Neal Stephenson on ‘Termination Shock,’ geoengineering, metaverse
Source: Mercatus Center at George Mason University
The science-fiction novel “Neal Stephenson” was published by Neal Stephenson almost thirty years ago.Snow Crash“” envisioned a world dominated by megacorporations and organised crime. They would compete for supremacy in both real life and the “metaverse,” the computer-generated virtual world that is accessible using headsets.
He has written many more books about technology and history since then. a trilogySet at the beginning of the scientific revolution and worked for many technology companies, including Jeff Bezos’ space travel company Blue Origin and Magic Leap’s augmented reality company Magic Leap.
His latest novel, “Termination Shudder,” is due out Nov. 16. It focuses on the imminent issue of our age, human-generated climate changes, which project a near future full of severe weather and social disorder. A maverick oilman builds the largest gun in the world to fire canisters full of sulfur dioxide into air. This mimics the effect of a volcano and temporarily cools parts of the planet. All three factors play an important role in this story: geopolitics, social media, and Dutch royalty.
Stephenson recognizes that geoengineering may be radical, but he suggests that, as climate change continues to worsen, more radical solutions are needed.
Geoengineering may not happen because of a billionaire taking matters into his own hands, but it is possible.
In an interview with CNBC, he stated that “In real life someone like this would probably be shut down.”
It is possible that an administration somewhere calculates that this will be quite easy and inexpensive. Better than doing nothing, however. [their]It is not about selfish ends.”
He favors a combination of all of the above solutions for climate change. This includes more renewable energy, decarbonizing our economy, and carbon capture in order to remove some of the atmospheric CO2 that we have emitted over 150 years. This is the problem: convincing large numbers to take this action.
He cites two reasons he believes will persuade more people that climate changes cannot be ignored. Rising sea levels is one.
“You have the freedom to be ideological however you wish. He says, “But you cannot argue with the fact your house is filled of water.”
“And there are these so-called hot-bulb events where certain areas get so hot that people who live outdoors just go crazy,” Stephenson said. Stephenson discusses the heat dome that fell over the Pacific Northwest in the summer of last year, which caused temperatures to soar for several days. killing hundreds of people.
While he doesn’t believe all governments will work together to find solutions, COP 26, the 2021 United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP 26), was a valuable and needed event. These conferences are essential. It is our duty to pray for their most hopeful and strongest recommendations.
Even if they don’t reach an agreement, the governments will have to take action.
He says, “I believe we will see the large governments, Indias, and Chinas around the world charting their own course.” Most politicians desire to keep their power. They’ll do whatever it takes to get votes and maintain control over the political system. If they are seen to have presided over major apocalyptic events and failed to take effective action, they could find themselves in serious trouble.”
He was not the only one to promote the concept of virtual reality. However, he doesn’t necessarily think that people will abandon the real world to escape to artificial realities as it becomes more difficult to live in.
“I love VR,” he said. But the truth is that VR has not been popular enough for most people to stay there more than a few hours. While technology is improving, this may not be the case. There are inherent limitations to the system, such as motion sickness and how you get around.
More optimistic is he about augmented reality, the concept that was pioneered and developed currently by Magic Leap. Microsoft, AppleComputer-generated images can be blended with real life in a variety of ways, such as this one and many others. He agrees that it will not take off until people have good reasons to use headsets and glasses for extended periods of time. The goal is to make it smaller, lighter, and easier to transport.
Stephenson, as far as metaverse is concerned, has watched in dismay as tech and business communities claimed the title for themselves. This includes the company that Stephenson was formerly associated with. FacebookMeta was the new name of, which was created to express its desire for a computer-generated universe.
He said, “All that I can do is just kind of watch it in wonderment.” As many people have noted, there is a big difference between the actual Facebook operations, such as running Facebook, WhatsApp, Instagram and Instagram, and their visions for the metaverse.
Below is a transcription of the entire interview. It has been lightly edited to improve clarity and length.
Matt Rosoff, CNBC. Your novel, “Termination Shock,” centers on a maverick businessman using geoengineering in order to combat climate change. CNBC readers may not know much about geoengineering. Can you give us some insight?
Neal Stephenson, author:It doesn’t solve the real problem of too much carbon dioxide in our atmosphere. This is the first thing to remember. It is thought it might be used as a temporary measure to reduce the temperature rise.
This is basically imitating large volcanic eruptions in that it puts sulfur dioxide and other substances into the atmosphere.
Exactly. This is exactly what has happened in many instances throughout history, most recently at Pinatubo in Philippines. It releases particles of sulfates or drops of them into the stratosphere. These act as a shield that bounces some of the sun’s radiation into space, so it doesn’t reach our planet. This has been proven to cool down the earth many times over history. We also know the sulfates are going to naturally evaporate in the atmosphere within a few years. Then you can go back where you were.
