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What is Cyberpunk? An introduction to the science fiction genre

Despite being a popular genre across different types of media, the definition of “cyberpunk” can be a bit nebulous and hard to pin down, especially given its ever-evolving nature. But the world of cyberpunk is a great place to hang out, especially if you know what you're getting into. Here's a crash course in cyberpunk to help you jump right in.

A brave future

As a subgenre of science fiction, cyberpunk focuses on a high-tech future filled with androids, transhumanist body modification How Technology Can Influence Human Evolution How Technology Can Influence Human Evolution There's no single aspect of the human experience that has not been touched by technology, including our own bodies. Read More The line between cyberspace and "real" space is often blurred, and many people spend a large portion of their lives in virtual spaces, further blending the electronic and the physical.

This may sound like a technological utopia to some, but cyberpunk works spend much of their time exploring the darker, bleaker side of high-tech society. Governments have been pushed out of power, or dissolved altogether, replaced by mega-corporations that rule in the name of greed and profit, paying little heed to morality, public safety, or the average person in society.

What is Cyberpunk? An introduction to the science fiction genre

Capitalism, corruption and conspiracies are pervasive themes surrounding these shady mega-corporations; they are run by the elite and the hyper-rich, corporocrats who are out to gain more power and money. They have divided most of the world into territories owned by companies, and they enforce their will with private military organizations.

The establishment of this corporatocracy has made political borders meaningless, and the planet's inhabitants, in many cases, no longer recognize racial or geographic differences. Reflecting on John Shirley's. Free zone , Henry Jenkins describes the cyberpunk world as one filled with "Corporations at war, multicultural chaos and constant advertising messages," a description that sums up the economically driven, borderless, and technology-saturated world of so many cyberpunk works.

What is Cyberpunk? An introduction to the science fiction genre

The backdrop for corruption and manipulation by these organizations is often the megacity, an urban environment often teeming with people, neon lights, billboards, and slums. The divide between upper and lower classes is often portrayed in a surprisingly literal way, with elites dwelling in the upper reaches of massive towers, high above the downtrodden masses, confined to the dark, smog-filled alleys of the lower town. These are the places cyberpunk characters call home.

High-Tech Low Life

The protagonists of cyberpunk works are often described as "high-tech, low-life." Simply put, cyberpunk allows us to see the lives of people who live outside of the high-tech society that has been established.

Who are these people? Hackers, drug dealers, rebels, ravers, transhumanists, and other outsiders are common, often sharing spaces with various types of miscreants who have chosen or been forced to live on the fringes of respectable society. Sometimes they're dedicated to helping break down the system that keeps them on the outside, sometimes they've been pushed onto paper, and sometimes they're just plain apathetic.

What is Cyberpunk? An introduction to the science fiction genre

No matter how they feel about the system that has made them outcasts, these characters are often up against the interests of mega-corporations. Whether they uncover evidence of a conspiracy or other chink in the armor of these organizations, discover that megacorps stand between them and what they want, or are wrongly accused of crimes, the protagonists are almost always up against the global elite. ..

Interestingly, it is not uncommon to see a kind of scandalous cooperation between the two spheres of society. Even as megacorporations seek to weed out cultural rebels and insurgents, they are also aware that these people are needed to keep cash flowing, solve problems, and gain insight into the lower classes. Everything makes an interesting tension..

Evolving Topics

Greedy mega-corporations, gritty mega-cities, rogue hackers, and futuristic technological advances all come together to make cyberpunk a fascinating and disturbingly expendable genre, one that is capable of extending today's unease about data collection, corporate power, transhuman bricolage ethic and existential questioning somewhat darker and more worrying.

What is Cyberpunk? An introduction to the science fiction genre

One of the most interesting things about the cyberpunk genre is that it has changed dramatically since its inception to deal with new technological problems that have arisen as our society has embraced new technologies.

Neal Stephenson's Snow Crash For example, the characters spent time in the Metaverse, a virtual reality environment that encompassed an entire virtual planet, where they could meet, talk, ride motorcycles, exchange information, and do just about anything else you can do in real life. Snow crash It was released in 1992, much earlier. Second life , other virtual worlds, and the popularization of massively multiplayer online games (MMOs), all of which echo the fictional metaverse.

