"Hieroglyph", or ideas about getting Big Stuff Done in an incremental world


Neal Stephenson laments in his preface to Hieroglyph: Stories & Visions for a Better Future that:

Today's belief in ineluctable certainty is the true innovation killer of our age. In this environment, the best... [we] 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.

Identifying the problem is the first step towards solving it, and Project Hieroglyph has assembled a wonderful collection of ideas for a world where Big Stuff Does Get Done: starting with Stephenson's own tale of constructing a steel tower that reaches the stratosphere; Kathleen Ann Goonan on a revolutionary leap in neuroscience that heralds a new Age of Learning; Cory Doctorow puts 3-D printers on the Moon; Karl Schroeder shows Canada's First Nations making a radical realignment in the balance of power using group decision-making tools; Gregory Benford on entrepreneurs industrializing the solar system and reaching for the stars; and more.

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