neal stephenson Quotes

Neal Stephenson Quotes

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    • The science fiction approach doesn't mean it's always about the future; it's an awareness that this is different.
    • For a Westerner to trash Western culture is like criticizing our nitrogen/oxygen atmosphere on the grounds that it sometimes gets windy, and besides, Jupiter's is much prettier. You may not realize its advantages until you're trying to breathe liquid methane.
    • I think visual literacy and media literacy is not without value, but I think plain old-fashioned text literacy and mathematical literacy are much more powerful and flexible ways to organize your mind.
    • In your high school geology class you probably were taught that all life on earth exists in a paper-thin shell called the biosphere, which is trapped between thousands of miles of dead rock underfoot, and cold dead radioactive empty space above. Companies that sell OSes exist in a sort of technosphere. Underneath is technology that has already become free. Above is technology that has yet to be developed, or that is too crazy and speculative to be productized just yet. Like the Earth's biosphere, the technosphere is very thin compared to what is above and what is below.
    • Why Baroque? Because it is set in the Baroque, and it IS baroque. Why Cycle? Because I am trying to avoid the T-word ('trilogy'). In my mind this work is something like 7 or 8 connected novels. These have been lumped together into three volumes because it is more convenient from a publishing standpoint, but they could just as well have been put all together in a single immense volume or separated into 7 or 8 separate volumes. So to slap the word 'trilogy' on it would be to saddle it with a designation that is essentially bogus. Having said that, I know everyone's going to call it a trilogy anyway.
    • Now, at the little southern black college where I went to school, we had no megadorms. We were cool at the right times and academic at the right times .... Boston University, where I did my Master's ... most students had no time for sonic war, and the rest vented their humors in the city, not in the dorms. Ohio State was nicely spread out, and I lived in an apartment complex where noisy shit-for-brains undergrads were even less welcome than tweedy black bachelors.
    • This is a history, in that it intends to describe what happened and suggest why. ... I may have fooled around with a few facts. But I served as witness until as close to the end as anyone could have ... and so there is not so much art in this as to make it irrelevant.
    • What you are about to read is not an aberration: it can happen in your local university too. The Big U, simply, was a few years ahead of the rest.
    • 'Sangamon's Principle,' I said. 'The simpler the molecule, the better the drug. So the best drug is oxygen. Only two atoms. The second-best, nitrous oxide-a mere three atoms. The third-best, ethanol-nine. Past that, you're talking lots of atoms.' 'So?' 'Atoms are like people. Get lots of them together, never know what they'll do.'
    • One of the problems, hanging out with me, is that I can turn any topic into a toxic horror story. I've lost two girlfriends and a job by reading an ingredients label out loud, with annotations, at the wrong time.
    • And I hadn't even told him the truth. Actually, the shit coming out of Basco's pipes was a hundred thousand times more concentrated than was legally allowed. ... That kind of thing goes on all the time. But no matter how many diplomas are tacked to your wall, give people a figure like that and they'll pass you off as a flake. You can't get most people to believe how wildly the eco-laws get broken, but if I say 'More than twice the legal limit,' they get comfortably outraged.
    • The corporations have already planted their own bombs. All we have to do is light the fuses.
    • If you look at the bottom of a Zodiac, it's not just flat. It's got a hint of a keel on it for maneuverability. Not a proper hull though. Hull design is an advanced science. In the days of sail it was as important to national security as aerodynamics are today. A hull was a necessary evil: all that ship down under the water gave you lots of drag, but without it the rest of the ship wouldn't float. Then we invented outboard motors and all that science was made irrelevant by raw power. You could turn a bathtub into a high performance speedboat by bolting a big enough motor on it. When the throttle is high, the impact of the water against the bottom of the hull lifts it right up out of the water. It skims like a skipping rock and who gives a fuck about hydrodynamics. When you throttle it down, the vessel sinks into the water again and wallows like a hog.
    • It's the ultimate Boston transportation. On land:all those slow cars get in the way. There's public transit - the T - but if you're in good shape, it's usually faster to walk. Bicycles aren't bad. But on water, nothing stops you and there isn't anything important in Boston that isn't within two blocks of being wet. The harbor and the city are interlocked like wrestling squid, tentacles of water and land snaking off everywhere, slashed with bridges or canals.
    • In four years of work, I've idled my Zodiac down every one of its thousands of inlets, looked at every inch of its fractal coastline and found every single goddamned pipe that empties into it. Some of the pipes are big enough to park a car in and some are the size of your finger, but all of them have told their story to my gas chromatograph. And often it's the littlest pipes that cause the most damage. When I see a big huge pipe coming right out of a factory, I'm betting the pumpers have at least read the EPA regs. But when I find a tiny one, hidden below the waterline, sprouting from a mile-wide industrial carnival, I put on gloves before taking my sample. And sometimes the gloves melt.
    • My nighttime attitude is, anyone can run you down and get away with it. Why give some drunk the chance to plaster me against a car? That's why I don't even own a bike light, or one of those godawful reflective suits. Because if you've put yourself in a position where someone has to see you in order for you to be safe -- to see you, and to give a fuck -- you've already blown it.
    • Jim and his crew of a dozen or so specialize in loud, sloppy publicity seeking:. Myself, I like the stiletto-in-the-night approach. That's partly because I'm younger, a post-Sixties type, and partly because my thing is toxics, not nukes or mammals. : there are all kinds of direct, simple ways to go after toxic criminals. You just plug the pipes.
