Top 100

Top 500 Neal Stephenson Quotes (2024 Update)
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Neal Stephenson Quote: “I was in Mexico a couple of weeks ago,” Avi says. “They have plastic forests there!” “What does that mean?” “Downwind of the city, the trees sort of comb the plastic shopping bags out of the air. They get totally covered with them. The trees die because light and air can’t get through to the leaves. But they remain standing, totally encased in fluttering, ragged plastic, all different colors.”
Neal Stephenson Quote: “This is one of the two great labyrinths into which human minds are drawn: the question of free will versus predestination.”
Neal Stephenson Quote: “Leibniz is at the disadvantage of not having seen it. Or perhaps we should count this as an advantage, for anyone who sees it is dumbfounded by the brilliance of the geometry, and it is difficult to criticize a man’s work when you are down on your knees shielding your eyes.”
Neal Stephenson Quote: “I don’t like sewing machines. I don’t understand how a needle with a thread going through the tip of it can interlock the thread by jamming itself into a little goddamn spool. It’s contrary to nature and it irritates me.”
Neal Stephenson Quote: “I feared he might be trying to grow a beard again.”
Neal Stephenson Quote: “Later, he was to decide that Andrew’s life had been fractally weird. That is, you could take any small piece of it and examine it in detail and it, in and of itself, would turn out to be just as complicated and weird as the whole thing in its entirety.”
Neal Stephenson Quote: “Sergeant Bobby Shaftoe, USMC, pours some beans into the grinder and starts to belabor the crank. A black flurry begins to accumulate in the coffeepot below. He has learned to make this stuff the Swedish way, using an egg to settle the grounds.”
Neal Stephenson Quote: “I have been ranting and raving about this ever since the idea of the Cloud Ark was announced. So far all I get in return, from the powers that be, are vague answers and hand-wavy happy talk.”
Neal Stephenson Quote: “Old Earthers had focused their intelligence on the small and the soft, not the big and the hard, and built a civilization that was puny and crumbling where physical infrastructure was concerned, but astonishingly sophisticated when it came to networked communications and software.”
Neal Stephenson Quote: “Every true heart needed a pragmatic counterweight, and every cynic an idealist to lift his spirits.”
Neal Stephenson Quote: “Consciousness amplifies the weak signals that, like cobwebs spun between trees, web Narratives together. Moreover, it amplifies them selectively and in that way creates feedback loops that steer the Narratives.”
Neal Stephenson Quote: “Hiro looks up, focuses his gaze on Earth, zooms in for a look. As he gets closer, the imagery he’s looking at shifts from the long-range pictures coming in from the geosynchronous satellites to the good stuff being spewed into the CIC computer from a whole fleet of low-flying spy birds. The view he’s looking at is a mosaic of images shot no more than a few hours ago.”
Neal Stephenson Quote: “He closed his eyes and shook his head. “I am not one of those who believes that God made the world and walked away from it, that He has no further choices to make, no ongoing presence in the world. I believe that He is everywhere, making choices all the time.” “But only because there are certain things you have not explained yet with geometric proofs.”
Neal Stephenson Quote: “The covers are rugged hand-laid paper of rice chaff, bamboo tailings, free-range hemp, and crystalline glacial meltwater made by wizened artisans operating out of a mist-shrouded temple hewn from living volcanic rock on some island known only to aerobically gifted, Spandex-sheathed Left Coast travel bores.”
Neal Stephenson Quote: “Can’t you see that everyone is buying station wagons?”
Neal Stephenson Quote: “Time, tide, and comets waited for no man.”
Neal Stephenson Quote: “At the entrance of this street, a Janissary was pinned to a wooden door by an eight-foot-long spear, which Jack looked on as proving that Yevgeny had passed by there recently.”
Neal Stephenson Quote: “Maybe we should go back and get their guns,” Marlon suggested. “That’s how it would work in a video game,” Csongor said, which was his way of agreeing.”
Neal Stephenson Quote: “The expenditure of paper and printer ink had been somewhat lavish. Two generations from now, if any humans survived, they would look on this heap of documents with some combination of disgust and amazement. Because paper was going to be scarce by then, and they would view its use for such purposes in roughly the same way as Americans of the twenty-first century had viewed the use of sperm whale oil to fuel streetlamps.”
Neal Stephenson Quote: “In any soul, the Condemned Man argued, was the ability to create a whole world, as big and variegated as the one that he and the Magistrate lived in. But if this was true of the Innocent, it was true of the Condemned Man as well, and so he should not – no one should ever – be put to death.”
Neal Stephenson Quote: “Crappy old OSes have value in the basically negative sense that changing to new ones makes us wish we’d never been born.”
Neal Stephenson Quote: “She was just in the process of proving them all desperately wrong. But at this phase, the all-male society of bitheads that made up the power structure of Black Sun Systems said that the face problem was trivial and superficial. It was, of course, nothing more than sexism, the especially virulent type espoused by male techies who sincerely believe that they are too smart to be sexists.”
Neal Stephenson Quote: “It being the 1970s, and Chet being a high school dropout with a damaged brain, he could not help but perceive something huge in this discovery. Nor could he avoid coming to the conclusion that the mistake he had made on that beautiful moonlit night had been a sort of message from above, a warning that, during the grubby, day-to-day work of small-town pot dealing, he had been failing to attend to larger and more cosmic matters.”
