In ‘Termination Shock’, Neil Stephenson finally embraces global warming


At lunchtime, roughly when we started considering dessert, I asked Stephenson what the reception looked like. He seemed a little annoyed – and he told me a story that made me think he wasn’t sure these people were joking. When he wrote Snow crash, Stephenson said he was living in the Washington DC area. On the subway, he sees mid-level bureaucrats heading for the Pentagon, written by Tom Clancy. The Hunt for Red October. Although no one boiled pot like Clancy, those military-art complexists – who almost certainly knew better – seemed to be “learning something from things that annoyed literary readers, such as, ‘Here’s a graph about F / A’s performance characteristics. -18, “says Stephenson. “It’s a utilitarian approach that is supposed to be done for readers of fiction that is alien to the genre of literature.”

That’s probably why Stephenson resented the suggestion that he was doing anything other than rational writing — that he might be (I probably hope, little) offering a big fictional engine to power Silicon Valley’s dream machine. I get it. It may seem deceptive for a modern novelist to say that he is optimistic that he will inspire social change through his art. But I pushed back anyway. After all, sci-fi. The base code says “check for changes”, doesn’t it? Rotate the story to see it from a different angle, maybe warn against bad results? “Fiction can have a social impact — and I don’t think it’s the purpose of fiction, but since you asked বলা it can help tell a logical story about how things can evolve over the next few decades,” Stephenson said. I’m drawn to situations where it seems like there’s a plan, there’s something we can do that can be done without rebuilding society. ” “People with an engineer mentality, or a roll-up-the-sleeves, problem-solving mentality,” as Stephenson puts it – are more attracted to such plans.

He thinks that someone or any country is going to try solar geotechnology. Climate change is a huge problem, and geoengineering is “a cheap, easy-to-implement, flawed, controversial approach that no one is going to implement sooner or later,” he says. But he denies that he is pitching a Big Science billionaire as a solution. It’s just a novel. The billionaire said, “Do it without any rules,” Stephenson said, laughing a bit at the humor of his own narrative. “It’s a bit of a straw man, by design. It’s a what-if.”

Nevertheless, identifying Stephenson’s geoengineering as a Big Vision may have real significance. His superscience is no longer a metaverse or a space colony. This is engineering to deal with an impending threat. After years of rampant wildfires, hurricanes, disease outbreaks and other natural disasters directly or indirectly linked to climate change, the world’s leading technologists can take a stand where policymakers seem to have failed, which is almost hopeful.

This is a big fictional question, Stephenson says, but nothing more strange for the robot than Isaac Asimov’s immutable behavioral law. It’s the kind of irrationality that makes people think they can be heroes, even if our brains tell us that the real work will probably involve a meeting with Robinson’s bankers. The difference between a novel and a report from an intergovernmental panel on climate change is that a novel has to make major narrative changes — Stephenson has been advocating for decades that science fiction embrace the techno-optimism of its golden age, but as an inspiration, not controversial. . It has to be entertaining, and it can’t be publicity. “One thing that gets people out of a book right away is the advice of an ax-grinder,” he says.

Example: Ricardo Thomas

In reality, science-hero or white paper is a false choice. David Keith, a Harvard physicist, is one of the most vocal researchers on solar geoengineering (and many other important climate change technologies and policies). He knows Stephenson and doesn’t think he’s there. “I totally reject your distinction,” Keith says. “Some concepts and some technical concepts do not tolerate the first two lectures of the class. No technology innovation can solve our problems without strong policies, but policy alone cannot bring emissions to zero. “

Asking billionaires to save the world is never a good idea, but even today, they are not interested at all. Elon Musk has a solar power company and an electric car company. Lauren Powell Jobs is investing $ 3.5 billion to help communities affected by climate change. The Silicon Valley Titans help finance Keith’s program. “While touring and pitching here, I heard someone in an office on Sand Hill Road say, ‘We should just invest in it and take it,'” said Keith. “There’s a big spectrum.”



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