RE: WIRED 2021: Neal Stephenson on Building and Healing Worlds


Neal Stephenson has no problem getting the science right from its speculative sci-fi best seller, wondering how people might respond to the new technologies that are picking up the world. But sometimes his assumptions are not substantiated by what will happen when actual people face an actual apocalypse.

“The idea that we have a pandemic that at this point has killed twice the number of Americans who died in World War II, and in a much shorter period of time, and yet there are a lot of people in this country don’t think it’s true, ”Stephenson told senior correspondent Adam Rogers today at RE: WIRED. “Even after Trump and everything else, I don’t see that coming.”

“Then I looked at climate change-climate change is far, far more abstract and difficult to understand the concept of science, even by people who are educated in science,” continued Stephenson, whose th 17 books, After Shock, come out next week and talks about global warming. After looking at public cognitive dissonance in Covid-19, Stephenson sees no reason not to expect the same for climate change. “The consequences are far more distant, and more abstract than having a friend or neighbor or a loved one get sick or die from this disease,” he said. “You have to be realistic, which means pessimistic.”

In his new novel, Stephenson envisions a world leaning toward a climate statement, where an oil billionaire manages things with his own hands — by making the most guns. in the world to shoot tons of sulfur into the atmosphere, an experiment in solar geoengineering to reflect sunlight. . This is a tactic believed by some (not fictional!) Scientists cool the planet, saving human life, global biodiversity, and, most likely, storm-threats to Texas property.

“The program is already a fait accompli,” Stephenson said of how the novel opens. “That’s why so much of the book is really on the subject of how people around the world, from different countries and different walks of life, respond to what this person is doing.”

It was important for Stephenson to finally write about climate. “Nothing is more important than that. This will be the issue for 100 years, ”he once told Rogers in a WIRED interview. “I’m someone who has found a niche writing fiction about technical and scientific topics. It seemed strange to me that I had to finish my career and it never bothered. ”

An individual billionaire hit Stephenson as a useful trope, he told the RE: WIRED audience. “We know a unique place in how things work in our society, where billionaires are the answer to everything,” he said. “Fifty years ago, if something big had to happen, we would look at the government, or we would look at private industry.”

Rogers noted that solar geoengineering is a controversial idea and asked Stephenson if it was a “big vision,” the kind the author argues. in a 2011 WIRED piece sci-fi writers must to supply. “Possibly,” Stephenson replied.



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