Cyberspace - the New Jerusalem

Definitions and Origin

"All those who live by computers will one day commingle in a jointly created virtual reality: "mankind's unthinkably complex consensual hallucination, the matrix, cyberspace, where the great corporate hotcores burned like neon novas, data so dense you suffered sensory overload if you tried to apprehend more than the merest outline." - William Gibson

"As a cultural anthropologist, I see more old in the new than do the prophets of technotopia. Virtual reality, for example, strikes me as a high-tech version of shamanism. The idea of producing controlled virtual worlds is as old as hallucinogenic trance voyages and vision quests. The techniques may have changed, but will the visions?" - David Hess in Omni, October '93

"Archeological and linguistic evidence suggests that ancient civilizations did not necessarily share our Western concept of the 'self,'" he reminded his audience. "The concept that each of us is a separate, independent consciousness moving through space and time, the basic dualism of perceiver and perceived, the concept that Freud called the ego [has long been questioned by] some religious traditions, [which] maintain that dualism and the ego have nothing to do with reality. These religions possess strange but demonstrably effective technologies that allow individuals to achieve states of consciousness that transcend the illusion of separateness. They tell us that we are all deeply connected, part of a network of minds, a web of souls, an economy of presence...does any of this sound familiar? And they tell us that it is time and space that prevent us from realizing our essential unity, that time and space are precisely the illusions that keep us apart!" - Game designer Brian Moriarty, 1996 Computer Game Developers' Conference

"Space is no longer in geography - it's in electronics. Unity is in the terminals. It's in the instantaneous time of command posts, multi-national headquarters, control towers, etc...There is a movement from geo-to-chrono-politics: the distribution of territory becomes the distribution of time. The distribution of territory is outmoded, minimal." - Paul Virilio, Speed and Politics

"Cyberspace: A new universe, a parallel universe created and sustained by the world's computers and communication lines. A world in which the global traffic of knowledge, secrets, measurements, indicators, entertainment, and alter-human agency takes on form: sights, sounds, presences never seen on the surface of the earth blossoming in a vast electronic night."

"Cyberspace: Through its myriad, unblinking video eyes, distant places and faces, real or unreal, actual or long gone, can be summoned to presence, from vast databases that constitute the culture's deposited wealth, every document is available, every recording is playable, and every picture is viewable."

"Cyberspace: The realm of pure information, filling like a lake, siphoning the jangle of messages transfiguring the physical world, decontaminating the natural and urban landscapes, redeeming them, saving them from the chain-dragging bulldozers of the paper industry, from the diesel smoke of courier and post office trucks, from jet fuel fumes and clogged airports, from billboards, trashy and pretentious architecture, hour-long freeway commutes, ticket lines, and choked subways...from all the inefficiencies, pollutions (chemical and informational), and corruptions attendant to the process of moving information attached to things - from paper to brains - across, over, and under the vast and bumpy surface of the earth rather than letting it fly in the soft hail of electrons that is cyberspace." - Michael Benedikt in Cyberspace

"In name only, Cyberspace had its origins in science fiction: its historical beginnings and technological innovations are clearly military (from NASA's primitive flight simulators of the 1940s to the ultra-modern SIMNET-D facilities in Fort Knox, Kentucky)..." - James der Derian, Antidiplomacy

The Gnostic Mythform

"The monkey body has served to carry us to this moment of release, and it will always serve as a focus of self-image, but we are coming more and more to exist in a world made by the human imagination. This is what is meant by the return to the Father, the transcendence of physis, the rising out of the Gnostic universal prison of iron that traps the light: nothing less than the transformation of our species." - Terence McKenna, The Archaic Revival

"The Web isn't just something that happens in the world; it's something that's happening in you. When people set up e-mail accounts or personal web sites or join a chat room or create a MUD persona, what are they doing? They're saying to the world, I AM. I signify. I am part of a large community. I am part of something bigger than myself.
"These are empowering acts. These acts are an expression of hope. These are spiritual acts. [In fact,] the adjective 'spiritual' simply refers to things which have no body, form, or substance. Spirituality is about things that are disembodied, things that are formless, things that are insubstantial, things that are virtual."
"Spiritual experiences are, in fact, our business. Ours will be an economy of spirits." - Game designer Brian Moriarty, 1996 Computer Game Developers' Conference

"He put forth the form of a hand, and took me by a lock of my head; and the Spirit lifted me up between earth and heaven, and brought me in visions of God to Jerusalem, to the entrance of the gateway of the inner court that faces north, where was the seat of the image of jealousy, which provokes to jealousy." - Ezekiel 8:3

"...The actual themes of heavenly Ascents and a Heavenly Jerusalem...go all the way back to Ezekiel's visions. Not only is Ezekiel picked up by an Angel-like 'Holy Spirit' and deposited in Jerusalem as part of his ecstatic visionary experience early in that book (Ezekiel 8:3), but at the end of the book ascribed to him, he is picked up again and proceeds to measure out a new Temple (40-48)." - Robert Eisman and Michael Wise, The Dead Sea Scrolls Uncovered

