Friday, November 16, 2012

Some Remarks by Neal Stephenson

Neal Stephenson, like William Gibson, is something of a hero or icon to geeks and SF fans everywhere, possibly because he validates their obsession with technology by producing rigorous, analytical arguments for understanding science and the world more deeply (in addition to producing true science fiction that is both visionary as well as "cool.") The coolness factor is important. Just ask Steve Jobs (or, rather, read his biography.) It keeps you reading or listening, and in the process experiencing new ideas and thoughts you might otherwise never encounter (especially if watching sports is your usual pastime.) SOME REMARKS is a collection of essays by Stephenson originally seen in magazines or heard in college lecture halls. Jeff Cummings reads Stephenson's opinions and responses to questions, which range from history and metaphysics to Star Wars to underwater cables to a future that will be shared with China as our pop culture evolves along with religion and philosophy. By "some," I mean 11 hours of insights from the author of some of the most critically praised visions of the future (and the past) out there, including Snow Crash, (which I believe was a watershed in audiobook production, as it introduced a new level of sophistication and playfulness to the medium, as read by Jonathan Davis.) Stephenson makes the case that SF is the only true genre fiction, as all the other classifications have either gone away or been absorbed into the mainstream. Science fiction remains unique as a separate entity, and while some look down their long noses at it in scorn, it is the one and only fictional type with the most range of new ideas. "Idea porn," he calls it. Not just an extrapolation of existing trends, but an anticipation of how new technologies and knowledge will change how we think and work. It is only by contemplating these things that we can come to acquire the "good explanations and knowledge" that David Deutsch references in his densely realized treatise, "The Beginning of Infinity," (which examines how progress is made, and what prevents it.) So if you believe the maxim "I think, therefore I am," then what are you---or I---if we don't encounter new thoughts?

No comments:

Post a Comment