Here’s a good interview from Reason Magazine with one of my favorite science fiction authors, Neal Stephenson. I am currently reading Quicksilver, so Stephenson’s thoughts on the Enlightenment and the emergence of the industrial revolution are particularly apt right now. The interview touches on some of his earlier work, like Snow Crash and The Diamond Age, and how these visions of the future represent the apotheosis of libertarian ideals. But the gist of the interview is how Stephenson became interested in the Age of Enlightenment and the rise of the modern state. The role of science cannot be underestimated during this period, and Stephenson tears into it with vigor. His sentiments regarding the current climate towards science is equally perceptive:
It is quite obvious to me that the U.S. is turning away from all of this (science and engineering). It has been the case for quite a while that the cultural left distrusted geeks and their works; the depiction of technical sorts in popular culture has been overwhelmingly negative for at least a generation now. More recently, the cultural right has apparently decided that it doesn’t care for some of what scientists have to say. So the technical class is caught in a pincer between these two wings of the so-called culture war. Of course the broad mass of people don’t belong to one wing or the other. But science is all about diligence, hard sustained work over long stretches of time, sweating the details, and abstract thinking, none of which is really being fostered by mainstream culture.
We’ll see how well I do with Stephenson’s magnum opus, the Baroque Cycle. Each of the three books are about 900 pages long, so reading them will be all about diligence and sustained hard work over a long stretch of time.