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25 years on: Did 'Neuromancer' predict the internet?

We look at what the sci-fi novel got right and wrong

William Gibson's 1984 novel Neuromancer predicted how technology would shape our future. Some of Gibson's ideas such as the web and cyberspace have become reality, but others were just wide of the mark. As the novel celebrates its silver anniversary this year, we look at just what it got right and what went wrong.

This month William Gibson's novel Neuromancer celebrates its 25th anniversary. Neuromancer tells the story of Case, once a hot and high-paid cyberspace cowboy who could infiltrate and rip-off corporate databases.

But he stole from his employer, who took revenge by crippling Case's nervous system with a mycotoxin, rendering him unable to hack.
Alone and suicidal, Case is scooped off the street and given a second chance by a shadowy group of people who have big (and scary) plans.

In exchange for curing Case's nervous system, they want him to help them infiltrate the core of a huge and powerful AI (artificial intelligence) called Wintermute.

According to novelist Jack Womack, who penned an afterword in a re-release of the book, Neuromancer may have directly influenced the way the web developed, and may have provided a blueprint that developers who grew up with the book consciously or subconsciously followed.

Womack asks "what if the act of writing it down, in fact, brought it about?".

If you haven't already read Neuromancer, consult the (nicely done) plot summary on the Neuromancer Wiki page, which includes a handy character index and a glossary of terms.

The novel is widely credited with popularising the term 'Cyberspace' with presenting a thoroughly developed idea of virtual reality, and with introducing the idea of the World Wide Web. Neuromancer also gave rise to a whole new genre in literature: cyberpunk.

We've taken a look at the predictions the novel made to see where Gibson was right and where he was wrong.

Internet news and reviews

The World Wide Web

The prognostication in Neuromancer that rings most true today is the novel's idea of a World Wide Web. The concept of an internet already existed when Gibson wrote Neuromancer in 1984.

In the early eighties, several universities had strung together various systems of servers via a telecom link. What Gibson introduced was the idea of a global network of millions of computers, which he described in astonishing detail - though the web, as we know it today, was still more than a decade away.

Imagine the novelty of that idea in 1984 when the personal computer was still a fairly new idea. Of course, things start getting really interesting only in the nineties, when technology linked all of those computers together.


NEXT PAGE: How Neuromancer shaped Cyberspace

  1. We look at what the sci-fi novel got right and wrong
  2. How Neuromancer shaped Cyberspace
  3. Fixation on technology
  4. Not gonna happen soon
  5. Constructs


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