Neal Stephenson Discusses His New Climate Change Thriller – and Coining the Word ‘Metaverse’

Tonight CNBC interviewed science fiction luminary Neal Stephenson about his new "geoengineering climate change thriller" — and about his coining of the original term "metaverse." Author Neal Stephenson shot to fame almost 30 years ago with the science-fiction novel "Snow Crash," which envisioned a future dominated by mega-corporations and organized crime, competing for dominance in both the real world and the "metaverse," a computer-generated world accessible through virtual reality headsets. Since then, he's written several more novels encompassing technology and history, including a trilogy set at the dawn of the scientific revolution, and has done work for various technology companies including Jeff Bezos' space travel company, Blue Origin, and augmented reality company Magic Leap. His new novel, "Termination Shock," out November 16, focuses on the looming issue of our age — human-generated climate change, projecting a near future of extreme weather and social chaos. Against this setting, a maverick oilman decides to take matters into his own hands and builds the world's biggest gun to shoot canisters of sulfur dioxide into the air, echoing the effects of a volcanic eruption and temporarily cooling parts of the globe. Geopolitics, social media and Dutch royalty all play a part. Stephenson acknowledges that geoengineering is a radical step, but suggests as the effects of climate change grow more destructive, the demand for radical solutions will grow. In the interview Stephenson suggests one factor that might increase popular support for climate-change action: rising sea levels. "You can be as ideological as you want. But you can't argue with the fact that your house is full of water." The interview also touches on how it was 1992 when Stephenson coined the word "metaverse," and now it's being claimed by major tech companies. "All I can do is kind of sit back and watch it in amazement," Stephenson tells CNBC: But, as many have noticed, "There's a pretty big gap between what Facebook is actually doing, like running Facebook and WhatsApp and Instagram, and the visions that they're talking about for the metaverse." Neil Stephenson answered questions from Slashdot readers back in 2004...

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