The Weird History Behind The Word "Cyber"
Nowadays we use the word "cyber" so casually that it doesn't really register as a strange word. In addition to being the driving concept behind Cyber Monday and Cyber Week, it also plays the role of prefix for hundreds of modern words from cyberfiction to cybersecurity. We know cyber refers to the computer culture we engage with on a daily basis, but if we trace the word back through the years, we start to stumble across fun facts and an overall interesting history. Get ready for Cyber Week or take a quick break from your holiday shopping with this cyber analysis.
Cyber made its first major appearance as a part of the word cybernetics, a new scientific field developed in the latter years of the 1940s. However, the use of the word is far more ancient, having been used by Plato in one of his earlier dialogues. Plato used a Greek word that roughly translates to cybernetics to describe a system in which people were effectively governed. The subject of the philosopher's inquiry into government systems predates the cybernetics field by thousands of years, but also may be the reason why cybernetics pioneers picked the term to describe their area of study. The cybernetics field has a broad scope, covering everything from computer systems to human biology, as well as communication between man and machine.
Because of its early use in the field of cybernetics, and perhaps also because of its easy, poetic sound that makes it the perfect prefix, the term cyber was snatched and stretched to satisfy a number of new concepts and ideas in the expanding world of computers. Visionary authors in the field of science fiction were some of the first to mold the term to fit their outlandish ideas, few with greater pop culture significance than the cyborg. Different from the android, the cyborg is described as an organism that has been rehabilitated with intervening technology or has had their abilities improved using technological enhancements to their physical form. A few of the most famous early cyborgs: the Cybermen from Doctor Who, RoboCop, The Six Million Dollar Man and Darth Vader.
Any fan of science fiction understands how influential the genre has been in shaping the world we live in today. Many of the ideas from early science fiction have already come to fruition, while there are many ideas we're still aiming to achieve. It's no wonder then that the Internet and the virtual world were imagined by science fiction authors before they became reality. One perfect example is William Gibson's use of the term cyberspace in his classic novel, Neuromancer. The novel eerily predicts a vast, somewhat organic system of computer networks, or virtual reality in which people could communicate with each other. Gibson's prophecy is much more haunting than the reality of our current Internet, though many of its cautionary aspects are worth noting as our society becomes more technologically dependent.
Cyber continued to be used in various forms to describe anything and everything related to life online. Throughout the 1980s and 90s, the term became a bigger part of the American lexicon, and by the time people were starting to do a lot of their shopping online, it wasn't a stretch to use the term to describe one of the biggest shopping days of the year. Cyber Monday has been right alongside Black Friday and Thanksgiving Weekend for over a decade now, extending now in most cases into an entire Cyber Week, the best time of the year for people to find bargains to complete their Christmas shopping lists from the comfort of their home or mobile devices.