- Term Papers and Free Essays

Technology And Its Dangerous Effects On Nature And Human Life As Perceived In Mary Shelley's Frankenstein And William Gibson's Neuromancer

Essay by   •  November 22, 2010  •  4,741 Words (19 Pages)  •  2,175 Views

Essay Preview: Technology And Its Dangerous Effects On Nature And Human Life As Perceived In Mary Shelley's Frankenstein And William Gibson's Neuromancer

Report this essay
Page 1 of 19

At first glance this topic could seem rather irrelevant having in mind that the two works are separated by more than a century. During this lapse of time, humanity has witnessed profound changes at a breath-taking speed. The partly Gothic and partly Romantic world of Mary Shelley is quite different from the reality Gibson predicts. We could not say, however, that there are no links between the two. Shelley's work could be viewed as the apprehension of the new-born fear in regard to technical invention and Gibson's work as the divination of the consequences of technological development and sophistication. In both cases the essence of human nature has barely changed. It is what lies behind the destructive human strife for more, more at any price that has led to the despondent conclusions of both works.

Indispensable to understanding the complexity of the problem of technology, in both Mary Shelley's Frankenstein and William Gibson's Neuromancer, is the historical context in which the two were written. Whereas Frankenstein was written in a period of dramatic change - that of the Industrial revolution, in Neuromancer, Gibson echoes the opinion of economists who believe that we are currently experiencing the beginning of a profound economic revolution, due to the breakthroughs in information and communication technology, and which some believe is equal in magnitude to the industrial revolution. The second leitmotif of my research is that of nature in reference to technology. Here I describe the relation of Mary Shelley's Frankenstein to technology and some of the crucial issues concerning technology in relation to human life, and exploration of the dangerous implications of human acts of creation. It is interesting to mention that Shelley's novel is our first and still one of our best cautionary tales about scientific research. Subsequently and similarly , I examine Gibson's Neuromancer and compare it to the ideas presented in Frankenstein, for however different in nature they might seem, the issues raised by Neuromancer are strikingly identical. I look at the motives lying behind artificial creation as I did in regard to Shelley's work. Afterwards, I make a comparison between the "hideous" creature of Mary Shelley and the powerful Artificial Intelligence of Gibson and finally Istress on the foresight of both authors who have been able to predict clearly the consequences of immoral technological utilization.

In associating the two works it is useful to understand the historical context in which they were written. Frankenstein is distinctly related to the revolutionary period of 1780 to 1830 or the period of the first industrial revolution. There was a strong conviction in England, in the early Victorian times, that rapid future changes would take place and there were wide differences of view about the extent to which they would be beneficial 2. As time passed, the problems of industrialism were seen as defects which could be eliminated and the underlying change was generally seen as beneficial. The new fruits of chemistry, physics, mathematics, etc. were seen as contributing to a future in which increasing knowledge would give increasing power over nature, and consequently increasing wealth. As Howard Rosenbrock noticed, "the Victorian situation led to the danger of complacency"3 . Mary Shelley, unlike most of her contemporaries, recognized this danger and foresaw the perils of the newly-born technological society, inherent in scientific research and the exploitation of nature. It is also imperative to mention that Frankenstein was written during a particular period of crisis in humanism: the failure of the French Revolution4. It is clear that the shifting polarities of revolution mark the novel, which reflects the clash of the so-called "sensualism" with the brutal reality of the revolution and the ensued radicalism. Mary Shelley perceived the dangers of radicalism and abstract idealism as we can distinguish from what she wrote in her Journal:

" I respect such when joined to real disinterestedness, toleration and a clear understanding ... I earnestly desire the good and enlightenment of my fellow creatures ... but I am not for violent extremes, which duly bring on an injurious reaction."5

In the case of Neuromancer, the historical context is very different, but again we are confronted with the dawn of a new era--that of information technology. Nowadays we are witnessing the transformation from industrial to information society but we have the feeling of living at the end of an era, rather than the beginning of a new one. We have unparalleled knowledge and power over nature, and yet this faces us with moral dilemmas and responsibilities for which we are ill-prepared.6 It is exactly in this context that William Gibson reveals his vision of the future new era of information technology, where the humanity has not been able to find a proper solution to the moral dilemmas posed by the rapid technological change. Similar to the time in which Mary Shelley wrote her novel, the context in which Gibson wrote Neuromancer is that of tremendous change although we are not yet witnessing a social revolution of equivalent value to that of the British Industrial Revolution of 1780-1830. In Neuromancer, Gibson was not only able to create a remarkably well-visualized future but also to present the potential danger of humanity's irresponsible behavior towards the use of technology. This is, in a way, a Gibson's interpretation and view on the consequences of a future Information Revolution. In doing so, he goes beyond the ideas of the traditional authors of science fiction and as the 'father' of cyberpunk literature, he makes a drastic departure from what some consider "glossy utopian views" of the conventional science fiction. Gibson presents a very, and perhaps overly, pessimistic vision of the future, showing the negative effect the forthcoming technologies might have on human life and the gloomy outcomes of technology that progresses faster than humans do. The context in which, William Gibson has written his book was that of growing anxiety about the outcome of an extremely rapid technological development which had already started to manifest its ambiguous nature. Neuromancer is thus a response to an uncertain reality, more precisely that of the United States, which is the leader in information and computer technology. In an interview, Gibson was asked the question:

"Some Americans claim that the Europeans are more afraid of the kind of society that you describe in your books..."

To which he answered:

"I think that the sort of societies I am describing would be more disturbing to someone



Download as:   txt (27.9 Kb)   pdf (262.4 Kb)   docx (19.9 Kb)  
Continue for 18 more pages »
Only available on
Citation Generator

(2010, 11). Technology And Its Dangerous Effects On Nature And Human Life As Perceived In Mary Shelley's Frankenstein And William Gibson's Neuromancer. Retrieved 11, 2010, from

"Technology And Its Dangerous Effects On Nature And Human Life As Perceived In Mary Shelley's Frankenstein And William Gibson's Neuromancer" 11 2010. 2010. 11 2010 <>.

"Technology And Its Dangerous Effects On Nature And Human Life As Perceived In Mary Shelley's Frankenstein And William Gibson's Neuromancer.", 11 2010. Web. 11 2010. <>.

"Technology And Its Dangerous Effects On Nature And Human Life As Perceived In Mary Shelley's Frankenstein And William Gibson's Neuromancer." 11, 2010. Accessed 11, 2010.