“ ‘…your thoughts have Swiss citizenship.'”

Reading Do Androids… right before reading this text has affected the way I read Neuromancer. I see many similarities yet Neuromancer seems to take it to a different level (pun intended). For example, and this list could go on, we have characters that interact with at least two different worlds, we have a the godlike figure, Mercer and the powerful mysterious character (so far) Wintermute, there is the empathy box and the device used to enter the matrix, etc. Yet as we mentioned in class, unlike Do Androids, Neuromancer is less occupied with morals and the distinction between species but rather is focused on control and access to thoughts.

What strikes me as particularly interesting is the fact that a console cowboy can access another entity’s thoughts, yet are not able to physically control the movements of that said person. When Case is in Molly’s mind, “She slid a hand into her jacket, a fingertip circling a nipple under warm silk. The sensation made him catch his breath…But the link was one way. He had no way to reply” (74). He is a passenger of her mind, can communicate with her, can feel her physical sensations yet has no way of actually moving any part of her body. This may be a stretch, but since corporations are always watching us, and are some how able to control our decisions unconsciously, can corporations thus be seen as “console cowboys”? They, however, would take the mind intrusion a step farther in that they are actually able to influence our actions.

In Neuromancer knowledge can be accessible to anyone when the brain gets jacked into cyberspace. As the construct says, “ ‘I own your brain and what you know, but your thoughts have Swiss citizenship…’” (171). This naturally brings us to question what precisely the difference is between knowledge and your own thoughts? Well according to the Oxford English Dictionary, it describes knowledge as “facts, information, and skills acquired by a person through experience or education; the theoretical or practical understanding of a subject”. They also define thought as, “an idea or opinion produced by thinking…”. If knowledge is representational of what one essentially learns in school, then thoughts can be seen as ideas that are personally authentic. One has knowledge of thoughts of other people, which is the foundation of the educational system; the distribution of thoughts in the form of words being passed on to generations. Our brains act as nets in terms of knowledge in that we capture the knowledge we happen to stumble upon K-12 and what we read in various books. But thoughts can be our reactions and our own opinions about this said knowledge. It comes down to categorizing, but who deciphers between what is knowledge and what is thought? Is the construct referring to knowledge that can be calculated and formulated into data or has Case’s brain done that itself?

In view of the corporate console cowboy, a corporation would use your knowledge of what you do and what interests you in order to access and influence your thoughts. As everyone knows, corporations gather data about a person to more effectively shove advertisements their way. These advertisements then shape our thoughts and can further manipulate our actions and purchases such as purchasing a diamond ring that some how manifests true love, determining fashion choices in different regions, and distinguishing between eating a cow and not a pet, etc.

Clotaire Rapaille is very good at this marketing technique. Rapaille is an advertising guru. In fact, he can be seen as the person being responsible for successfully integrating coffee in Japan. Rapaille cracks advertising codes for several corporations including numerous Fortune 500 companies. Coffee is merely one out of hundreds of the products he has been able to crack the code for. Rapaille spent months in Japan, figured out the code for coffee, and reported back to an American company. He strategically started small by introducing the flavor of coffee in a sweet form such as ice cream while specifically advertising towards young kids. When those kids were teenagers the coffee company started heavily advertising and really introducing coffee into society. Eventually, coffee became common to drink in Japan over years. It’s as if Rapaille was able to jack into everyone’s brains and some how got them to accept coffee as an option over tea, which has been ingrained in Japanese culture for centuries.

Clotaire Rapaille is not the only passenger in our heads tampering with what would otherwise be our actual decisions if it were not for the millions of advertisements we are exposed to. These corporations essentially attach the dermatrodes and are able to guide us towards their products. Corporations have affected us in such a way that they are able to manipulate our decisions on different levels such as what we think is aesthetically pleasing and what we eat (cows, dogs, coffee over tea). Are our decisions actually our authentic decisions or are they manipulated by corporate passengers?

This is a really insightful interview of Clotaire Rapaille that covers his extremely successful marketing techniques:

http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/pages/frontline/shows/persuaders/interviews/rapaille.html

This post wouldn’t be complete without a video, of course! This video effectively summarizes Rapaille’s techniques:

 

 

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2 Responses to “ ‘…your thoughts have Swiss citizenship.'”

  1. writinginmy says:

    I found it very interesting that that article uses technical terms and phrases like “it is too cortex,” “code,” “imprint,” “reptilian,” etc., like advertising can be boiled down to a science. Judging from his success,it obviously can be. There’s something very cold about it all, especially about with his mantra.

    The thing about console cowboys is that though they have access to minds/human data and are unable to react physically and immediately while within that state (think Being John Malkovich), that experience and insight into that kind of information is key to planning your next move. So while you make the parallel between corporations and console cowboys, I don’t think they would be that much different – both are about information gathering and, therefore, making informed decisions based on that data. Corporations don’t have a more immediate control on our thoughts and buying inclinations than console cowboys – everything relies on data and, from there, responses.

  2. “…everything relies on data and, from there, responses.”

    While reading the original post and this comment, I’m of course thinking of Facebook and the way the site seems to be giving me more and more specific ads according to my demographics (note: not according to my actual person). The ads end up being grossly misdirected — no, I’m not interested in donating my eggs or looking at engagement rings just because I’m a female college student, thank you very much — but they’re marketed toward the data that someone thinks they have accurately collected about me. Corporations aren’t quite there yet with reading consumer’s minds and controlling their thoughts through ads, which I think is where the “Swiss citizenship” of Neuromancer comes in. But corporations can certainly try, based on what they think a particular person’s brain is made up of, in terms of desires, needs, thoughts, etc.

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