    • Most of my colleagues go on backpacking trips when they have to do some thinking. I go to a good hardware store and head for the oiliest, dustiest corners. ... If they're really good, they don't hassle me. They let me wander around and think. Young hardware clerks have a lot of hubris. They think they can help you find anything.... Old hardware clerks have learned the hard way that nothing in a hardware store ever gets bought for its nominal purpose. You buy something that was designed to do one thing, and you use it for another.
    • Any property that's open to common use gets destroyed. Because everyone has incentive to use it to the max, but no one has incentive to maintain it.
    • I don't like sewing machines. I don't understand how a needle with a thread going through the tip of it can interlock the thread by jamming itself into a little goddamn spool. It's contrary to nature and it irritates me.
    • Talking to cancer victims never makes me feel righteous, never vindicated. It makes me slightly ill and for some reason, guilty. If people like me would just keep our mouths shut, people like him would never suspect why they got cancer. They'd chalk it up to God or probability. They wouldn't die with hearts full of venom. It is a strange world that Industry has made. Kind of a seething toxic harbor, opening out on a blue unspoiled ocean. Most people are swimming in it, and I get to float around on the surface, on my Zodiac, announcing that they're in trouble. What I really want to do is make a difference. But I'm not sure I have, yet.
    • 'It might interest you to know that our state is tired of being used as a chemical toilet so that people in Utah can have plastic lawn furniture.' 'I can't believe an assistant attorney general came right out and said that.' 'Well, I wouldn't say it in public.'
    • The intern had also discovered a vague little article from the late Sixties saying that Basco had put some 'junk machinery' on the floor of the Harbor, giving the usual feeble excuse. 'They claim that this junk was going to become a habitat for marine life. You don't buy that?' Bless her, she did know how to blow my lid. 'Rebecca, goddamnit, since the beginning of time, every corporation that has ever thrown any of its shit into the ocean has claimed that it was going to become a habitat for marine life. It's the goddamn ocean, Rebecca. That's where all the marine life is. Of course it's going to become a habitat for marine life.'
    • He had a sense of irony that ruled his life, made it impossible for him to use his considerable brains in any kind of serious job. Kind of like me.
    • There was a white man sitting at the kitchen table, warming his hands by wrapping them around a hot cup of tea. He had kind of an oblong face, curly red hair piled on top, a close-cropped but dense red beard, shocking blue eyes that always looked wide open. He face was ruddy with the outdoors, and the way he was sitting there with that tea, he looked so calm, so centered, almost like he was in meditation. When I came in, he looked at me and smiled just a trace, without showing his teeth:'
    • He was a peculiar guy. I'd never met him, just seen his picture and heard tell of him from the veterans of GEE's early days: And I'd seen him on film: sitting right underneath a five-ton container of radioactive waste, getting thrown into the sea when it was dropped on his Zodiac: And he was like that even when he wasn't working - a drunk, a bar fighter. But the guy I was looking at was totally different. Shit, he was drinking herb tea. He talked in a slow, lilting baritone murmur, he paused in the middle of sentences to make sure the grammar was right, to pick just the right word. But it wasn't a wimpy Boone I was looking at. I had to remember the action he'd just pulled off, on short notice, on my behalf:. Boone turned and looked at me with his invisible smile again.
    • Everything that has occurred in Silicon Valley in the last couple of decades also occurred in the 1850s. Anyone who thinks that wild-ass high tech venture capitalism is a late-20th-century California phenomenon needs to read about the maniacs who built the first transatlantic cable projects. The only things that have changed since then are that the stakes have gotten smaller, the process more bureaucratized, and the personalities less interesting.
    • Both Penang and the Internet were established basically for strategic military reasons. In both cases, what was built by the military was merely a kernel for a much vaster phenomenon that came along later. This kernel was really nothing more than a protocol, a set of rules. If you wanted to follow those rules, you could participate, otherwise you were free to go elsewhere. Because the protocol laid down a standard way for people to interact, which was clearly set out and could be understood by anyone, it attracted smart, adaptable, ambitious people from all over the place, and at a certain point it flew completely out of control and turned into something that no one had ever envisioned: something thriving, colorful, wildly diverse, essentially peaceful, and plagued only by the congestion of its own success.
    • Both of them have seen many young Western men arrive here on business missions and completely lose control of their sphincters and become impediments to any kind of organized activity. Daily hired Wall because, like Daily, he is a stable family man who has his act together:and they seem to be making excellent progress toward their goal, which is to run two really expensive wires across the Malay Peninsula. They tend to be absolutely straight shooters:. Their openness would probably be career suicide in the atmosphere of Byzantine court-eunuch intrigue that is public life in the United States today. On the other hand, if I had an unlimited amount of money and woke up tomorrow morning with a burning desire to see a 2,000-hole golf course erected on the surface of Mars, I would probably call men like Daily and Wall, do a handshake deal with them, send them a blank check, and not worry about it.
    • The world has actually been wired together by digital communications systems for a century and a half. Nothing that has happened during that time compares in its impact to the first exchange of messages between Queen Victoria and President Buchanan in 1858. That was so impressive that a mob of celebrants poured into the streets of New York and set fire to City Hall.
    • neal stephenson

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