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Neal Stephenson remarks on bitcoin in November 2021

Neal Stephenson had a book sale and Q&A recently at my local free public library. His 1992 novel [Snow Crash](https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Snow_Crash) coined the term “Metaverse” and his 1999 novel [Cryptonomicon](https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cryptonomicon) as well as his 1995 short story [The Great Simoleon Caper](https://www.electricinca.com/56/stephenson/simoleon.pdf) include many themes familiar to us here.

During the Q&A Neal repeated one question: “What has been your experience learning about bitcoin?”

I was interested to hear Neal indicate that:

1. He holds one bitcoin. He has friends that find it crazy he doesn’t own more.
2. He is more interested in the application of blockchain to novel forms of organization and smart contracts than its application to money.
3. He is aware of altcoins, ICOs, and other aspects of the cryptocurrency ecosystem but admittedly has not yet focused on researching bitcoin specifically.

Earlier the library director aptly introduced Neal as an renowned author and polymath, and Neal humbly said he would do his best to live up to that reputation. His subsequent introduction to his latest book had a powerpoint presentation with a slide picturing an El Salvadoran volcano. This was unrelated to bitcoin, but mentioned in the context of past volcanic eruptions affecting the degree of solar radiation penetrating Earth’s troposphere (a subject of his latest book).

Another good question asked later was about Neal’s technical writing process, to which he answered that he begins writing with pen on paper, making edits when they occur to him. Neal said he finds this faster than computer interfaces and appreciates the edit history visibility. When he eventually types in a manuscript with finishing touches it is more or less the final product.

I admire and enjoy Neal Stephenson and his books, and I wonder if he might have some future “Eureka” moment that makes bitcoin more interesting to him as author or user. I am still certainly excited to read his latest book [Termination Shock](https://www.nealstephenson.com/termination-shock.html).

Maybe we’re still early, after all this already.



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6 Comments

  1. I’m not surprised that he’s interested in smart contracts and the notions of decentralized computing.

    I am surprised that he’s less interested in the currency aspect. Not just because of Cryptonomicon, but also because his historical Baroque Trilogy (an excellent prequel to Cryptonomicon) also delves deeply into notions of currency, stores of values, and how these can affect motives and actions underpinning larger themes and rhetoric, sometimes at a global scale.

    My guess would be that as we’ve moved away from the original “libertarian experiment” phase of Bitcoin and into it’s teenage “high-risk-investments for geeks” phase, he’s less interested. He’s talked before about how he lives at both ends of the <practical—theoretical> scale of human endeavour, but not in the messy middle. As Bitcoin shifts left on that scale, and becomes more mainstream, it leaves the theorists and dreamers behind.

What do you think?

Corporate FOMO is slowly starting LOL

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