New Viewpoint At Cyborgs In Snow Crash

In science fiction, fantasy worlds are created by different mechanical life forms. And some of them are cyborgs. These cyborg are half human and half mechanical devices. However, they are not to be counted among robots that are complete mechanical devices. Unluckily, Nishime does not heed the differences between robots and cyborgs in his analysis of the image evolution of cyborgs in sci-fi films. He calls David from A.I. a cyborg, although the cyborg is devoid of any organic components. As far I am concerned, the application of robot-cyborg variation to the findings of Nishime gives us a new perception from which 'Snow Crash' maybe assessed. Specifically it permits evolution from mechanical-organic state to that of human intelligence state. It outcomes in the conclusion that humans and robots are invariably identical regardless of the substance their bodies are made of.

Key differences between robots and cyborgs

Technically robots are completely mechanical devices (hardware) which are driven by algorithms (software) codes by programmers. On paper, the software might be so developed that it will be an artificial intelligence and the robot built-in with such software will possibly act like an ordinary individual. The real issue is : whether a cold steel bodied robot may be intelligent like human and feel like humans. The people championing A.I. as also Bicentennial man might demonstrate that such alteration can happen. Therefore the challenge is to change over from robot to human regardless of organic and mechanical body parts. Cyborgs never confront such problem as they are primary humans who are upgraded by implants and artificial limbs. Hence considering cyborgs to be humans, the primary aspect is whether cyborg can recall its human memory or not. But from the technical perspective, a typical cyborg is an extremely prosthetic individual; hence the issue of apprehension between organism and mechanical device is not that severe as in case of robot feeling as humans.

Cyborgs never replace mixed-race individuals

Cyborgs never play the part outlined by Nishime as replacing mix-raced people and the racial problem emanating from that as Stephenson's novel is replete with multi-racial people including Hiro Protagonist who had an Afro-American father and a Korean mother. This apart, racial problems are also cropping up several times, e.g. while narrating the accident in a bar with racist from New South Africa Franchulate. The only other cyborg in the novel is Ng who is linked to a big fire automobile. However, Ng made it clear that he regarded the automobile as a huge convenient wheelchair hence some intense sense might be difficult to be found as regards this character. As a result, the replacement theory might not be applicable to 'Snow Crash'.

Therefore, concern must be shifted from cyborgs who have material mixing (organic components and mechanical components) to cyborgs having 'psychological' blend (deterministic program and artificial intelligence like human). I suggest calling them psi-cyborgs stressing on the software and not the hardware. It permits observing 'Snow Crash' from a different perspective and discover a new role of psi-cyborgs in science fiction.

Computer virus for human mind

A new drug circulating in virtual reality has been found by Hiro Protagonist. It primary distinction being that it could be used in computer reality as well as in the real world. It was discovered that the drug was a random mixture of black and white pixels called snow crash. Hackers struck a deal with binary code for years which resulted in capability of their brains to identify any signal in the binary code. Thereafter the act of observing of snow crash drug was equivalent to the software download straightway into the brain through the optical eye channel. This software might adversely impact the receiver's brain and should be defined as computer virus. Apart from that it is worthwhile to bear in mind that computer destructive programs were called virus since the usage of the same strategies as biological viruses. According to Stephenson, our brain might behave like computer inputting binary software and, therefore, develops a first parallel between humans and robots.

During investigation, Hiro and Y.T. discovered that people could be programmed through binary code as also by special language. Interestingly, Sumerian language is distinct from every other language in such a degree that the basics behind its functioning are not understandable even to this day. Judged from the perspective of character, sentence and word formation, Sumerian language might be defined as an intricate collection of English alphabet, Japanese and Eqyptian hieroglyphs. In the opinion of Stephenson, this type of complexity permitted linguistic programming of its speakers. He goes on to say that Sumerian is a core language that is embedded in the brains of every individuals. Hiro understands that our cognitive ability as also the manner in which we interpret the world enveloping us is fixed beforehand by our native language.

This precept bears resemblance to the comparison of human brain to the hardware that is empowered by a software. Besides, Juanita specifically is in support of this theory while talking about the cause behind the illness of David. Thereafter, Stephenson extrapolates from the individual mind to that of the society as a whole. The primary characters persisted on learning greater detail regarding linguistic programming to discover that Sumerian Gods used 'me' special software which paved its way into every mind and directed and governed social relations. There were different 'mes' and some of them were the cause of troubles in the society while others lend an even functionality. Hiro states that 'me' is identical to the Operating System that takes care of the different components of computer hardware and functions as a composite unit. Therefore, another argument may be put forth for the similarities between individuals and computers.


Regardless the imaginary character of the story, its theoretical standing is rather genuine and practical. No empirical studies are available that either supports or objects to the possibility of direct perception of binary code, however research work on the dependence of our cognitive possibilities and perception of the world on language is already available. Appreciation of color hues is the most vivid example. For example, Eskimos have more than a dozen of words for snow color indication and there is a difference in expression from one gradation to the other which is unimaginable for the people from the US or Western Europe. But on the other hand, in Korean language there are no different words for indicating green and blue color. As a result, the impact of language on perception of humans possesses empirical support. Apart from that, a renowned philosopher Wittgenstein asserted that our potential to comprehend the universe and derive rational conclusions is limited to our language. Its limits might be completely viewed in verbal paradoxes in the following sentence. Everything stated in this sentence is a lie. This paradox might not be resolved by formal logic.

This apart, language builds our personality in real life. In the absence of knowing a language, an individual might never develop emotionally and intellectually. For instance, children who went missing in jungles or forests acted like animals and could never learn a language. They could not develop themselves even after they lived with people. This illustration also puts forth the value of society in the process of shaping personality. Humans make use of language to network with other members of the society and gather experience from them directly through conversation or indirectly through reading of books. Even twins will have different personalities if they grow up separately in different geographies. Hence, every individual is an outcome of language, social interaction and education. Therefore these are the required features of personality formation, but not physical body. Language, social communication and education do not have any material manifestation since they are completely intangible entities. Therefore, in case personality is dependent on information in the society, then what will be the outcome in case this information is saved into brains that are not human? In such situation will it be called personality? In the opinion of Stephenson, there will hardly be any difference in such situations.


Thus according to the Stephenson's concept of cyborgs, these are neither robots which attempt to be humans nor usual cyborgs which have memories. He narrates about psi-cyborgs. They are information which is represented through matter. From one angle they are not humans since they might be programmed using binary code as robots, their existential potential is dependent on the language and information accorded by the society. From a different angle, psi-cyborgs are humans since they have the same bodies as ours. They laugh and cry in the same natural manner as we human and even may love and dream. However the society of such psi-cyborgs is rather nebulous. The existence of society is regardless of the life of common people. Each one of us would leave this world, but the society is enriched through the collective knowledge left behind by humans. Hence this is very similar to a computer network. Though it is build through information, but is not dependent on computers to form the network. Therefore, Stephenson never compares robots to the level of humans or the other way round. Neither does he materially modify humans by using robotic components. Instead he views humans and robots from the degree in which both are at par. The two are merely information evolving in the network of information transporters.


Nishime, Leylani. 2005. The Mulatto Cyborg: Imagining a Multiracial Future?. Cinema Journal, 44, Number 2, Winter 2005, pp. 34-49.

Stephenson, Neal. 1992. Snow crash? Web. Retrieved from

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