Some Remarks

By Neal Stephenson

Rating: 3 stars

Neal Stephenson is mostly known for writing big books, so the idea of a set of essays (with a couple of short stories thrown in for good measure) was attractive. To be honest, it’s a mixed bag. I really found myself floundering in Metaphysics in the Royal Society which (I think!) was about Newton and Leibniz and their differing philosophies.

On the other hand, the longest piece in the book, the Wired article Mother Earth, Mother Board is excellent, compelling and well worth the read. That is about the laying of what was, at the time, the longest undersea cable in the world, a project called Fibreoptic Link Around the Globe (FLAG), as well as delving into the history of undersea cables in general (something which it turns out that Glasgow’s very own Lord Kelvin had a fairly major role in).

A couple of the other pieces rail against a perceived stalling of progress and the corporate timidity that now means that we no longer take the sort of risks needed to, as Stephenson says, delve into the valley past our local maxima to climb new heights. Personally, this is something I wholly agree with him about.

And I certainly have to thank his article Innovation Starvation for bringing Project Hieroglyph to my attention. This is his attempt to do something positive about this stagnation, by helping to curate the sort of positive, forward-looking science fiction that inspires and encourages scientists and engineers to dare to imagine a better future for all of us (the first anthology from this project is Hieroglyph Stories and Visions for a Better Future).

Book details

ISBN: 9781848878549
Publisher: Atlantic
Year of publication: 1994

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