[N]europunk: an intensive rewiring of humanity’s neural circuits. 

— Mark Fisher, K-Punk: The Collected and Unpublished Writings of Mark Fisher (697)

Though best known for his term “capitalist realism” (i.e. the widespread belief that, under capitalism, it’s impossible to imagine an alternative economic and political system), Fisher passingly employs neuropunk in “Spinoza, Neuropunk, K-Punk”—a move which I believe is similarly consequential in his critique of modernity.

In essence, neuropunk denotes a collective practice of repotentiating the human nervous system. Thus, Fisher’s term impels us to tear our brains from their habitual dynamics and evolutionary structures, thereby allowing for new relationships to form between our cognitive apparatus’ and incoming input.

In this sense, neuropunk is a promising solution to “capitalist realism” in the present century. Like capitalism, humanity’s cognitive software is substrate-independent: it continues to replicate itself despite extensive hardware upgrades (i.e. despite the printing press leading to the Internet —> direct brain-to-brain connection —> silicon consciousness). In this way, it is only through an “intensive rewiring of humanity’s neural circuits” that anything will truly change.

However, it bears mentioning that neuropunk nods to Fisher’s past with the CCRU: a para-academic research institution founded at Warwick University in the 90s, where radical experiments (involving cybernetics, Deleuzean deterritorialization, the BwO, and occult theory-fictions) were conducted for the Spinozistic purpose of probing what a body can do. As neuropunk traces a similar path between absolute freedom and cosmic schizophrenia, it remains equally risky in practice—but does that mean we shouldn’t try?

If real change is to be imagined and actualized, we need neuropunk now more than ever.

The sky above the port was the color of television, tuned to a dead channel.

— William Gibson, Neuromancer (3)

Truly, it’s impossible to overstate how much these words have changed my life.

Primarily, I can attribute my acceptance to USC’s Resident Honors Program (and thus my early graduation from high school) to an encounter with Neuromancer in 2013; by using Gibson’s cyberpunk classic as a template for my application essays, I was able to captivate my audience with a compelling vision for the 21st century, one replete with direct neural implants.

Moreover, Neuromancer was easily what secured my position in Hires Lab, where I’m currently investigating the neural mechanisms of sensorimotor coding and tactile sensation. For when I arrived at my interview and was asked why I became interested in neural engineering, I mentioned Gibson’s masterpiece—and was dumbstruck as my employer recited its opening line from memory.

Thus, despite my growing disillusionment with Gibson’s fictional universe, subsequent posts will begin to address:

  1. Key plot points of The Sprawl Trilogy [shown above]
  2. Gibson’s prophetic statements about the present state of (neuro)technology
  3. What we can learn from cyberpunk’s mistakes

You in?


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