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Analysis / Post-Cyberpunk

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The progression of the genre mirrors how society in Real Life viewed technology. In the 1980s, some people argued that the dystopian future of Cyberpunk was probable, that technology was not going to improve life; instead it was going to help 'The Man' institute a world similar to that feared by the likes of George Orwell, only with more consumerism, mindless hedonism and porn advertising. Surveillance and computer networks would create Big Brother and make privacy obsolete. Megacorporations were going to stomp out individual rights and enslave creativity for the sake of Profit. And Japan was going to take over the world. In the 1990s and 2000s Real Life, the Internet averted its expansion into Big Brother, on the contrary becoming the manifestation of the First Amendment, allowing free press and ordinary people the freedom and resources to express themselves and share ideas like never before. Giant corporations were still extremely powerful, but they didn't become the big bad guys, and the Internet essentially allowed the masses to watch over Big Brother. Additionally, the open-source movement provided a grassroots technological base to ordinary people, who in turn embraced some key open software.


Additionally, the Internet fostered the development of small businesses and firms by lowering barriers to market entry. International commerce became a matter of having an Ebay account. Instead of collapsing back to the anti-entrepreneurial centralized model of economic organization, technological change became a decentralizing force that encouraged entrepreneurial, venture-capital-based innovative firms rather than management-based stagnant corporate behemoths.

Meanwhile, the Asian economic crisis turned the highly-regimented code-bound economic steamroller that was Cyberpunk Japan into the cuteness-saturated neophile anime Japan of Post-Cyberpunk. Further in the economic realm, the advance of technology and continued lowering of manufacturing costs meant that ownership of capital became much more decentralized. For instance, the means of production of music became much cheaper.


Of course, the freedom of speech offered by the Internet has some problems, while Big Business and government are hard at work to take advantage of these technologies and bring us the centralized, monopolistic telephone-Internet-cable TV that we were promised by the Orwellian dystopian punks and hippie techno-prophets in the '70s, but that was hardly as scary as predicted. However, people have also become concerned with the growing power of tech giants such as Amazon, Facebook, and Google over issues such as data privacy, with some calling for them to be broken up with antitrust legislation. Meanwhile, Japan's replacement as the up-and-coming superpower of the hour, China, has proven be more concerned with internal stability than ruling the world.

In the science fiction genre, Pop-Cultural Osmosis has labelled any dystopian futures as cyberpunk, even going as far as to retro-label films like Alien, Outland or any work employing tropes such as Used Future, Crapsack World, Space Trucker, Post Apocalyptic, or Future Noir as such, due to sharing similar tropes along with an explicitly darker, cynical, nihilist, or otherwise non-idealistic mood. However, cyberpunk proper tends to restrict its setting to near future Earth. Although, as in Blade Runner, offworld presence is mentioned, these offworld locations tend to not be the focus and are usually suggested to be less developed than Earth, keeping with the idea that colonization of space (if it really exists at all) is still in its infancy. Interstellar travel and an interstellar community open up new cultural and social paradigms that should lie outside traditional cyberpunk as it suggests a more distant future where today's cultural, social, political, and economic philosophies are obsolete. Traditional cyberpunk is typically set not much more than 20 Minutes into the Future where their issues are a direct extension of today's issues, just like offerings from The '80s reflected the zeitgeist of that period. It is also worth noting that the protagonists of the above three mentioned movies were not social outcasts, disenfranchised misfits (punks), or underground hacker types, but were adult professionals and denizens of the conservative establishment, either company employees, soldiers, or police officers.



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