160 – Cyberpunk Vs Technology

The Mythcreant Podcast

A few weeks ago we talked about how space opera has held up in the face of advancing technology and a changing culture. This week we’re giving cyberpunk the same treatment. Because cyberpunk is almost always near future, it’s particularly vulnerable to the passage of time. Many early works of cyberpunk are now set in the past, not the future. So how have they held up? Join us to find out.

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Opening and closing theme: The Princess Who Saved Herself by Jonathan Coulton. Used with permission.

Show Notes:


Altered Carbon

Eclipse Phase

Tron and Tron Legacy

The Dude

The Matrix

Ready Player One

Born Sexy Yesterday

Article About Cyberpunk Meaning Nothing

The 6th Day (We called it the 5th Day)

Five Stories That Violate Their Own Conceit

Sword Art Online

Snow Crash

Ghost in the Shell

USS Callister

Dark Matter


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  1. Adam Reynolds

    Something I think that is often overlooked about cyberpunk is that it is not really a new genre in a sense. In that respect it is largely high technology noir, in which the ideas about about the darkness of humanity are explored through increases in technology. Blade Runner is somewhat explicitly this, in which Deckard is a noir PI.

    In that respect, one interesting subgenre that seems somewhat common lately is that of modern day cyberpunk, in which the themes of technology and corporate power are explored with what is merely present day technology. Generally speaking most of this is TV series, as it is a convenient way to save on production budgets. Person of Interest is probably the most explicit example of this, using a gritty espionage and procedural setting as a means to explore ideas about artificial superintelligence. Other than this, the technology is all more or less modern.

    Orphan Black is similar, except with cloning. In that case the ideas about what it means to be human and nature vs nurture are asked in a fashion not all that different from something like Ghost in the Shell. As a side note, I have always thought the key theme of Ghost in the Shell is about what it means to be human when everything about a human can be replicated artificially. What is also interesting there is the fact that Motoko is a government agent, rather than being either in opposition to or an agent of a corporation. Which is rather against the traditional ideas of cyberpunk.

    There are also a few cases without any actual future technology. Mr. Robot and Watch_Dogs are probably the two most explicit examples, though Leverage is also somewhat close to this. In these cases the anti-corporate themes are the focus as much as the tech, though Mr. Robot in particular made a strong attempt to be accurate to reality in terms of the computer security concepts(though I personally can’t stand the main character and the twist ending that was used in the first season).

  2. Matthew

    I think one of the core properties of Cyberpunk that you missed helps explain Oren’s struggle with the genre.

    Style over substance.

    This is pretty core to a lot of cyberpunk stories. The trenchcoats and katanas are cool. That’s it. They don’t mean anything. They’re just cool. This isn’t necessarily a satisfying answer, because we usually want style and substance both, but it’s the answer we have.

  3. Julia

    I think Neuromancer was exploring the idea of technology moving into our everyday lives. Before the 80s very few people were familiar with computers. During the 80s they started becoming more common and more people were getting personal computers in their homes. And medicine was exploring the idea of implants, moving the machines into our bodies. It’s goes back to Chris’ idea of blurring the line between humanity and machine.

    As for uploading yourself, doesn’t electronic data degrade after awhile? I’ve seen think pieces about how a lot of our current information will be lost because so much of our electrical information gets corrupted over time. Which could make for interesting plot points in a science fiction story.

    The idea of clones remind me of an old Calvin and Hobbes storyline where Calvin clones himself and tells the clones to do his chores and homework. It doesn’t turn out well – his clones are every bit as lazy and obnoxious as he is.

    And why can’t the Star Trek transporters make clones or bring back someone to the last point where they transported if they die on the planet? Did they ever cover that? Maybe the Red Shirt Teamsters need to take this issue up with Star Fleet…

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