a thoughtful web.
Good ideas and conversation. No ads, no tracking.   Login or Take a Tour!
comment
kleinbl00  ·  838 days ago  ·  link  ·    ·  parent  ·  post: The Billionaire's Bard: On the rationalist fictions of Neal Stephenson

    In fact, some iteration of Grey Tribe technocracy has enjoyed hegemonic authority over the U.S. policy establishment—on both sides of the partisan divide—since at least the beginning of Paul Volcker’s epoch-shifting tenure at the Federal Reserve, or wherever you choose to pinpoint the origins of neoliberalism.

The two are not related. 'Grey Tribe technocracy' in the United States government could be more easily tied to the appointment of Robert McNamara as Secretary of Defense on December 13, 1960. However, McNamara was only a latter-day acolyte of Taylorism, which was only a latter day application of Edwardian mechanization which was itself just a latter day application of Enclosure. Really, rich people have been stealing from poor people in the name of scientific progress for longer than science has had a name; the Code of Hammurabi is really a long list of all the ways you don't have to treat your neighbors humanely for logical reasons.

    One of McGurl’s many original insights is to highlight the subtle laundering of responsibility that tech companies engage in when they frame their relationship to innovation and “progress” as inevitable.

This, on the other hand, goes back to Milton Friedman; the argument was that companies had no obligation to anyone except their shareholders and "innovation" in this instance is nothing more than exiting for more money than you started with. That would be September 13, 1970.

    Stephenson’s Termination Shock belongs to the same generic category, servicing billionaires in two ways. First, like many of his books, it offers them a richly imagined future environment in which their resources can be deployed to make money, a circumstance that results from Stephenson’s undeniably impressive gift for perceiving connections between emerging technologies and extrapolating how their use cases might evolve.

Fundamentally, though, it's just bullshit swords and sorcery: the scullery maid is really a princess and the dashing prince will slay the dragon because of course he will. This is the basic problem with most modern science fiction: it's The Hobbit with laser beams. It's Campbell all the way down - you've got your savior, you've got your visionary, you've got your quest, you've got a backdrop of millions who won't matter, shoot that Death Star, Luke.

Which isn't to excuse Neal Stephenson. He's a hack. Has always been a hack. If you're a fan of Neal Stephenson, I judge you. Usually I do it silently. Today?

The basic problem with Neal Stephenson is he took the worlds that Bruce Sterling, William Gibson and Philip K Dick were lamenting and went "...no actually this shit's pretty cool." Case hates his life. Hiro loves it. Laura hates the Islands in the Net, YT loves the Burbclaves. I gave up on Cryptonomicon when I could no longer ignore the raging hard-on Stephenson was getting from describing the Nazis; he's really really into a future where everything sucks so that the people he really cares about can excuse their terrible behavior.

Which is definitely Ayn Rand, definitely Heinlein (another Musk favorite), hell, definitely Jules Verne. Sci Fi is fundamentally elitist, except for that brief period when the hippies cared.

But then, our myths and legends largely exist to enforce the existing order anyway, and throughout most of White People history, "existing order" has been kings'n'serfs.