Identity and Technology
“The future is already here, it is just unevenly distributed.”
Novels such as 1984 and Neuromancer paved the way that man looks at the future, and now it’s upon us. George Orwell and William Gibson laid out their visions of the future in the writings from the 1980’s. Yet, thirty-five years later most people don’t see the world as being the way that they had predicted it to be. Yet, subconsciously you can read into the parallels between such novels and the world in which we live at present. In Neuromancer by William Gibson, we see how one man’s sense of identity, in accordance with the technology present in the novel, not only changes how he looks at the world around him, but also changes the way that we, as the reader, see how technology has shaped our own lives and the way that we live.
Identities are constructed by social, economic, and gendered contexts of the world, and therefore are all made up. Identities change according to how the majority of a society feels and so, identities are subjective rather than objective. We can see today on the news, in headlines, and even with some of our friends how they can change “who they are”. By identifying yourself with a certain group, you are in a way labeling yourself, although people try to stay away from “labeling” one another as much as possible. Identities change and evolve, just as technology does. Technology is defined as being “the use of science in industry, engineering, etc. to invent useful things or solve problems”. In Neuromancer, characters identify themselves according to the technology that is present in their lives. In many cases, they have body parts that are made from technology not available to us now and that allows them to identify them.
When we meet our protagonist Case, he is wandering aimlessly through life and consequently being in a substantial amount of debt, which only adds to him having a poor self-image of himself. He had had the life at one time, spending his younger years doing what he loved: being a computer hacker. Once he messed up at his job, and not only got fired, but also has had his central nervous system damaged. Here is a perfect example of how the characters do not have control over their own bodies. Rather those that they work for control what they do, and they lose who they are because of this. We can also see that in today’s world we often have to choose between work or school and doing something that we love or spending time with our families. Here without even realizing it, we can see that our jobs are beginning to control our actions and lives. Without his job to keep him going, his life begins to fall in a downward spiral, and he knows this. He’s depressed because he no longer has the passion in his life that he once had and because of this, loses who he once was.
When Case comes across another character in the book, he is slightly scared of her yet also is infatuated by her at the same time. Molly is her name, and she has technological modifications on her body, which has a major impact on the opinions he has of her. “She held out her hands, palms up, the white fingers slightly spread and with a barely audible click, ten double-edged, four centimeter scalpel blades slid from their housings beneath the burgundy nails. She smiled. The blades slowly withdrew”(26). Gibson’s diction here shows how Case feels threatened as well as enamored by Molly, and I’m sure the reader may feel the same way at the sight of these words. The modifications on her body may seem rather drastic, yet when you think about it people have been modifying their bodies for centuries. Piercings and forms of tattoos have been around as long as man has and today we see that people are modifying their bodies so that they may change their gender. Technology allows surgeries which allow this to happen, and only when we take time to think about what this truly means, do we realize that when we do these things to our bodies we are searching to fit an identity which fills a void that is otherwise empty without the modification, just as Molly felt before she had her modifications take place.
The world that we live in now would be considered to be “pre-cyberspace” while Neuromancer is set during cyberspace. We know that technology is on its way to getting us to that point, yet even now our dependence upon technology is extravagant. In Neuromancer, Case can easily travel from one place to another in seemingly the blink of an eye. Because of this, one could argue that the characters in the book have no sense of time. They can get around so fast and don’t waste the time that it would otherwise take to travel. Time is of no importance to them and therefore things that we treasure now, have very little value. They can also so easily fix what’s wrong with their “broken” bodies, so they have no real reason to take care of their physical form. When we no longer care about taking care of ourselves, we begin to lose what it means to be human. There is no real mention about family in this novel, but only when one family member kills another. That in of itself is a scary thought, which would warn us to take caution when it comes to how much we depend upon technology in our daily lives.
The future is here and there’s no escaping it. We are just being pushed farther and farther into a world completely dependent on technology, and we crave it. Gibson gives us a sneak peak into a world we are seemingly destined for, and it looks pretty bleak. The characters are not even what you would call “human” or at least in our definition of the word, yet they still seek out an identity that they can call their own. The importance of identity is rampant in the world we live in, as well as the world we are destined to live in, proving how important it is. Neuromancer provides us with a scenario where one who is lost searches for their identity, and in finding it, they help to find themselves, and we can all relate to this notion today.
 Merriam-Webster dictionary
 Gibson, Neuromancer, 26
Gibson, William. Neuromancer. N.p.: n.p., n.d. Print.
Merriam-Webster. Merriam-Webster, n.d. Web. 25 Sept. 2016