I should preface by saying anyone who hasn't read William
Gibson's Neuromancer should run, not walk, to the nearest bookstore and pick up
Neuromancer, the 1984 cyberpunk thriller, is one of my
favorite books of all time. Over the
years copious amounts of little details in Neuromancer have become everyday
components of daily life today.
The matrix (not capitalized) was Gibson's virtual reality in
1984. Hackers portalled around on
"decks" -- personal consoles that were more like appliances than
computers. Ultra-rich denizens of the
supercities picked up cybernetic matrix implants as casually as executives today run
out to an afternoon liposuction.
Growing up to see large portions of Gibson's fantasy come
true had always intrigued me, but the latest announcements from Sony put me
over the edge. Gibson often describes
his cyberspace as if it's a real place; people mingle with each other, programs
are objects you can pick up and use. I say his cyberspace because the term did not exist before 1982, when Gibson first used it in his novels. The
equivalent of a website in Gibson's novels is always described as a physical place, yet surreal and manmade.
In Gibson's 1996 novel, Idoru, large portions of the book
takes place in personal cyberspaces. A
primary character, Chia, spends almost all of her time listening to music in
her virtual room as an avatar. Sound
familiar? It should, because it's
exactly the roadmap Phil Harrison lined up for the PlayStation Home.
It's not to say Sony overnight duplicated what Gibson has
been writing about for 25 years. Even
many of Gibson's ideas are not unique, just evolutionary advances on older
ideas. What makes me excited about
Sony's announcement is that PlayStation Home will be
the first ubiquitous virtual reality, if Sony can pull it off.
Now, I should give Second Life some credit here as
well. If anything, Second Life is
actually closer to Gibson's descriptions of the matrix -- yep, Gibson called it
the matrix 15 years before The Matrix and a decade before Ghost in the
Shell. The difference between Second
Life and Playstation Home is that Sony wants the interaction between virtual
and reality to be transparent, especially with media and the internet. Gibson
anticipated this dozens of times over the last 25 years in his novels.
When Neuromancer was re-released in 2000, a quote from Jack
Womack was added to the epilogue.
"What if the act of writing it down, in fact, brought it
I couldn't have said it better myself.