In the beginning...

"About twenty years ago Jobs and Wozniak, the founders of Apple, came up with the very strange idea of selling information processing machines for use in the home. The business took off, and its founders made a lot of money and received the credit they deserved for being daring visionaries...."

Thus begins one of the most important essays of modern times:

"In the beginning was the command line" by Neal Stephenson

Neal has now written another timely essay:

"Innovation Starvation" by Neal Stephenson at World Policy Institute

"...Today's belief in ineluctable certainty is the true innovation-killer of our age. In this environment, the best an audacious manager can do is to develop small improvements to existing systems--climbing the hill, as it were, toward a local maximum, trimming fat, eking out the occasional tiny innovation--like city planners painting bicycle lanes on the streets as a gesture toward solving our energy problems. Any strategy that involves crossing a valley--accepting short-term losses to reach a higher hill in the distance--will soon be brought to a halt by the demands of a system that celebrates short-term gains and tolerates stagnation, but condemns anything else as failure. In short, a world where big stuff can never get done."

Read them both if you have not yet done so.

Then, if you are reading this, read the Cryptonomicon and the Baroque Cycle, if you have not yet done so already.

Stephenson's new book, REAMDE is just out, do not tell me what happens in it...

More like this

"In The Beginning...." has to be one of the finest essays on the technical layout of the computer landscape I've ever read. I keep sending the link to students to read it when they balk at Unix for the first time.....

Stephenson is falling into the trap set for many sucessful authors. He needs a decent editor. I love Crypto & the Baroque Cycle, but REAMDE (& Anathem before it) go on too long. REAMDE starts off brilliantly, like Anathem, but the trajectory soon changes & it gets a bit tedious. It's sad, I think Stephenson is a genius, but he needs good, focussed editing to sharpen him up. The publishers must tell his editors to get the book out the door asap.

By Barry McK (not verified) on 14 Oct 2011 #permalink