The eruption of Mount. Pinatubo, Philippines 1991.
You almost require a steady infusion. While you decarbonize.
Exactly. If you’re going to use it at all, the best way is to make money for decarbonization.
What is the secret to your fascination with this topic and how did it inspire you enough to write a book about it?
This idea is something I have been interested in for some time. My interest is history. I am interested in the science and physics behind the planet. The idea of a volcano erupting and affecting temperatures across the globe is fascinating to me. It’s been clear for a decade that CO2 in our atmosphere has become a major problem. We are not doing enough to reduce it. Despite the efforts of many to bring attention to this problem and to push for reductions in emissions, it is continuing to grow rapidly. And will likely continue climbing. That’s how the mind of science fiction novelist combines it. It looks like this is the foundation for a story that has a technical edge but which also contains strong geopolitical or personal storytelling.
Are you confident that it is possible for this to happen within 10-15 years? It could be a very independent individual. But more likely, a government which doesn’t really care about international opinion will decide to take matters into their own hands.
Yes. It’s the maverick billionaire in this story because it makes for an interesting tale. It’s difficult to explain how he does it. In real life someone like this would likely be shut down. It is more likely that some government makes some calculation that it would be cheap and simple to do this. Better than not doing so at all [their]These are selfish motives.
This is a radical idea. Looking at the current landscape, and the trends over the past few years, how likely do you see countries and industries taking action to cut emissions enough to limit global warming? How do you see it playing out in the next 10-15 years?
It is CO2 that is important. This number is over 400ppm and growing. When we speak of emissions reductions we mean that it will slow down the pace at which this number increases. It’s growing every year, but it is still increasing. Because we have reduced our carbon emissions, it isn’t growing as quickly. It might be possible to get to zero emission, something that might occur in the next few decades, as China has stated. It just means the carbon dioxide remains where it is for around a million year, as natural processes are slow to get rid of it. Although emissions reductions and zero emissions are better than nothing, it leaves the atmospheric carbon dioxide at dangerously high levels until active steps to reduce them are taken.
Is carbon capture a technology you are most familiar with? Did you follow it in any way?
An increasing number techies are changing careers and thinking about it. It’s possible in many ways. This is what we have to do. This will be one of the most important engineering projects in history. This is what we must do. It is our responsibility to achieve success. It will take decades.
Have you followed the instructions? COP26Are you a conference attendee? Was it worth your time?
It was exactly what I did. Not super closely. All of this stuff is fantastic. These conferences must be held. It is our duty to pray for the implementation of their most hopeful and positive recommendations. For sure. While we do this, it’s important to remember what I have said previously: reducing or eliminating emissions doesn’t solve the problem. This is just a way to ensure that the problem doesn’t get worse.
How about alternative forms of energy, such as nuclear? The reader’s interest in nuclear energy is particularly high. It is zero carbon but people are afraid of it. Some fear can be grounded. How about other forms of energy?
It was probably too fast to be put into service during the Cold War. The whole picture wasn’t fully understood. It’s unclear where engineering resources went over the past few decades. We may be able find safer ways with the help of more people, engineers, and money. The problem of nuclear waste disposal is still a difficult one that needs to be addressed. However, we are entering this stage in history when we must start to consider relative risks. They must consider the relative risk when discussing new technologies.
Many promising developments are underway. Geothermal, as well as the other usual suspects like wind and solar, are all possibilities. We need all of it.
These discussions often get slowed down by ideological purity tests. On one hand, activists will say that if anyone talks about adaptation it’s not right. It’s because you are giving up on reduction. Talking about carbon capture is just as bad. It gives the fossil fuel industries and current economy more room to burn.. You’ll also have other people. Bjorn LomborgThere are many people around the globe who believe that we focus too much on risks, not enough about costs, growth is the way to go. What is your view of this situation? This is how you can see all the different and very strong ideological ideas.
Yes, there is a separate dimension to our problem: weird, strange polarization. This is incredibly obstructionistive. It was mentioned in The New York Times. Republicans who are furious at other RepublicansThe infrastructure bill was supported by a majority of those who voted. You mean, vote for bridges!
This is really demoralizing and it seems that it’s a partisan shift of bad actors thinking they are gaining from it.
Personally, I am able to look at carbon capture and make arguments that support my position. It’s much harder to get millions or millions of people to come together.
Do you believe there will ever be a tipping point? I’ve noticed a lot more people coming around to the idea that we need a multifaceted, throw-everything-at-it solution. It’s possible that some of the changes are happening as it becomes more difficult to overlook their effects, making it harder to believe that they happen elsewhere. Is there a way to break this impasse?