"The circumference of the city shall be eighteen thousand cubits. And the name of the city henceforth shall be, The LORD is there." - Ezekiel 48:35

"In counterpoint to the earthly garden Eden (and even to that walled garden, Paradise) then, floats the image of the Heavenly City, the new Jerusalem of The Book of Revelation. Like a bejeweled, weightless palace it comes down out of heaven itself 'its radiance like a most rare jewel, like jasper, transparent' (Revelation 21:9). Never seen, we know its geometry to be wonderfully complex and clear, its twelves and fours and sevens each assigned a set of complementary cosmic meanings. A city with streets of crystalline gold, gates of solid pearl, and no need for sunlight or moonlight to shine upon it for 'the glory of God is its light'.
"In fact, all images of the Heavenly City - East and West - have common features: weightlessness, radiance, numerological complexity, palaces upon palaces, peace and harmony through rule by the good and wise, utter cleanliness, transcendence of nature and of crude beginnings, the availability of all things pleasurable and cultured."
"..Cyberspace architects will design electronic edifices that are fully as complex, functional, unique, involving, and beautiful as their physical counterparts if not more so. Theirs will be rerealizing in a virtual world many vital aspects of the physical world, in particular those orderings and pleasures that have always belonged to architecture."

All graphic representations "from simple bar charts and organizational 'trees' through matrices, networks, and 'spreadsheets' to elaborate, multidimensional, computer-generated visualizations of invisible physical processes - all of these, and all abstract phase-, state-, and Hilbert-space entities, seem to exist in a geography, a space, borrowed from, but not identical with, the space of the piece of paper or computer screen on which we seen them. All have a reality that is no mere picture of the natural, phenomenal world, and all display a physics, as it were, from elsewhere." - Michael Benedikt in Cyberspace

"...The space-time metaphor represents a monumental failure of imagination....We've been thinking about virtual presence as if we have to send our bodies out there. [But] if we could design reality for our minds, what powers would we grant ourselves? The ability to be anywhere instantly would be a step in the right direction. The ability to be everywhere, all at once, without going mad, is the real challenge. Why should we settle for avatars, when we can be angels?" - Game designer Brian Moriarty, 1996 Computer Game Developers' Conference

"Variously described as a 'space that wasn't space', a 'nonplace', and a space in which 'there are no shadows' (William Gibson), cyberspace is a postindustrial work environment predicated on a new hardwired communications interface that provides a direct and total sensorial access to a parallel world of potential work spaces."
"Gibsonian cyberspace is...digitally and socially Durkheimian in the sense that it is both profane (a metropolis of data) and sacred (a cybernetic godhead)." - David Tomas in Cyberspace

"The communication of sacra and other forms of esoteric instruction really involves three processes, though these should not be regarded as in series but as in parallel. The first is the reduction of culture into recognized components or factors; the second is their recombination in fantastic or monstrous patterns and shapes; and the third is their recombination in ways that make sense with regard to the new state and status that the neophytes will enter." - Victor Turner, Betwixt and Between

"The mythform is usually encountered in one of two modes. One mode assumes that the cyberspace matrix is inhabited, or perhaps visited, by entities whose characteristics correspond with the primary mythform of a 'hidden people'. The other involves assumptions of omniscience, omnipotence, and incomprehensibility on the part of the matrix itself." - William Gibson, Mona Lisa Overdrive

"Our minds were softly leaking rainbows of colored imagination, soon to be joined by innumerable rainbows that would embrace the earth and change the climate of the human psyche. Perception would change, and with it, the sense of reality, of time, of life and death....We would find a common thread running through cyberspace, dream, hallucination, and mysticism (which may prove that images generated by light impulses, be they technical or biological, can only follow certain patterns)..."
"We will all become angels, and for eternity! Highly unstable, hermaphrodite angels, unforgettable in terms of computer memory. - Nichole Stenger in Cyberspace

"Dream is a second life." - Gerard de Nerval

"Michel de Certeau said that the end of the world would be 'a white eschatology', that no secret would remain, and no shadow. Everything being revealed in an absolute spotlight, there would be a stupor', an absorption of all objects and of all subjects in the act of seeing." - Nichole Stenger in Cyberspace

The Platonic Matrix

"In her speech in Plato's Symposium, Diotima, the priestess of love, teaches a doctrine of the escalation spirituality of the erotic drive. She tracks the intensity of Eros continuously from bodily attraction all the way to the mental attention of mathematics and beyond. The outer reaches of the biological sex drive, she explains to Socrates, extend to the mental realm where we continually seek to expand our knowledge."
"As Platonists and Gnostics down through the ages have insisted: Eros guides us to Logos."
"The notion of ideal forms in early Platonism has the allure of a perfect dream. But the ancient dream remained airy, a landscape of genera and generalities, until the hardware of information retrieval came to support the mind's quest for knowledge. Now, with the support of the electronic matrix, the dream can incorporate the smallest details of here-and-now existence. With an electronic infrastructure, the dream of perfect FORMS becomes the dream of inFORMation."

