I'm a hundred pages into Anathem (accent on first syllable), Neal Stephenson's forthcoming thousand-page novel about Fraa Erasmus, a young man who lives in a millennia-old monastery devoted not to religion, but to science, math and philosophy. They have no Web 2.0. It's convincing enough that I already want to stuff your Twitter feed up your nose. Why? (I promise: No spoilers and nothing not already leaked in the promo materials.)By banishing computers from their lives, Erasmus's reclusive colleagues are able to nourish what he calls "attention surplus disorder," the ability to focus on and think about one thing for a long time. Erasmus's order passes its trains of thought from generation to generation — a Church of the Long Now. By contrast, the video and telecom-addled civilization that bustles outside their walls is full of shallow and incorrect knowledge. People who've never taken time to study anything feel they know everything. Constantly distracted by their jangling electronic gizmos, they can't comprehend the powerful ideas and complex systems wrought by thousands of years of civilization. Their smart machines make them dumb. Inevitably, they look to the cloistered nerds to save them. I've pledged not to do a review until September 9th, but I'll tell you Stephenson's worldview is contagious from page one. It's been following me around in the real world — I haven't hated normal people this much since I was an MIT freshman. You say you're a "geek?" Let's see you unplug your iPhone for a month. Surely you have something more interesting to do.
Submitted discussions can be approved by the author or users followed by this blog.