn’t want to be a reflex-enhanced warrior for a doomed cause, fighting a losing fight against humanity’s darker nature? I know I would!
But I’m afraid that it may be too late for me, and those of my generation. For all my angst-ridden soliloquies shouted out into the uncaring Net (and there aren’t many, really), I’m just not that unhappy. I’ve trained in a few martial arts for years, but I’ve yet to fight for my life with them, no matter how many trash-strewn back alleys I wander (again, not many). And being an uncaring drifter on the edges of society is hard to do when I need to care for a couple of super-cute toddlers. But therein lies hope: the next generation could finally live the dream!
So I tell my girls to learn to fly jet fighters and drive tanks, program AIs, and master robotics and human-machine interfaces. If I can’t have a cyberpunk adulthood, perhaps, just maybe, my children can.
I can dream, can’t I?