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 Snowcrash Cover

Neal Stephenson published Snowcrash in 1991. If you’re wanting to find that book in a book shop now, I’m guessing you’re as likely to find it in amongst goblins and Star Trek anthologies but it really is a most remarkable feat in futurism. Most people would consider Tim Berners-Lee’s invention of the world wide web as happening around 1989 – although the underlying technology of the internet pre-dates that to 1969. In 1991, Stephenson is talking about

  • A distributed single global network (the “metaverse”) on which
  • People have their own avatars (a term which became broadly accepted after being featured in the book) with their own skills, currency and infrastructure (Second Life anyone)
  • Access to the metaverse can be done through sharing of access points and quick AP switching (FON!?)
  • The novel’s hero earns a living researching for a collaborative knowledge base (Wiki)
  • US cities are represented as increasingly segregated, walled communities, run like franchises (Burbclaves)
  • All telephony is over the global network
  • A virtual model of the earth

What hasn’t come true, yet, in the book – except for floating skateboards and a bit of OTT user interface – is the central theme that within the second-life-like virtual world, there are drugs and one of them turns out to be a virus like code that destroys the virtual world and permanently damages its users.