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Towards a New Cyberpunk Reality

I recently discovered something interesting about my company, Verizon.

Do you remember the old Oliver Stone tv mini-series from the early 90s called “Wild Palms”? It was about a dystopian future of America where a fascist political group has risen to power, headed up by a senator who founded a new philosophy called “Synthiotics” or “New Realism”, which apparently involves the next stage of human evolution and virtual reality (VR).

The Senator, named Anton Kreutzer, owns a company named Mimecom which has developed some sort of advanced VR technology and 3-d display technology which they are about to deploy out to households through a television company, called Channel 3, in a new drama series they’ve named “Church Windows”. They seemed to be using Church Windows as a platform for propagandizing Synthiotic tenets, as well. The Senator is seeking one last piece of technology from Japan, a “Go Chip”, which will essentially give him eternal life, and seal up his political power. The Go Chip is named after the game of Go, an ancient Chinese strategy game that has been used by artificial intelligence researchers as a test case for building systems which can learn and immitate human intelligence (though, they don’t really spell out that AI tie-in during the series).

Cyberpunk Photo - Sony Center at night
Berlin’s Sony Centre in Potsdamer Platz reflects the global reach of a Japanese corporation. Much cyberpunk action occurs in urbanized, artificial landscapes, and “city lights at night” was one of the genre’s first metaphors for cyberspace (in Gibson’s Neuromancer).

The Wild Palms series was likely intended to be a very cutting-edge, conceptual story that was inspired in large part by the cyberpunk movement in science fiction. One of the prime “founders” of the cyberpunk movement, the author William Gibson, actually puts in a cameo appearance in the series, as well. Oliver Stone likely intended the story to use semiotic literary devices as well, since many of the plot items and names seemed to be intended to have multiple layers of meanings.

Here’s where fiction begins to turn into reality. MimEcom was the name of an actual ecommerce/hosting/technology firm that was later started up in San Francisco, and considered IPOing in 2000, though the dot-bombs happened, and it halted plans to go public.

Later, MimEcom changed their company name to “Totality”.

In about 2005, Totality was acquired by MCI. MCI was merged into Verizon later on in 2005. The Totality part was folded under the Verizon Business division of the company.So, Verizon is now MimEcom! In a further synchronicity, Verizon has moved into being a television program provider through its FiOS programs — Verizon has pursued deploying fiber optic lines out to residences throughout the US in order to provide tons of internet and entertainment content communicated out to consumers in speeds of 5 Mbps or faster. This is really cool! I’m working for Mimecom!

My whole point is that there are a lot of technologies that the cyberpunk movement predicted that have either come to exist and change society, or which begin to seem increasingly likely/possible and commercially feasible. Although things like special 3-d display technologies, flat-surface display screens, and nanotech are all evolving, artificial intelligence development and search engines seem to represent more of the potential for further changing life and society as nothing else that was predicted by cyberpunk.

For instance, Craig Silverstein, Director of Technology at Google, has predicted that “The future of search will involve genetically engineered search pets that will understand human emotions — not just facts, but how people work,” and also, “We’ll still search for facts,” he says, “but in all likelihood the facts will be contained in a brain implant.”

In John Batelle‘s book, The Search, he notes that Yahoo, Google and other search engines have long been inspired by Star Trek and other science fiction in developing their goals and making useful functionality.

So, continue to watch how reality is going to increasingly mimic cyberpunk and science fiction! I’m not making this stuff up — this IS the New Realism. Take it from an insider in Mimecom itself — I know what we’re deploying into your future.





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