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“We’re living in a story-based world. We’re hard-wired to process things through the lens of stories which are linear narratives.” — Neal Stephenson
Writer and futurist Neal Stephenson sees mythology everywhere; from the stories we tell ourselves, to the stories the media tells the masses, to the stories about the future of humanity. These “myths” define our past, outline our present, and will build our future… so what can we do to make them realistic, optimistic, and (capital “T”) True?
Neal walks this line of thought in his latest book, Fall; or, Dodge in Hell: A Novel, where he asks the reader to question how close we are to emerging technologies that will allow us to learn and evolve more quickly.
In this episode, Chad and Neal discuss the concept of ‘islands’ online, the impact of social media on our collective imagination, and our ability to live out our agreed upon realities. Neal also shares how he came to be the first employee at Blue Origin, a company founded by Jeff Bezos committed to advancing space travel.
Neal currently serves as Chief Futurist of Magic Leap, a company working to bring transmedia projects such as AR and VR to the masses. You can catch Neal on his book tour here and check out his collection of books here.
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Quotes by Neal:
8:11 – [On Mythology] “It’s any body of stories. Really, it’s not authored by any one person. It’s folklore and typically it is an attempt by people to explain why the world is the way it is and how it came into being. It explains why things are not perfect, the problem of evil. It explains who is in charge, what are the powers that be.”
11:15 – “I don’t think there is a hard line that you can draw between religion and mythology.”
14:11 – “To have a civilization at all, you’ve got to be able to agree on what’s real. That’s so obvious and fundamental that we overlooked it for a long time – we didn’t realize it was there. That has been taken away so now you can go join an island [online], live in a bubble that has its own opinions as to what reality is.”
25:59 – [On his writing style] “My way is I work alone. I don’t solicit feedback until something is done and then I’m basically getting feedback from a very small number of people. And the process can be a little different for every book. I tend to reinvent the process a little bit to suit the needs of a particular book.”