Reason: Snow Crash is almost a parody of a libertarian future. Do you think the affinity-group-based societies you outline in that book are on their way? Do you see that as a warning note, or a natural state we're progressing toward?
Stephenson: I dreamed up the Snow Crash world 15 years ago as a thought-experiment, and I tweaked it to be as funny and outrageous and graphic novel-like as I could make it. Such a world wouldn't be stable unless each little "burbclave" had the ability to defend itself from all external threats....
Reason: You gave a speech at the Computers, Freedom, and Privacy Conference a few years back in which you suggested that the focus on issues like encryption was too narrow, and that we should give more attention to what theologian Walter Wink calls "domination systems." This surprised some of the attendees, partly because it reached outside the usual privacy/free speech issue set and partly because, hey, you were citing a theologian. What brought you to Walter Wink, and what other light do you think theologians can shed on our approaches to government?
Stephenson: ....Wink takes a general interest in people in various places who are getting the shaft. He develops an empirical science of shaftology, if you will. (Of course he doesn't call it shaftology; that's just my name for it.) He goes all over the world and looks at different kinds of people who are obviously getting the shaft, be they blacks in apartheid South Africa, South American peasants, or residents of inner-city neighborhoods dominated by gangs. He looks for connections among all of these situations and in this way develops the idea of domination systems. It's not germ theory and modern antibiotics, but it is, at the very least, a kind of epidemiology of power disorders. And even people who can't stomach the religious content of his work might take a few cues from this epidemiological, as opposed to theoretical/ideological, approach.
Sunday, January 20, 2008
This interview at Reason magazine online has some helpful insights into the mind behind Snow Crash in terms of our own course structure.