It is interesting to see on occasion how the books that end up on one's shelves in a seemingly haphazard manner suddenly form a sort of a pattern. I started reading Michael J. Cavallaro's novel, Cybernetica, which is about a Matrix-like future where the average citizen is controlled by a computer-to-brain neural network, just as The Blade Runner Experience: The Legacy of a Science Fiction Classic arrived. Shortly thereafter, I received a copy of The Philosophy of Film Noir. In many respects, these books come at society and culture from different angles, and yet offer intriguing insights into not only the neo-noir dystopian future but the present state of humanity as well.
Cybernetica borrows somewhat from the classic "cyberpunk" work of William Gibson and adopts the uncertain mind control concerns of The Matrix in a story where the world is largely controlled by a brain-to-computer interface system called "sublimation." This networked interface allows for a significant level of control over the general populace, and is the subject of intense conflict between an ever-shifting alliance of shadowy government operatives, corporate interests, and criminals.
The story is set a generation after the conclusion of the "Encryption Wars." The rise of the sublimation interface means that the overwhelming majority of citizens exist in an interconnected environment in which their perceptions are subtly shaded and shaped by those who manipulate the system. There is a criminal subculture, however, that falls outside the system - a component of which suffer from a condition called blindsight, which somehow prevents them from connecting to the larger culture (according to Cavallaro, "blindsight" is essentially a neurological inability to receive some elements of subliminal information, which essentially means that a component of society is still able to "think for themselves"). From the ranks of these erstwhile criminals, a group of insurgents now seeks to destroy the sublimation system and restart society. (Full review)
The Blade Runner Experience
If any film launched cyberpunk into the mainstream, it was Ridley Scott's 1982 future noir, Blade Runner. The film opened to middling reviews and lukewarm box office, but its status as a cult classic grew at an exponential rate. A director's cut of the film (and then another director's cut) eliminated the clunky voiceover narration by Harrison Ford, the film's star, and also expanded upon Scott's original vision of a world in which humans have become disinterested, despairing, and almost robotic in their existence - and where the quest for knowledge (if not the hunt for the divine) is embodied by the replicants, the "almost humans" with their crudely fashioned memories borrowed from "real" people.