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William Gibson is a stranger in a strange land

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Last week I rented No Maps for These Territories (from Netflix), which is a documentary that features well-known science fiction author William Gibson sitting in the back seat of a old model car as it makes its way from California to Toronto. An unseen person in the front seat asks him questions and Gibson, chain-smoking all the while, uses the questions to foray off into penetrating observations about the modern world that we live in.

The cinematic style of the film is edgy and not at all what you would expect from a documentary. Gibson, as most of us all know, coined the term ‘cyberspace’ in his 1985 book Neuromancer. So Gibson’s premier achievement may have been that he foresaw the evolution of the non-spatial world that we now take for granted, which we call “the Internet.”

During the course of the film, Gibson observes that the thing that fascinated him most about the development of the Internet was that its creators were so interested in preserving their nation in the face of nuclear war, and yet –according to him– it is now apparent that among the many unintended consequences of their creation is likely to be the demise of the Nation-State. Which, of course, is exactly the opposite of what the people at DARPA (who first imagined the internet) wanted.

He commented on many topics but his observations on the Internet are what most piqued my interest. The societal implications of the Internet, he explained, are still too difficult for us to grasp. Years from now, he predicted, we will come to regard the creation on the Internet as being on par with, say, the development of cities.

Interestingly, his new book Pattern Recognition (which I have just started reading), is set in the present time. No doubt consistent with his more recent famous statement that “The future is here. It is just not evenly distributed.”

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About ernie the attorney

  • I like William Gibson (who now has a blog on his website), but I though the documentary was really bad.

    It may be better at home where it is easier to just listen to it rather than look at the visuals (which I considered self-indulgent rather than edgy).

  • I’m gonna play devil’s advocate. What if the Internet turns out not to be nearly as important a development as devotees like Gibson (and most of us) think it will be?

    I can envision the Internet becoming just more of the same — like cable TV. Or FM radio. Or, . . . You get the picture.