By Neal Stephenson
Jun 1, 1992
Sep 29, 2021
Oct 16, 2021
Memetics: "study of information and culture based on an analogy with Darwinian evolution...an approach to evolutionary models of cultural information transfer." (Wikipedia)
"Highway companies compete to attract drivers to their roads, and all mail delivery is by hired courier. The remnants of government maintain authority only in isolated compounds, where they do tedious make-work that is, by and large, irrelevant to the society around them."
"Much of the world's territory has been carved up into sovereign enclaves, each run by its own big business franchise (such as "Mr. Lee's Greater Hong Kong", or the corporatized American Mafia), or various residential burbclaves — quasi-sovereign gated communities."
These form distributed republics: countries which span many physical locations
Cyborg dog defenders: "When in the Metaverse and not performing guard duties, Rat Things experience running on endless beaches, playing in the surf, eating steaks that grow on trees, and blood-drenched Frisbees floating around, waiting to be caught."
Viruses are information. Blood, bitmaps, a drug. Your body doesn't have to understand the virus to be infected by it.
"Once we've brain-drained all our technology into other countries, once things have evened out...once our edge in natural resources has been made irrelevant by giant Hong Kong ships and dirigibles that can ship North Dakota all the way to New Zealand for a nickel—once the Invisible Hand has taken all those historical inequities and smeared them out into a broad global layer of what a Pakistani brickmaker would consider to be prosperity—y'know what? There's only four things we do better than anyone else: music, movies, microcode (software), high-speed pizza delivery" (4-5)
What's a moat in the long run? Post government regulation?
Absurdity of being a pizza delivery driver: "there's something about having your life on the line. It's like being a kamikaze pilot. Your mind is clear. Other people—store clerks, burger flippers, software engineers, the whole vocabulary of meaningless jobs that make up Life in America—other people just rely on plain old competition." (7)
When there's a delay in getting Hiro a pizza: "The hatch [of his pizza-delivery vehicle] has been open too long, atmospheric pollutants are congealing on the electrical contacts in the back of the pizza slots, he'll have to clean them ahead of schedule, everything is going exactly the way it shouldn't go in the three-ring binder that spells out all the rhythms of the pizza universe." (12)
Recalls the fragility of supply chains during and in response to the COVID pandemic
"Rhythms": our tools of today assume many things about how the world works. When the world changes, these tools start to fail. Modern fragility.
~ social credit scoring. Everything is recorded and analyzed. (13)
Privatized competing highway systems recall the railroads of old US lore. They fight and eventually settle on segmentation. (9)
The mafia itself is a corporation. (11)
Taxi drivers speak their own language—Taxilinga. Hyper-specialization. Techno-ethnic self-segregation. Almost like different types of bees. (15)
Pigeonholed into absurd tradeoffs. Feedback loops which become self-reinforcing.
"children...all warm and fuzzy in their Li'l Crips and Ninja Raft Warrior pajamas, which can either be flameproof or noncarcinogenic but not both at the same time." (23)
Do you fight short term or long term risks?
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