"Leibniz was the first to conceive an 'electric language', a set of symbols engineered for manipulation at the speed of thought. His De Arte Combinatoria (1666) outlines a language that became the historical foundation of contemporary symbolic logic. Leibniz's general outlook on language would also become the ideological basis for computer-mediated telecommunications. A modern Platonist, Leibniz dreamt of the matrix."
"The royal academies Leibniz promoted were the group nodes for an international republic of letters, a universal network for problem solving." Leibnizean symbolic logic was "developed later by Boole, Russell, and Whitehead, and then applied to electronic switching circuitry by Shannon."
"The temporal simultaneity, the all-at-once-ness of God's knowledge serves as a model for human knowledge in the modern world as projected by the work of Leibniz. What better way, then, to emulate God's knowledge than to generate a virtual world constituted by bits of information?" - Michael Heim in Cyberspace

"Case's consciousness divided like beads of mercury, arching about an endless beach the color of the dark silver clouds. His vision was spherical, as though a single retina lined the inner surface of a globe that contained all things, if all things could be counted, and here things could be counted, each one. He knew the number of grains of sand in the construct of the beach (a number coded in a mathematical system that existed nowhere outside the mind that was Neuromancer)." - William Gibson, Neuromancer

"The surrogate life in cyberspace makes flesh feel like a prison, a fall from grace, a sinking descent into a dark, confusing reality." form the pit of life in the body, the virtual life looks like the virtuous life. Gibson evokes the Gnostic-Platonic-Manichean contempt for earthy, earthly existence." - Michael Heim in Cyberspace

"Case didn't understand the Zionites...The Zionites always touched you when they were talking, hands on your shoulder. He didn't like that....'Try it,' Case said [holding out the electrodes of the cyberspace deck].
"The Zionite Aerol took the bank, put it on, and Case adjusted the trodes. He closed his eyes. Case hit the power stud. Aerol shuddered. Case jacked him back out. 'What did you see, man?' 'Babylon,' Aerol said, sadly, handing him the trodes and kicking off down the corridor." - William Gibson, Neuromancer

"The analogy of Indra's Net is very old, from Hindu mythology, whereby the universe is seen as a great net with a jewel at each intersection that reflects every other jewel in the net." - Tim McFadden in Cyberspace

"Cyberspace. A consensual hallucination experienced daily by billions of legitimate operators, in every nation, by children being taught mathematical concepts...A graphic representation of data abstracted from the banks of every computer int. human system. Unthinkable complexity. Lines of light ranged in the nonspace of the mind, clusters and constellations of data. Like city lights, receding...:" - William Gibson, Neuromancer

"Monads are nonphysical, psychical substances whose forceful life is an immanent activity. For monads, there is no outer world to access, no larger, broader vision. What the monads see are the projections of their own appetites and their own ideas. In Leibniz's succinct phrase: 'Monads have no windows.'"
"Like Indra's Net, each monad mirrors the whole world. Each monad represents the universe in concentrated form...Each microcosm contains the macrocosm."
"While no unit directly contacts other units, each unit exists in synchronous time in the same reality. All their representations are coordinated. The coordination tacks place through the supervisory role of the Central Infinite Monad, traditionally known as God." - Michael Heim in Cyberspace

Evolution or Entropy?

"Cyberspace will be a large, physically complex system; however it will not be a cooperative system in the sense of physical complexity theory. This is because current computer components are supposed to be isolated from each other and only connected through logic gates. Ideally, each bit of cyberspace ill be physically independent of any other. This will make it a hugely low entropy system.
"In cyberspace, we can say in general that we lose the effects of the law of large numbers, the central limit theorem, and the effects of entropy. These are the laws that explain why ordinary objects, made up of many smaller particles, are pretty stable most of the time. All the hardworking laws that keep lots of particles in line will be gone.
"In the world, most objects are in states in phase space surrounded by many other states that are indistinguishable macroscopically, as in thermodynamic equilibrium. However, in cyberspace, there is no such situation. There is no guarantee that states very near a current state may not be catastrophic leading to massive disorganization and destruction of information.

"There is no natural direction of time in cyberspace. Anyone who is paying the rent can run time anyway they want.
"Our universe had an initial low entropy big bang, but cyberspace might be viewed as steady-state; cyberdecks, information links, and perhaps AIs inject low entropy messages constantly. By analogy, animals maintain their low entropy state by eating other low entropy living things. In cyberspace, any stability will have to be algorithmic."

"Cyberspace will certainly develop over time....In biological evolution as described in Gould [Wonderful Life: The Burgess Shale and the Nature of History], there were more animal phyla a billion years ago than there are today. There are few phyla now because the major forces at work are decimation and diversification. Decimation, in the form of major disasters, for example, wipes out large populations of animals; then one of the species remaining diversifies to fill in the newly available niches. In his book, Gould emphasizes that evolution is not simply a progression from the 'simple' to the 'complex'.
"Work in the field of artificial life indicates that systems like cyberspace, which have a large number of comparatively smaller interacting elements, exhibit emergent behavior. That is, the total behavior may be very much more complicated than the rules of behavior for the elements." - Tim McFadden in Cyberspace



These quotes were collected by Richard Shand.