Mike Godwin recently interviewed The Baroque Cycle author Neal Stephenson for Reason magazine. Stephenson had this to say about the role of science and technology in the US:
It is quite obvious to me that the U.S. is turning away from [science and technology]. It has been the case for quite a while that the cultural left distrusted geeks and their works; the depiction of technical sorts in popular culture has been overwhelmingly negative for at least a generation now. More recently, the cultural right has apparently decided that it doesn’t care for some of what scientists have to say. So the technical class is caught in a pincer between these two wings of the so-called culture war. Of course the broad mass of people don’t belong to one wing or the other. But science is all about diligence, hard sustained work over long stretches of time, sweating the details, and abstract thinking, none of which is really being fostered by mainstream culture.
I’ve haven’t read any of Stephenson’s novels, but I’ve become a fan of his through reading interviews like this one. I can see why he’s both beloved amongst geeks and starting to become more widely read. The Baroque Cycle trilogy sounds fascinating and right up my alley, but 2700 pages seems a little daunting, especially when I feel like I should read Cryptonomicon (928 pages) first. Then again, I was pondering reading Infinite Jest (1088 pages) again, so maybe I should just dive in.