Science fiction master author William Gibson tells us he was being evocative—not predicting the future—when he described cyberspace, a word he coined, in his classic novel Neuromancer. Yet many of us think of the internet as something like these words by Gibson in that 1984 book: Cyberspace. A consensual hallucination experienced daily by billions of legitimate operators, in every nation, by children being taught mathematical concepts… A graphic representation of data abstracted from banks of every computer in the human system. Unthinkable complexity. Lines of light ranged in the nonspace of the mind, clusters and constellations of data. Like city lights, receding.
In 1984 when these phrases first hit paper, the engulfing global internet was not on any visionary’s radar. Yet Gibson’s word has come to define the location of the internet—bringing along some dystopic baggage many people have not shed.
George Orwell’s novel titled 1984, that gave us the frightening image of Big Brother watching us, was written in what the literati call the dystopian genre — dark, wretched, fearful, the opposite of utopian. William Gibson, who coined cyperspace, is a cyberpunk, which is dystopian. Somehow we have gotten stuck with a word with a dystopian heritage to name the setting of our future. Yet the real cyberspace is hardly a consensual hallucination, though it is experienced daily by billions. The complexity there is turning out to be a marvelous reflection of human thinking. Clusters of data have proven to be fundamental to network science that was not discovered until 1998. Hum . . . what has happened here?
The reality is this: No dystopia is necessarily ahead, quite the opposite is proving to be true. Cyberspace is turning out instead to be the platform for a dawning global golden age.
My grandniece, shown above filling some time on her Mom’s back by connecting to cyberspace is likely to live into the 22nd century. The virtual venue she is already experiencing is being constructed not by the weirdness of cyberpunk but by the wonderfulness of the golden swamp. The mechanisms that make this so will be a major theme of this blog from now on.