Thursday, September 17, 2009

Future Past

I found Rizal Johan's piece Future Past in today's Star very interesting indeed. He reckons that virtual reality:
... is not what was imagined by sci-fi scribes and filmmakers 30 years ago. But the past still holds promise for the future, at least in cinematic terms.
He explains :
... there was a time when such a future only existed in the world of fiction. And more often than not, the future was a sinister world. But it was also exciting because the possibility of such a future could be imagined, dreamed and maybe even realised. Celebrated sci-fi author William Gibson stirred the imagination through a series of novels about the virtual and information world in the 1980s. He is responsible for coming up with the term “cyberspace” and fully explored his vision of the future in his debut novel, Neuromancer in 1984. In the novel, Gibson describes cyberspace as being a “consensual hallucination” and is set in a dystopian future of drug addicted computer hackers, genetic engineering, virtual reality, vicious AIs (artificial intelligence) and overpowering multi-national corporations. ... It was a paranoid world on the brink but you met cyberpunks, rogue military agents, and cybernatically enhanced women running in and out of cyberspace in search for the all important grail of information. Such a world was visually glimpsed slightly earlier in 1982 when the dark and dreary (and now classic) sci-fi film Blade Runner hit cinemas that year. Based on the Philip K. Dick book, Do Androids Dream Of Electric Sheep? and directed by the visionary Ridley Scott, the vision of a bleak future, the city and its landscape was perfectly realised in this film.
Althought the emphasis of the piece was largely on the realisation of the vision in films, I am surprised though that the article makes no mention of virtual worlds and more specifically of Second Life which was very much influenced by Neal Stephenson's Snow Crash (am grateful to Ted Mahsun for telling me this and putting a copy of the book in my hand) and in so many ways has surpassed Stephenson's vision of what was possible.

Like blogger Crazy Monk I was totally perplexed that Stephenson never wanted to visit the world his imagination helped to create but agree with Wagner James Au (right) here - five very successful novels later, he most probably just moved on.

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