All posts tagged: Neal Stephenson

He Predicted the Metaverse, Crypto, and Chatbots

He Predicted the Metaverse, Crypto, and Chatbots

Science fiction, when revisited years later, sometimes doesn’t come across as all that fictional. Speculative novels have an impressive track record at prophesying what innovations are to come, and how they might upend the world: H. G. Wells wrote about an atomic bomb decades before World War II, and Ray Bradbury’s 1953 novel, Fahrenheit 451, features devices we’d describe today as Bluetooth earbuds. Perhaps no writer has been more clairvoyant about our current technological age than Neal Stephenson. His novels coined the term metaverse, laid the conceptual groundwork for cryptocurrency, and imagined a geoengineered planet. And nearly three decades before the release of ChatGPT, he presaged the current AI revolution. A core element of one of his early novels, The Diamond Age: Or, a Young Lady’s Illustrated Primer, is a magical book that acts as a personal tutor and mentor for a young girl, adapting to her learning style—in essence, it is a personalized and ultra-advanced chatbot. The titular Primer speaks aloud in the voice of a live actor, known as a “ractor”—evoking how today’s …