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Another recent development is an explosion of the top five cybercrimes and how to protect yourself from them. The five most important computer crimes and how to protect yourself from them. Read More Mass Surveillance Avoid Internet Surveillance:The Complete Guide Avoid Internet Surveillance:The Complete Guide Internet surveillance is still a hot topic, which is why we've produced this comprehensive resource on why it's so important, who's behind it, if you can avoid it altogether, and more. Read More

Today's cyberpunk focuses on things that concern us today, such as artificial intelligence. Here's why scientists think you should be concerned about artificial intelligence Why scientists think you should be concerned about artificial intelligence Do you think artificial intelligence is dangerous? Can AI pose a serious risk to the human race? These are some of the reasons why you may want to worry. Read More

Like many other genres, cyberpunk confronts us with the things we fear, but in a futuristic, exaggerated, and scarier way, forcing us to look at the world we live in and reevaluate what's happening.

A genre that encompasses media

Certain works always come to mind when talking about cyberpunk:Blade Hunter , Neuromancer , The matrix , Akira , Ghost in the shell , Deus Ex , and watchdogs They span a wide variety of dates and media, but only begin to show the breadth of cyberpunk expression.

The birth of cyberpunk is hard to pin down, though William Gibson Neuromancer (1984) is often cited as, if not the first cyberpunk novel, then one that was very close to the start and seminal in its importance. Akira , a popular cyberpunk graphic novel, was first published in Japan in 1982, followed shortly after by Ghost in the Shell in 1989.

The fantastic visual image of cyberpunk also translates well to film, with classics like Blade Hunter , RoboCop , Full recovery , and Demolition Man drawing heavily on the tropes espoused in his precursor novels. Animated films, including adaptations of Akira and Ghost in the Shell , The pillars of cyberpunk are also important..

And video games, of course, are also important. Metal Gear (especially from Metal Gear Solid ahead), Shadowrun , and Deus Ex They all have recognizable cyberpunk themes. Although cyberpunk video games have been around for a long time, it appears that they are gaining momentum and will continue to become more popular in the near future as the issues they address become more entrenched in the public consciousness.

But cyberpunk doesn't stop there. There's cyberpunk-influenced music, from the Japanese electronica of Psydoll to the dystopian rock of Nine Inch Nails in Year Zero . My personal favorite cyberpunk album is Deltron 3030 , a self-titled release of Del the Funky Homosapien's futuristic alter-ego (though Fear Factory Digimortal is hard to beat).

Cyberpunk visual art is equally fascinating, with artists creating intricate cityscapes filled with rebels and rockers. A quick look at cyberpunk art on Pinterest or deviantArt reveals the fun, slightly trippy variety of art to be found on the internet. Even architecture has been influenced by cyberpunk styles..

The cyberpunk style has traveled far beyond its origins in science fiction novels, now even encompassing fashion. 8 Awesome LED Cyberpunk Costume Ideas. 8 Awesome LED Cyberpunk Costume Ideas. Combining Cyberpunk culture, clothing, and LEDs might sound a bit radical, but the people are out there. Right now, they're creating clothes and accessories that will blow your mind. Learn More and Decor How to Give Your Room a Cyberpunk Design Makeover How to Give Your Room a Cyberpunk Design Makeover Cyberpunk is no longer fiction. It is our reality. And DIY is his first name. Read more . And, of course, the cyberpunk philosophy is not limited to fictional characters; there are cyberpunk communities where followers and supporters gather online.

A lesson and a warning

The progression of cyberpunk since the 1980s shows us an interesting trend:that the science fiction of yesterday is the technological reality of today. 3 Examples of Amazing Science Fiction Technology That Became Reality 3 Examples of Amazing Science Fiction Technology That Became Reality Technology is difficult to predict, because it often develops in response to new needs or changing situations that are difficult to To imagine. There are, however, some science fiction books that were particularly prescient. Read more . From William Gibson's Matrix virtual reality system to Philip K. Dick's androids Do androids dream of electric sheep? , Speculations about the technology of the far future have been proven true much faster than we expected..

But this lesson also comes with a caveat:cyberpunk encourages us to look at what we're doing today and consider how it may have dire consequences for humanity in the future. The technology we use today to communicate, store data, and conduct research could be adopted into something far more sinister tomorrow, and we need to keep an eye out for these things happening in our lifetimes so we can stop them.

Are you a fan of cyberpunk? What are your favorite examples of the genre? Share in the comments below!