I just figured out why I loved Google Earth so much from the very first time I tried it. The concept and the interface were already planted in my brain:
Earth materializes, rotating majestically in front of his face. Hiro reaches out and grabs it. He twists it around so he’s looking at Oregon. Tells it to get rid of the clouds, and it does, giving him a crystalline view of the mountains and the seashore…
…Hiro looks up, focuses his gaze on Earth, zooms in for a look. As he gets closer, the imagery he’s looking at shifts from the long-range pictures coming in from the geosynchronous satellites to the good stuff being spewed into the CIC computer from a whole fleet of low-flying spy birds. The view he’s looking at is a mosaic of images shot no more than a few hours ago.
I’m reading Snow Crash again for the first time in few years. I do this partly out of habit every once in a while, the same as watching the Blues Brothers for the twentieth or thirtieth time, but also because its a damn good read.
I’ve realized partway through, this time, that a lot of what Neal Stephenson envisioned in this book has actually materialized in the real world. Perhaps the items I refer to were actually being developed when he wrote the book, but just off the top of my head, in the last year alone I have read about the commercialization of products that could be considered real-world equivalents of Snow Crash technology: The Earth program mentioned above, advanced crash suits/collars for motorcyclists, dentatas (Latin for “toothed vagina”), gargoyles (wearable or implanted computer enhancements), loogie guns.
Next on my personal wish list: Rat things, the Deliverator’s ride, and Reason v1.1.
3 thoughts on “Stephenson as Prophet”
The leapfrog toy series (esp. the smart pen) is turning into something like “A Little Girl’s Primer” from “The Diamond Age”. Not quite there yet, but heading in that direction.
Google Earth is seriously addictive when you first get into it. Been making my way around north-east Asia and slowly spirally outwards. Now if they’d only get the pics updated on a monthly basis, it’d be the coolest internet time-waster out there.
There’s this, too: http://www.nytimes.com/2005/11/17/technology/circuits/17pogue.html?8cir&emc=cir