Neal Stephenson Quote: “What’s a Klettersteig?” Dinah asked, trying to move on. “It is a mountain climb that is preengineered with cables, ladders, and so on.” “To make it easier,” Dinah guessed. “Oh, no. It is not easy. It is a way to take a climb that would be impossible, and make it merely extremely difficult.” “Okay,” Dinah said. “A good metaphor for what we are trying to do up here, then.” “Yes, I suppose so!” Markus said, cheerfully enough.”
Neal Stephenson Quote: “The Templar and Hospitaller commanders had argued with Calpurnius, the master of the Shield-Brethren company, as to the membership of the team that would lead the upper-floor assault. Calpurnius had listened calmly to both men’s arguments and then asked one question. “There will be no horses on this boat. How will your knights fight?”
Neal Stephenson Quote: “When Hiro learned how to do this, way back fifteen years ago, a hacker could sit down and write an entire piece of software by himself. Now, that’s no longer possible. Software comes out of factories, and hackers are, to a greater or lesser extent, assembly-line workers. Worse yet, they may become managers who never get to write any code themselves.”
Neal Stephenson Quote: “Scholars of economic history have worked up numbers suggesting that Britain spent more on maintaining its empire than it gained from exploiting it.”
Neal Stephenson Quote: “I am what I am,” Ty said. “And what is that?” Ariane asked. “A bartender. Always happy to make new acquaintances.” He nodded at Bard. “Or to provide guests with drinks. Anyone thirsty?”
Neal Stephenson Quote: “If this all seems ambiguous, that’s because it is; and if that troubles you, you’d hate it here; but if it gives you a feeling of relief, then you are in the right place and might consider staying.”
Neal Stephenson Quote: “The social structure of any nation-state is ultimately determined by its security arrangements.”
Neal Stephenson Quote: “Ares always reemerges from the chaos. It will never go away. Athenian civilization defends itself from the forces of Ares with metis, or technology. Technology is built on science. Science is like the alchemists’ uroburos, continually eating its own tail. The process of science doesn’t work unless young scientists have the freedom to attack and tear down old dogmas, to engage in an ongoing Titanomachia. Science flourishes where art and free speech flourish.”
Neal Stephenson Quote: “If you did enough traveling, you’d never feel at home anywhere.”
Neal Stephenson Quote: “A few dud universes can really clutter up your basement.”
Neal Stephenson Quote: “Sir, if you ask a Marine if he wants another cigarette, or if he’s ready, the answer is always the same, sir!”
Neal Stephenson Quote: “Now he had learned that a machine, simple in its design, could produce results of infinite complexity.”
Neal Stephenson Quote: “In a manner familiar to anyone who had ever packed a car for a family trip, genial confusion gave way to impatience, then furious ultimatums, then ill-advised snap decisions.”
Neal Stephenson Quote: “Until he reached thirty, Randy felt bad about the fact that he was not socially deft. Now he doesn’t give a damn. Pretty soon he’ll probably start being proud of it.”
Neal Stephenson Quote: “Find it on the map, you can always get to it. Try to follow someone’s half-assed directions, and once you lose the trail, you’re sunk.”
Neal Stephenson Quote: “We can’t run this experiment a thousand times to see the range of different outcomes. We can only run it once. The human mind has trouble with situations like that. We see patterns where they don’t exist, we find meaning in randomness.”
Neal Stephenson Quote: “It’s – my God – like you stretched a tarp across a stadium to turn it into a giant tom-tom and crashed a 747 into it.”
Neal Stephenson Quote: “We’re not hunter-gatherers anymore. We’re all living like patients in the intensive care unit of a hospital. What keeps us alive isn’t bravery, or athleticism, or any of those other skills that were valuable in a caveman society. It’s our ability to master complex technological skills. It is our ability to be nerds. We need to breed nerds.”
Neal Stephenson Quote: “He had always admired his colleagues in the life and earth sciences who could hit the road on short notice with a fully stocked backpack and live rugged adventuresome lives in exotic locales. But he had admired them from a distance.”
Neal Stephenson Quote: “It’s when a society plunders its ability to look over the horizon and into the future in order to get short-term gain – sometimes illusory gain – that it begins a long slide nearly impossible to reverse.”
Neal Stephenson Quote: “It was a smart cane. When he grabbed the handlebars it would help him stand up. It would then steady his locomotion even on the roughest terrain, adding its six legs to his two.”
Neal Stephenson Quote: “The Police Minister’s toilet chided him.”
Neal Stephenson Quote: “The Victorian system used Darwinian techniques to create killers adapted to their prey, which was elegant and effective but led to the creation of killers that were simply too bizarre to have been thought up by humans, just as humans designing a world never would have thought up the naked mole rat.”
Neal Stephenson Quote: “He was tempted to park the SUV illegally, since, according to his calculations, the authorities were not likely to catch up with him and demand payment of the parking ticket before the end of the world, but it seemed that most of the people of Seattle were still obeying the rules and so he did likewise.”
Neal Stephenson Quote: “Arsibalt was horrified. “But how can you not be fascinated by – ” “I am fascinated,” I insisted. “That’s the problem. I am suffering from fascination burnout. Of all the things that are fascinating, I have to choose just one or two.”
Neal Stephenson Quote: “Zipper the Fatlanders called it. Cock-catcher it was to Hunfast, the hapless.”
Neal Stephenson Quote: “The West-march of the Walmart Held all the food in the world, Bottled beer by the boatload, Frost-kept food, milk and meat. Setting up for a siege behind barricades The Norsemen fetched food, collected clothing, Turkish trousers with flies in the front Kept closed with clever contraptions, Tiny.”
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