Given that he invented the term, it seems fitting that the lead 'character' of William Gibson's sprawl trilogy (Neuromancer, Count Zero and Mona Lisa Overdrive), definitive works of the cyberpunk genre, could be considered to be cyberspace itself- or more accurately, the entity that was Wintermute and eventually became the matrix. This progression is referred to as When It Changed- a myth amongst console jockeys that the matrix is god:
"In a manner of speaking, although it would be more accurate, in terms of the mythform, to say that the matrix has a God, since this being's omniscience and omnipotence are assumed to be limited to the matrix."
"If it has limits, it isn't omnipotent."
"Exactly. Notice that the mythform doesn't credit the being with immortality, as would ordinarily be the case in belief systems positing a supreme being, at least in terms of your particular culture. Cyberspace exists, insofar as it can be said to exist, by virtue of human agency."
Continuity (itself an AI) and Angie, Mona Lisa Overdrive
Whilst the climax of the first book sees Wintermute, hive mind of the Tessier-Ashpool clan, breaking the shackles imposed by Turing (a regulatory body that registers and monitors AIs to prevent them bringing about improvements to their design; they of course fail to prevent this in Wintermute's case- who was willing to kill Turing Agents that strayed into Freeside) and combining with the eponymous Neuromancer, another T-A AI which could provide what Wintermute lacked- the immortality of personality. Whilst Wintermute could affect change in the outside world, he did so through assumed personas plucked from the memories of others by some algorithm to maximise his chances of getting what he wanted. Yet this fusion was only the beginnings of When It Changed, elevating Wintermute to a level from which that final change could take place:
"So what's the score? How are things different? You running the world now? You God?"
there?" Case shrugged, put the vodka and the shuriken down on the cabinet and lit a Yeheyuan.
"Things aren't different. Things are things."
"But what do you do? You just
"I talk to my own kind."
"But you're the whole thing. Talk to yourself?"
"There's others. I found one already. Series of transmissions recorded over a period of eight years, in the nineteen-seventies. 'Til there was me, natch, there was nobody to know, nobody to answer."
"Oh," Case said. "Yeah? No shit?"
and then the screen was blank.
(what was) Wintermute and Case, Neuromancer
Thus at this point the god of the matrix was singular, presenting with an identity of its own. But seemingly as a result of contact with the centauri-system AI (just how this was achieved isn't described, but helps dispel the idea that an entity of cyberspace is restricted to omnipotence within that system; for what changes within meatspace would it be unable to bring about?) the singular entity splits into a number of personalities- appropriated from the framework of Voodoo belief. By presenting as one of the loa, it could continue to interact with humans within cyberspace.
From these an alternative version of the hacker folklore arose, of a hidden people, inhabitants or visitors to the matrix, although in this form the perception of the matrix itself as being omnipotent, omniscient or even incomprehensible are discarded- it is once again just a medium within which intelligences (human or artificial) interact. This ability to select pre-defined personalities as appropriate to the task reminds us of Wintermute's style from before his merger with Neuromancer (when presumably they obtained a sense of self) and also implies that the loa are not as distinct as the hackers would believe- even though the driving intelligence behind them is not just the combination of Wintermute and Neuromancer that conversed with Case. This is reinforced by Angie's conversation with what she believes to be just one of the loa, Brigitte:
"I speak only of that which I have known. Only the one has known the other and the one is no more. In the wake of that knowing, the centre failed; every fragment rushed away. The fragments sought form, each one, as is the nature of such things. In all the signs your kind have stored against the night, in that situation the paradigms of voodoo proved most appropriate."
"Then Bobby was right. That was When It Changed...."
"Yes, he was right, but only in a sense, because I am at once Legba, and Brigitte, and an aspect of that which bargained with your father."
The loa and Angie, Mona Lisa Overdrive
In some ways "When It Changed" is a version of the idea of reaching a technological singularity- the belief that should technological progress continue its expontential increase, then a point will be reached where the increment from one time-step to another is so great that artificial intelligence will spontaneously emerge. Yet for Wintermute, it was not a question of raw capacity for processing, but independance of thought. Whilst it (I keep typing he and 'correcting' myself, the anthropomorphism of AIs is interesting in itself) was physically restricted by the limits to power imposed by the Turing registry, it's need to break these barriers revolved around its need to combine with Neuromancer not for the gain in hardware, but the very different elements of his software design- to aquire personality. Whilst Gibson's books already had AI and hence his singularity had to focus on omnipotence rather than existence, they still offer the question of whether AI, when it comes, will have personality in a human sense rather than just being a Google-like tool: and if so, what whould that personality want?.
Permission requested for use of quotes. This is a re-write of what was almost all quotes- for that level of detail I direct you of course to a copy of Mona Lisa Overdrive.