And Hosaka's helicopter is back, no lights at all, hunting on infrared, feeling for body heat. A muffled whine as it turns, a kilometer away, swinging back toward us, toward New Rose. Too fast a shadow, against the glow of Narita.
-William Gibson, "New Rose Hotel"It struck me today, as two unidentified helicopters hovered fairly low, in close proximity, over my neighbourhood, that you don't get a much more cyberpunk technology than the chopper.
Helicopters are about great inequality: inequality of military power (the Huey in Vietnam, the Hind in Afghanistan), inequality of wealth (the super-rich sky commuters in Sao Paulo, Jakarta, Mumbai, heading for their weekend haunts through the crowded sky on a Friday evening), and even at some level sheer inequality of physical geography (I can see you, and I am above you; you don't get much more of an unequal relationship than that).
Helicopters are about surveillance. From up there, they can see everything below. And it ain't hidden. You don't spy on somebody by helicopter. You openly watch them. You tell them: I have you in my sights, so watch out.
Helicopters are about intimidation. They are loud, powerful, and almost omnipotent when they are in the sky. They can move at will. Something about them makes you freeze, and look up. They make you feel like an Amazonian tribesman confronting the awesome force of modern technology for the first time.
Helicopters are about assassination, abduction, and carefully deployed force at a personal level. Helicopters don't drop nuclear bombs. They carry Navy SEALS teams to covertly kill Osama Bin Laden.
The internet and cyberware might be the technologies we think of when we think of cyberpunk. For me the chopper trumps them.