The dirty joke of cyberpunk or the humanism of posthumanism in the cyberpunk tradition: epigenetic memory and technology in Gibson's Neuromancer and Stephenson's Snow crash
What does it mean to be human or for that matter, posthuman, according to a cyberpunk? This paper navigates the experience of being human in the dystopian and highly technologized future worlds found within the cyberpunk literary tradition of the 1980s and early 1990s. This work explores the implication of what it means to be posthuman in these worlds, which are comprised of virtual realities and disembodied identities. This project first addresses posthumanism as a critical theory and its destabilization of the traditional concept of humanism with particular attention to the relationship between the human being and technology. After building a theoretical framework of posthumanism based on works by Martin Heidegger, Jacques Derrida, and Bernard Stiegler, this paper then offers a survey of the cyberpunk tradition and the key themes developed and examined within the genre. The project then investigates two seminal works of the cyberpunk movement, William Gibson's 1984 novel, Neuromancer, and Neal Stephenson's 1992 work, Snow Crash, in order to trace a becoming posthuman as it is found within cyberpunk. As this paper further explains, the process of uncovering the posthuman within these texts produces a sense of loss and also nostalgia for a previous experience of being human which was already posthuman. The cyberpunk tradition and these novels in particular, reveal that there has always already been a degree of indeterminacy surrounding the question of what it means to be human. Through destabilizing traditionally held conceptions of humanism, cyberpunk and posthumanism offer the potential to rethink ourselves and our comportment towards the world knowing that technology always already informs our experience of being human.