Because you probably read Gizmodo, you too may suffer from the biannual realization that – my god – I have spent years of my life thinking about Facebook and Republicans. You probably also know that no place on the internet captures this fear better than William Gibson’s Twitter feed.
What do I do with this fucking information, you might have wondered. Here’s what the mind that predicted the hell of late-stage capitalist technology does: watch wordlessly like a retweet bot broadcasting our descent into madness in real time. It is, in other words, the perfect portal to our relentless and very online batshit reality. Marjorie Taylor Greene attacks women’s rights. There is an internet rumor that asthmatics put bleach in their nebulizers. Israel murders nuclear scientist with remote-controlled artificial intelligence sniper rifle. Glenn Greenwald gives Bari Weiss an interview about vaccine passports. No comment. Without limits. The future is and always will be more depressing and stupid than Gibson predicted in his volumes of science fiction novels.
Gibson leaves only faint fingerprints on it all – most of the time a ghost William Gibson Retweeted. He saw it.
Gibson’s Own Stories (from the 1980s Neuromancer series, of course, the only ones I have read, Again, sorry) resurfaces in the news all the time. There are obvious parallels like private surveillance operations and drone strikes and influencer culture and everyone is damaged and people are never quite friends, just their circumstances overlap. Even more granularly, a friend, art critic Michael Farley, pointed out that Count zero almost precisely nailed NFT in 1986. Take this passage he pointed out about a gallery manager:
Picard, if that was the man’s name, was speaking with a broker in New York, arranging the purchase of a number of “points” of a particular artist’s work. A “point” could be defined in several ways, depending on the medium used, but it was almost certain that Picard would never see the works he bought. If the artist had sufficient status, the originals were most likely crated in a safe, where no one saw them at all. Days or years later, Picard could pick up that same phone and order the broker to sell.
The only truly disappointing inconsistency between his early work and now is that the protagonists and semi-human despots of the Neuromancer series are smarter and smarter than our actual operators. They pour out information and set plans in motion. We lived in the future, and all we got was that idiot with a cowboy hat. Last year Gibson says NPR a more eloquent version of the same thing: “Cyberspace, as described in Neuromancer, is nothing like the Internet we live with, ”he said,“ which consists mostly of quite mundane and silly things. “
So that’s the Twitter account, like a brain shorted looking at a flaming overturned semi-trailer that threw a basket of unharmed puppies down the highway and trying to decide whether to be sad for the cremated driver or delighted with the puppies. Bob Woodward and Robert Costa reveal that our former president, still in prison, put pressure on those responsible to help him overthrow democracy. But a passing motorist save a ram of a barbed wire fence. Except Texas is Leave with more restrictions on abortion. On the other hand, Angela Merkel holds parakeets and cockatiels.
Tweets are spinning faster than the retweeter could read the source or listen to the podcast. Big government stuff mixes up with stupid animal stuff until it’s all reduced to one impenetrable bland meal. Why not stamp it with the name of an anti-dystopia novelist and send it back again? Does that make sense? No and yes. And no. And dogs.