Wednesday, 8 February 2017

Cyberpunk Essays

Lectures On Cyberpunk

Analogue Shock

It's like Ice T / J Bone says, fresh every time you hit it on a re-run:

"Here it is, comin' at ya, lo-fi style." 

The brute 80s vision was retro-fitting the cool (matte black plastic) durable pioneering hardware with upgrades from the disposable (grey, cream or glossy plastic) miniaturized next-wave tech which had officially outmoded it. Chunky 16-bit synths with Gigabyte ram drives and plug-in nu-fx pods. By which time the gear has history, it has scratches and glue scuffs, stickers of logo's from movements that didn't even make it to the internet era. The plastic is full of love and experience, solder and gaffa tape. And the rigs can do what no hi-end manufacturer ever wants you to know about. 

The real life tragedy is most people who are on the cyberpunk bandwagon don't have a clue about electronics nor how to use them. There was a circuit-bending phase in electro-musiculture but all that did was break things. Euro-modules seem to have stepped in to fix it but all that is music industry, what we want and have always wanted is the dream-jack on a reliable pocket box. With ridiculous amounts of panels. 

Monkeyfunkin' touch-screen cellphones derailed  cyberpunk from what it was by taking out the fun of unknown potential and personal customization. It wasn't a product in a box, it was garage-made recombobulations of the video era going digital. The Victorian Gothic Revivalist approach to customizable electronic devices. 

So cyberpunk became about nostalgia instead of futurism. The kids born into it today are growing up on consoles you can't crack open without breaking and which do things that make the 80s mentality obsolete anyway. Our future became a museum piece before we even got there. Future Shock is something the next generations are going to have to become immune to. 

The legacy of a once powerful movement is that Life is better than the oldies love of dystopia. The deckers took over so much that street tribes are obsolete now. Except they ain't decks, they're desktops and pocket-portables. That beloved promised zone remains a gap in the market. 

There really is only one thing that can illustrate this essay properly: The SQUID deck.
[superconducting quantum interference device]
"Originally designed for police surveillance, but its true purpose was soon realized - porn." 

Sid Mead's concept art

Strange Days prop by Stan Winston Studios / Eric Allard

80s Office Trash / Tech

Fax machines and photocopiers are part of corporate superiority games. One person can operate it at a time. That person operating it gets a buzz from using it. In psychology terms* a stroke. Anybody else involved has to await the operator. Thus it is a prestigious position of importance. This places the machine itself at the top of the chain. 

Where the machine keeps the operator waiting and the operator keeps the minions waiting. The underlings complain about how long it takes while the operator who is further caught up in the machines process is apologetic about it. This is the usual scenario however it can be short-cutted by a clever operator, one who thus proves their worthiness for the leadership role, by them complaining about the machine taking ages or simply, as often occurs, not working properly and doing what it is meant to.

Thus the minions have nothing to complain about. They may not be happier but technically that is the box you have to tick because their job has been done for them. If the machines worked better we could justify replacing half the staff who sit around doing nothing all day anyway.

Only an empath sits back and quietly amused by nobody recognizing the sensitivity of the machines circuits being overloaded and confused by the local chaos of invisible human energies interfering with its binary code and the irregularity of it being asked to do the simple task it was built for.

Clockwork mechanical devices are a step by step process of elimination to fix them: Zen just like Phaedron taught us in Motorcycle Maintenance. However even a programmer cannot access the OS of corporate mass-manufactured fax-machines and photocopiers**. For that you would need an engineer who simply replaces the broken part or more probably the office boss who replaces the entire machine and complains about it eating into the departmental budget. 

NB since the millennium departments typically receive zero budget and exist on competitive grants funding and corporate level charity. People who complain that things were not like this in the old days before computers took over everything and we used to have technologies which actually worked and did not break down all of the time, have by now died of old age. 

* from The Games People Play, a study of transactional analysis by Dr Eric Berne 
** Not to forget the dot-matrix printers.

Image used non-profit for educational purposes within international fair use policy. The only matte black 80s fax machine illustration available. Tomorrows world, yesterday. 

Bottles and Bones

"High tech and low life"
its a cute and useful phrase to explain ‘what cyberpunk is about’ but it does not tell the whole story. While the genre is redefining itself to progress into a world which has outmoded yesterdays vision of tomorrow we have to accept that because the last generations understanding is very different from the next, the genre is writhing to encompass themes which were outside of yesterdays ideal.

Is ‘psychic' cyberpunk? It is transhuman after all, even if it requires no machines. Examples: the Butlerian jyhad of Dune ensured Bene Gesserit use a drug to achieve ESP as did Tetsuo and Akira, while Jedi use only the Force. Are any of that cyberpunk? Alfred Besters Demolished Man has natural Espers as does much PKD.

Fringe cyberpunk whereas a digitally augmented form of telepathy, the easily hackable iYou chip responsible for corrosion of personal responsibility in a remote control society, most certainly is cyberpunk.

Are the machines necessary when the topic expands beyond a machines ability to comprehend? If not then can cyberpunk still be cyberpunk without the context by which yesterdays generation defined it? In the future humans will outmode machines because of their help in spiritual development. This is not a dystopia. Are we ready to drop the dystopian element from the genre yet? Would it still be cyberpunk if we did?

We were told that quality fiction throws up a lot of questions. The next generation inhaling stale puke of yesterdays luxury banquet from a taxi cab floor will, having answered those questions, no longer need our generation of robotics. They stand upon the silver lining of our dreams which we could not reach despite our broken silver screens. How much of the 1980s heyday of the movement needs to be retained, this time of change where everyone has to be retrained.

iBoy screenshot

accredited images used non-profit within international fair use policy

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