playing Pong with your mind vs. William Gibson

Ars Technica has an appropriately level-headed article about Elon Musk’s Neuralink company getting a monkey to play Pong with its mind, which reminds people of William Gibson:

the old Cyberpunk fan in me dreams of cyberdecks: devices without screens or without keyboards. You could have one implant in visual cortex and/or one in motor cortex and then connect wireless via Bluetooth. The latter part sounds ridiculous, but with this implant, we could build a device qualifying as a cyberdeck today.


Their misperception of his presentation of cyberspace lets me step in with exegesis of the master…

William Gibson was suitably vague about “jacking in” to the consensual hallucination of cyberspace, but the Ono-Sendai models definitely have keyboards. “distant fingers caressing the deck, tears of release streaking his face “; “the posture of another cowboy leaning into a deck, fingers flying across the board.” And Gibson went with electrodes, not wireless. “He knew that the trodes he used and the little plastic tiara dangling from a Simstim deck were basically the same.”

The whole panoply of interfaces Gibson presented in the sprawl series (Johnny MnemonicBurning ChromeNeuromancerCount ZeroMona Lisa Overdrive) is vague on inputs. He describes holoporn, Simstim, cyberspace, telepresence primarily by their outputs, not how you manipulate them.

Gibson’s other huge invention, microsoft, is also a brain-machine interface, also defiantly un-wireless. The silicon slivers of microsoft you slot into a carbon socket behind your ear give you knowledge of a language or kung fu or whatever (or in the exceptional case of biosoft, someone’s recollections and emotions 😍). “the microsofts he purchased were art history programs and tables of gallery sales. With half a dozen chips in his new socket, Smith’s knowledge of the art business was formidable”; “an entire body of knowledge driven into his head like a microsoft into a socket.” No web lookups required, hella cooler than playing Pong.

However, the same socket is clearly capable of controlling a machine.

  And then he was in the cockpit, breathing the new-car smell of long-chain monomers, the familiar scent of newly minted technology, and the girl was behind him, an awkward doll sprawled in the embrace of the g-web that Conroy had paid a San Diego arms dealer to install behind the pilot’s web. The plane was quivering, a live thing, and as he squirmed deeper into his own web, he fumbled for the interface cable, found it, ripped the microsoft from his socket, and slid the cable-jack home.

  Knowledge lit him like an arcade game, and he surged forward with the plane-ness of the jet, feeling the flexible airframe reshape itself for jump-off as the canopy whined smoothly down on its servos. The g-web ballooned around him, locking his limbs rigid, the gun still in his hand. “Go, motherfucker.” But the jet already knew, and g-force crushed him down into the dark.

The writing in Count Zero is soooo good.

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