Disturbing Future Dystopia is Now

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I read a really disturbing entry in author William Gibson’s blog yesterday. The New York Times Magazine wrote a long profile of a creepy company who hires your friends and neighbors and family members to shill products to you. The article actually talked about more than one person who worked on promoting products at a funeral. I’ve read Pattern Recognition and it struck me as more of a cyberculture but current novel and not really science fiction. It was about maybe the day after tomorrow, which at this point is today. There was a lot of coolhunting and niche marketing described in it, although I don’t think William Gibson ever thought it would be used as an instruction manual by the marketing people who read it. It is kind of horrible to think that your friend is doing work for Proctor & Gamble or some such when you think you are just hanging out.

Here is what the New York Times Magazine said in their mention of Gibson’s book:

“One reward Bollaert did collect from BzzAgent was, of all things, the William Gibson novel ”Pattern Recognition” — an actual paranoid science-fiction novel about a future in which corporations have become so powerful they can bribe flunkies to infiltrate your life and talk up products. ”It made me think, when somebody says something about a product – I wonder. That gave me a little pause,” she said. Earlier in our conversation, I touted my iPod. Wouldn’t she feel differently about my comments, I asked, if it turned out that I’d gotten it from Apple or a BzzAgent equivalent? ”That’s true,” she said. ”But you know what? If you start questioning everyone’s motives, then you’ll be in a home with tinfoil on your head.””

And here is William Gibson’s eloquent and accurate reply:

Let me get this straight: Because I imagined, without knowing that BzzAgent existed, that this sort of thing not only could but would be done, the fact that BzzAgent exists makes me “paranoid”? Or is it merely the imagining that makes me “paranoid”?

Pattern Recognition isn’t “about a future”, of course, and the present reality, judging by this piece, is one in which corporations have become so powerful that they can *recruit unpaid volunteers* to infiltrate your life and talk up products — a twist I evidently wasn’t quite paranoid enough to imagine. (via WilliamGibsonBooks.com)

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