Here’s an example. Over the summer we experienced a heat dome in Seattle. This was when it suddenly soared to 115 degrees. Seattle has never been hotter.
There is a place I grew up and where I lived for the last ten years of my adult life. That was quite the feat.
This happened overnight. The temperature then dropped 50°C after three more days. Many people were killed. An event like this might be able to convince some people living in Seattle.
However, I believe one will be rising sea level. This is something that you cannot argue with. It doesn’t matter how ideological you are. However, you cannot argue the fact that your house has water.
Another is what are known as wet-bulb phenomena, which can occur in areas that become too hot or humid to sustain human life.
Can people work together to find solutions that benefit everyone, and not just pull up the barriers? Are you sure that it will be inevitable for those who have the means to succeed?
Naturally, there will be some who do it. Other parts of the globe will be depopulated in one way or another. However, I believe we will see big governments like the Indias or Chinas in the future, charting their own course, following their path and doing whatever they feel is necessary to prevent the fall of their governments. Politicians want power. Politicians will do anything to get more votes and to hold on to their control over the political system. If they are seen to have presided over major apocalyptic events and failed to take effective action, they could find themselves in serious trouble.
The metaverse is a concept you first used in “Snow Crash”, 1992. It’s now a common term in technology. This was before the internet. Disney‘s earnings call! Everyone in tech is using this term suddenly, and probably not as you originally intended. How do you feel about this?
Some of it is pre-emptive, I think. It is important that Facebook, the company that established this trademark position, doesn’t become another. The term could be used by others if the company starts to spread it around and they don’t. That might explain why they are doing it.
It’s not clear to me. The best thing I can do for it is to watch and marvel.
The gap between Facebook as it actually does, for example, running Facebook, WhatsApp, Instagram, or Facebook itself, and their visions of the metaverse is quite large. These are two completely different things. It’s crucial to understand this.
Six or seven years back, I was having a conversation about VCs. He seemed to be a pessimist on the future of humanity. VR, said he, was a good bet for pessimists. We all want to escape our real-world conditions. Is that how you view the world?
Personally, AR is more interesting to me than VR. VR doesn’t bother me at all. However, most people aren’t comfortable spending more than a few minutes there. While technology is improving, this may not be the case. However, there are inherent limitations to the system, such as motion sickness and how you can move about. While I am talking to you, it’s just me wandering about my home. That’s normal for humans to desire to move about and get up. This is a very difficult task in VR because it could cause you to step on your cat.
You were involved in Magic Leap. It seems like that went in another direction. With Peggy Johnson as the head, she was focusing on enterprise. MicrosoftAR is already a reality, but what will it take to make AR truly mainstream? What technological obstacles are there? When I think back to how mobile was before Windows Mobile, Palm, and other things like that, all of the sudden the iPhone was equipped with enough technological innovations, including the capacitive touchscreen and apps. It was almost 18 months ahead. It was enough to get it off the ground. Does AR need to do something similar to that?
That’s an excellent analogy. There is a tipping point somewhere out there. There is a tipping point, and nobody can find it until they have. Timing is critical. Magic Leap’s hardware achievements are impressive, I believe. The headset comes with a 6D controller as well as a system to track the space around you. It allows applications to interface with the things it perceives. To make all of these pieces work together, there is a lot more engineering involved.
It was actually something I actually saw. [former Oculus CTO John] Carmack tweetedIt wasn’t about Magic Leap. He said that VR headsets may need to have a heat exchanger large enough to rest on your head.
Engineering-wise it seems to be going well. What will make people wear this everyday and keep it simple? This will probably be due to it being smaller, lighter, and easier to transport.
For over three decades, you’ve written about technology. What has been surprising you? And what are your convictions about the time you began this blog, back when the internet was just starting to exist? Was there anything you didn’t anticipate and was it something you did?
Simple web browsers that only had words and photos were very popular at the beginning of internet. It is amazing how quickly people started to adopt them. It was surprising to me, as I wanted more innovative technologies like 3D immersive experiences. It was amazing to see a JPEG and read a few words from a website.
It was also seized by bad actors at a rapid pace and with completeness. It was the election of Obama that I remember. Some people said, “Well, Obama’s team understands the internet. They know how to use it.” Republicans? They’re too old. They don’t understand it. And they have been left behind. Eight years later they did get it. But they also got there in a deeper and more cynical manner than the Democrats.
It’s my knowledge that “Snow Crash”, an HBO series, has been adapted. in the worksMaybe this year. It’s not something I heard about recently. Can you tell me more?
It’s possible that they didn’t mention it to you in June. This means that it is no longer a HBO Max project. Paramount has now acquired it. Kennedy/Marshall.
Is it possible to expect this soon?
It’s all I can do to say, “Keep watching.” Many people wish it would happen.