The Boston Diaries

The ongoing saga of a programmer who doesn't live in Boston, nor does he even like Boston, but yet named his weblog/journal “The Boston Diaries.”

Go figure.

Sunday, February 13, 2005

It's Neal Stephenson, people! Neal Stephenson!

We are in a position akin to that of early physicians who could see that people were getting sick but couldnt do anything about it, because they didnt understand the underlying causes. They knew of a few tricks that seemed to work. For example, nailing up plague houses tended to limit the spread of plague. But even the smart doctors tended to fall under the sway of pet theories that were wrong, such as the idea that diseases were caused by imbalanced humors or bad air. Once that happened, they ignored evidence that contradicted their theory. They became so invested in that theory that they treated any new ideas as threats. But from time to time youd see someone like John Snow, who would point out, Look, everyone who draws water from Well X is getting cholera. Then he went and removed the pump handle from Well X and people stopped getting cholera. They still didnt understand germ theory, but they were getting closer.

We can make a loose analogy to the way that people have addressed the problem of power disorders. We dont really understand them. We know that there are a couple of tricks that seem to help, such as the rule of law and separation of powers. Beyond that, people tend to fall under the sway of this or that pet theory. And so youll get perfectly intelligent people saying, All of our problems would be solved if only the workers controlled the means of production, or what have you. Once theyve settled on a totalizing political theory, they see everything through that lens and are hostile to other notions.

Via InstaPundit, Neal Stephenson's Past, Present, and Future

It's an interview with Neal Stephenson.

Need I say more?

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