The Reality of Neon

I bought a digital copy of Scandroid's self-titled album from Bandcamp and thus started a love affair with a genre and aesthetic that really is rooted in a 1980's that did not really exist. As far as I am aware. The cyberpunk of the era did not have the neon fetish or the fixation on Neo-Tokyo that modern cyberpunk seems to have adopted in some part.

The cyberpunk that I remember is the dank or gritty hi-tech, low-life worlds of Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep and Hardwired. Yet, the neon infested worlds of the modern cyberpunk artists of today have forged a new and on-going relevance for the genre. They still have a voice that speaks into the real concerns of our time, with a much more realistic social vision that the utopian BS of Star Trek and the like.

Rather than idealising the future, cyberpunk looks human nature square in the eye and deals with it as it is: greedy, corporate and, at times, plainly vile. As often as not, the real foe is ourselves rather than needing to look to some distant and alien “Other” to find one. More than likely, it will not some alien aggressor such as a Klingon who will screw you over or enslave you, but someone much closer to home both physically and genetically.

In a century where industry is striving towards some form of AI, cyberpunk asks the hard questions that some may gloss over. Are these really people and, if so, can we really speak of exclusively “human rights”? Blade Runner throws this right in our faces as replicants struggle for recognition as persons in the back-drop to the more personal journey of Dekker.

Augmented and virtual realities are an increasing part of our recreation and professional lives. One archaeologist has used LIDAR overlays to help find lost Mayan buildings in Central America. Plato asked questions with his “Cave” scenario (I positively gag on the number of times that has been used for sci-fi philosophy discussions), questions that lead to the ultimate one for this tech: how far should we go? Cyberpunk deals with that in very real ways. Ready Player One questions the corporate ownership of digital spaces, which is anything by irrelevant to our own time.

The whole Write.As space is an example of resistance to the corporate take over of digital space. By using this space rather than WordPress and others, we are entering into the very spirit of cyberpunk. We are resisting and questioning trends that may not be the best for us as individuals or collectively. The Fediverse as a whole is a resistance to this and one that should be considered by all people who love freedom and freedom of access.

Neon cyberpunk is still relevant and asking the right questions as we enter an exciting but also scary future where the corporations may do what they always do: screw up a great thing. More on that later, maybe.