Cyberpunk - All You Need to Know

Cyberpunk is a subgenre of science fiction. As I have already described in this article, Mary Shelley is believed to be the precursor of the science-fiction novel. Since then, sci-fi has  created many subgenres - cyberpunk being one of them. In cyberpunk, the world is in chaos. The social, technological, and scientific innovations merge creating a dystopian futuristic world, a combination of 'high tech and low life’ [1]. This disorder is driven by late-stage capitalism and strong class divisions which increase crime and poverty rates.

One of the best-known movies in the cyberpunk genre is Ridley Scott's Blade Runner (1982) which was loosely based on Philip K. Dick’s novel Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? This film depicts some of the key features of cyberpunk reality, such as the density of skyscrapers in cities, the mechanization of many aspects of life and the omnipresence of technology which is very often in the form of electronic billboards and flying cars. The movie poses an unanswered question about the nature of humanity in this highly mechanized world. The main character’s (Harrison Ford) mission is to track and kill so-called replicants, who are, in fact, bio-engineered humans. The movie explores if replicants are humans or machines and whether it is possible to draw a line between what is ‘natural’ and what is ‘mechanized’.

Recently, the most influential and promoting cyberpunk genre is the videogame Cyberpunk 2077. It was based on a tabletop role-playing game called Cyberpunk 2020 released in the 80s, which portrayed the future as it was imagined 50 years ago. The highly anticipated and pretty controversial premiere of Cyberpunk 2077 in 2020 popularized the cyberpunk genre. The combination of ‘high tech and low life’ is visible in the game. When discovering Night City, our character meets people who suffer from poverty. Even though medicine is so advanced that people are becoming cyborgs who enhance their bodies with mechanical implants, poverty and crime are still key issues the population deals with. Cyberpunk 2077 is not only visually pleasing but also very relevant to contemporary problems as it shows the consequences ungoverned capitalism may bring in the future.

In conclusion, the cyberpunk genre is not only a subgenre of science-fiction but primarily reflects the condition of the society we live in. It shows that besides the technological advancements, capitalism will not regulate itself, putting people in great poverty. Cyberpunk also poses many questions relating to empathy, humanity and the pros and cons of mechanization, showing how technology can make it difficult to draw a line between what is considered human or a machine.

 

Source:

[1] Sterling, Bruce. Preface. Burning Chrome, by William Gibson, Harper Collins, 1986.